Culture of August 3rd Changing with the Times

The meaning of August
3rd has changed since the creation of the 8.3 Movement in the 1980s, taking on
connotations of areas of previously unavailable liberty, at least in the

The term ‘8.3’ used to just mean products
that were not manufactured in factories,” a source in North Pyongan Province
told Daily NK on August 4th. “Say it now, though, and a lot of people will
interpret it as a sign of market influence.”

The 8.3 Movement was a
state-led attempt to increase provision of consumer goods by having factories
and enterprises source their own inputs, and production facilities produce
commodities beyond the remit of central planners. The movement was named after
the date Kim Jong Il ordered it, August 3rd, and goods manufactured
under its rubric came to be known as “8.3 consumer goods.”

Consumers could not purchase
8.3 consumer goods in subsidised state shops; rather, they were sold directly at
market prices. As the movement grew in scale and state-run enterprises pushed to increase productivity, so 8.3 Workers and even 8.3 Work Units were formed.

As factory production
slumped in the 1990s, a situation that persisted into the 2000s, workers
took to dodging their work duties and mass mobilization orders so as to engage
in cottage industries: making their own goods to sell. A portion of their income went back to the state, a de facto tax, and this became known as 8.3 Money.

“As recently as a few
years ago, the 8.3 Work Unit in a cement factory in South Pyongan Province would produce roof tiles and slates and sell them to construction firms at market
prices,” the source said. “But now, doing private business to make 8.3 Money is
getting to be more popular than working in the designated 8.3 Work Unit.”

According to the
source, payments of 8.3 Money can be as little as 20,000 KPW per calendar month
all the way up to 200,000 KPW, the equivalent of paying for 40kg of rice in a
public market.

“8.3 Money sucks up about
5-10% of the earnings of a person working that way,” the source explained. “This
means they could be earning up to 2,000,000 KPW per month.” People in this
upper earnings bracket do things like trade bicycles or motorcycles, or sell
hand-crafted furniture, she said.

Even organs of citizen
control and regulation are influenced by 8.3 Money.
The Korean Democratic Women
s Union [KDWU] is one such example. An
organization dealing with family matters, the organization technically demands
that all women over 30 be members; however, participation can be waived in
exchange for a share of 8.3 Money.

“There are three tiers
of 8.3 money contributors, dependent on their financial capabilities,” the
source explained. “The ones that have complete freedom and are exempt from all duties
pay the most. Then there are some who only participate in monthly studies and others
who are only exempt from mobilization.”

This complete freedom
comes at a price ranging from 240,000-480,000 KPW per quarter, but is seen as a
worthwhile outlay. In effect, 8.3 Money marks out a certain type of class

“Workers who pay a lot
of 8.3 money receive protection from [the Party] despite skipping mandatory self-criticism
meetings. Those who don’t pay much have to attend all study sessions and mandatory
meetings,” the source said.

“Factories are in
competition to get the greatest amount of funds possible from workers, but
workers want to move to factories where they have to pay the least 8.3 Money,” he

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