Several high-ranking Central Committee officials have recently been sent to South Hamgyong Province to help guide recovery efforts following recent typhoons, Daily NK has learned. 

The officials are reportedly providing “party guidance” to local officials while gaining a grasp of public sentiment to rectify the “disorderly state of internal affairs” ahead of Party Foundation Day on Oct. 10. There is a particular focus on repairing Komdok Mine, which suffered massive damage in the typhoons. 

“Cadres from the Central Committee have come down to typhoon-ravaged South Hamgyong Province and are currently looking into local problems and reporting their findings to the leadership,” a source in South Hamgyong Province told Daily NK on Monday. “The on-site visits are aimed at providing party guidance to provincial officials, promote greater unity among soldiers and civilians, getting production back on track at Komdok Mine – a crucial source of raw materials for the munitions industry – and stabilizing the living situation of miners.”

KIM JAE RYONG AT THE FORE

According to the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, Kim Jae Ryong, the head of the new Organization Administrative Department in the Central Committee, and Jo Yon Jun, former head of the Workers’ Party Inspection Committee, among others, have been sent to the province and are currently providing party guidance, trying to better understand the “ideological trends” among soldiers and civilians, and supporting efforts to restore damage to Komdok Mine. 

Kim Jong Un has reportedly placed Kim Jae Ryong in charge of “personnel management” in the process. Kim Jae Ryong presided over a meeting earlier this month that led to the punishment of Gangwon Province and Wonsan officials for failing to properly prevent typhoon damage in their locales. The party guidance work he is carrying out in both North and South Hamgyong provinces is of a similar nature, according to the source. 

Kim Jae Ryong inspecting construction sites in Pyongyang. / Image: KCNA

“Kim Jae Ryong is traveling back and forth between North and South Hamgyong provinces, providing party guidance and overseeing personnel management-related work,” the source said. “He is conducting an in-depth investigation into whether Party organizations and officials have been properly implementing Party orders and fulfilling their roles responsibly during the campaign to repair damage [by the typhoons], with rewards or punishments handed out based on their performance.”

THE “UNDERCOVER EMISSARY”

Jo Yon Jun, who is believed to have taken a step back from the political front lines, is also traveling around South Hamgyong Province to gauge the ideological trends among local residents, soldiers, and civilian construction workers brought in to repair the damage as part of broader efforts to soothe public sentiment. 

While 82-year-old Jo, who is originally from South Hamgyong Province, works in the Central Committee’s Policy Office and has played an “advisory role” under the honorary post of vice director of the Organization and Guidance Department. He was sent to South Hamgyong Province by order of Kim Yo Jong, the first deputy director of the Propaganda and Agitation Department, the source said. 

Jo is reportedly traveling around the province like an “undercover emissary” of the leadership to meet with military and civilian construction workers and local residents. His focus is to understand what people want from the Workers’ Party and how they view the attitudes of officials carrying out party policies. His findings are being reported back to Kim Yo Jong, according to the source. 

Jo Yon Jun has been traveling around South Hamgyong Province since Sep. 6 with two vehicles and accompanied by two aides, a medic and a driver, but what’s interesting is that the vehicles have South Hamgyong Province rather than Central Committee license plates,” the source told Daily NK. “Since most people are not familiar with Jo’s face, [this enables him to] obtain more unfiltered feedback from local soldiers and civilians. He then reports back his findings to Kim Yo Jong in real time before passing [the reports are passed] on to the Supreme Leader [Kim Jong Un].

“[Jo] has been sent to relieve the people’s suffering ahead of Party Foundation Day in line with the Party’s belief that the people must be respected,” the source continued. “The leadership may want an accurate picture of living standards to improve Party policies and devise an appropriate five-year economic plan at next year’s Eighth Congress of the Workers’ Party.” 

REPAIRING KOMDOK MINE

A Cabinet vice premier, whose name Daily NK was unable to identify, has also been sent to South Hamgyong Province’s Komdok Mine, which suffered severe damage during recent typhoons. He is currently living alongside military and civilian construction workers and local miners while providing economic guidance to resolve various issues, including those related to logistics and the procurement of materials needed for repairs. 

The lead and zinc extracted from Komdok Mine is crucial for the production and development of solid fuels for nuclear missiles. The mine’s magnesia and clinker are also a key source of foreign currency for the regime. Daily NK’s source noted that repairing the mine and getting production back on track is an urgent priority for the North Korean leadership. 

At present, 60% of the military personnel mobilized for the construction of Pyongyang General Hospital have reportedly been sent to Komdok Mine to conduct repairs and build houses for mine workers.

“The exterior of the hospital is already finished to some degree, so some troops have been sent to Komdok Mine to repair the mine and construct approximately 800 houses for mine workers,” the source said. “They have been ordered to ensure Komdok Mine’s [production] returns to normal by the end of the year, while the deadline for the construction of the houses is Oct. 10. The Supreme Leader has mentioned that he will visit the region once the housing is finished to cut the ribbon [during a construction completion ceremony] and conduct on-the-spot guidance.”

The source also added that an order has been issued to finish the interior of the Pyongyang General Hospital by Apr. 15 of next year, Kim Il Sung’s birthday, to ensure that the hospital begins operations by that time. He speculated, however, that the lack of medical equipment will make it difficult for the hospital to open its doors by then. 

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

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Ha Yoon Ah is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about her articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.