Pyongyang factories encourage workplace exemption program

Factories in Pyongyang
The interior of a factory in Pyongyang. / Image: Rodong Sinmun

Managers of some Pyongyang-based factories are encouraging their workers to take part in a popular workplace exemption program referred to colloquially as “8.3 Earnings,” Daily NK has learned. 

“Factory managers are sending away their best workers if they believe their factories can’t meet the production quotas set by the government,” a Pyongyang-based source told Daily NK on September 5. “The managers are allowing workers to engage in their own market activities in exchange for a monthly fee.” 

“Each of the workers participating in the workplace exemption program generally pay factories around 50-60 USD each month in fees,” the source continued. “The money seems to be ensuring that the factories can survive financially.” 

Despite the apparent popularity and effectiveness of the system, North Korean authorities are conducting major crackdowns on the practice.

Daily NK reported earlier this year through North Korean sources that the authorities have expanded crackdowns against the practice, particularly in certain industries deemed critical to the functioning of the economy.

Car batteries power production lines

Factory managers, for their part, are facing more pressure from North Korean authorities to find “self-sufficient” ways to earn money. 

On top of pressure to be more self-sufficient, factory managers face frequent electricity shortages that make it difficult to ensure constant production. 

“There’s a limit to what factories can produce,” another Pyongyang-based source told the Daily NK. “Factories have to finish their production activities within the time they’re allotted electricity, but the amount of electricity provided is often insufficient to meet their quotas.” 

The source said that factories are producing their own electricity to fill the gaps. “They use two large car batteries, among other interesting methods, to keep their factories running.” 

The energy derived through these methods keeps the lights on and small machines running. “Factory managers find the current situation intolerable, but do what they can because they have mouths to feed and employees to provide for,” the source said. 

“Factories seem to be slowly dying, rather than just shutting down all together at the same time,” said the source, who added that the conditions make it extremely difficult for managers to keep operations going.

Daily NK reported recently through sources in the country that a considerable number of state-run factories have already shut down, including munitions factories and cement factories. Other sources have reported that local factories in South Pyongan Province, near Pyongyang, are facing shutdowns

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