A railway is being constructed between Wiyon and Samjiyon County
in Ryanggang Province. Image: Daily NK
Since June 2015, the North Korean regime has mobilized a large number of shock troopers in their 20s and 30s for a railway construction project between Wiyon and Samjiyon County in Ryanggang Province. The project has reportedly become a source of suffering and discontent for residents, rather than its intended vision as a project to demonstrate the leadership’s ‘love for the people.’
The Youth Shock Brigade and the June 18 Shock Brigade were first mobilized in Kim Jong Il’s time, and local residents in Ryanggang Province have recently been voicing complaints about the railway project.
According to a source, the North Korean authorities have confiscated arable lands (small plots) to support the railway construction. Such holdings were previously used by locals, but have been appropriated without any compensation and no official channels for protest exist.
“The residents have no choice but to hand over their land when the authorities demand it. They lose their source of living overnight. Many are complaining, asking why they should suffer for a railway that they will never use,” a source in Ryanggang Province told Daily NK on July 19.
Furthermore, the North Korean authorities have imposed extra taxes on local residents, further damaging public sentiment.
“Ever since the project began, residents have been constantly asked to give 1000 – 2000 KPW contributions. They have also been ordered to provide food for the workers, such as tofu or noodles everyday. So locals are getting frustrated at the forced mobilizations and expenses for the project,” the source said.
“Unlike other state construction projects, the specific period for the railway project has not been announced, so residents don’t have a good estimate on when it will all end.”
The shock troopers themselves are also suffering. They are driven to the construction fields day and night due to a continued emphasis on speed by the regime, and accidents are a frequent occurrence.
“Early last month, one of the shock troopers was caught stealing food from the village and was beaten by a group of residents. Some soldiers have been killed from falling rocks during blasting operations and many others have been injured or had their limbs broken in accidents,” a separate source in Ryanggang Province said.
“Even if the mobilized residents get injured, senior officials regard such accidents with little concern, forcing the wounded to at least work by preparing food if they can move. The officers set extreme construction goals to outperform other teams, desperate to report achievements.”
From top to bottom: Samjiyon, Ryanggang Province; Railway construction section;
Bongsu-ri, Wiyon, Hyesan, Ryanggang Province
Figure: Daily NK