Twelve shellfish harvesters recently drowned in Chulsan County, North Pyongan Province, Daily NK has learned.
The deaths came as companies in the province are turning to shellfish harvesting following an order by the government to increase foreign currency earnings.
“High grade [grade 1 and grade 2] factories and companies have been ordered to earn foreign currency this year, although they were exempted from engaging in such activities last year,” a source in the province told Daily NK on June 21. “These factories and companies in North Pyongan Province have sent workers to harvest shellfish in the [Chulsan County] area to make money.”
Shellfish hunters in the area typically rely on “predictions” of when the low tide begins and board wooden boats to harvest the sea creatures in the mud flats. After harvesting what they can, they quickly get back on their boats and head back to shore when the tide comes in.
Drownings occur when the harvesters fail to accurately predict or pay attention to the tides.
Twelve workers from the Dokchon Victory Automobile Collective Company recently drowned when they did not head back to their boat before the tide came back in.
The bereaved families of the workers are accusing the company’s management of putting foreign currency earning activities before workers’ safety.
The company reportedly denies wrongdoing and claims that the incident was the fault of the workers.
The bereaved families are even considering sending a petition to the central government about the incident and the company’s response, the source said.
“The company continues to send workers out [to the mud flats] to harvest shellfish despite the incident because the government is demanding more foreign currency,” the source added.
*Translated by Seongjin Park
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