Residents of North Hamgyong Province are being singled out by the authorities to complete specific tasks related to flood restoration efforts in an attempt to turn up the pressure and produce more tangible results. The forced labor conditions are exacerbating the physical and mental distress wrought by the catastrophic flood damage.
“These days, residents in the floodstricken regions are being mobilized for restoration work without exception. People are exhausted from the endless work,” a source in North Hamgyong Province informed Daily NK on October 17.
“The authorities are only interested in completing all construction work before the winter cold sets in, and ignoring the fact that people are exhausted from the forced labor. The officials in charge are focused solely on fulfilling the regime’s orders by completing their designated tasks.”
Multiple sources in North Hamgyong Province corroborated this information.
In some cases the North Korean authorities demand collective assignments to be completed by the entire population, such as the “200-Day Battle,” describing them as “tasks for the nation.” However, the majority of the time, the regime resorts to individual assignments to improve efficiency and accountability.
The excessive enforcement of such assignments inevitably takes its toll. For example, young children can be ordered to plant one hundred trees each on National Arbor Day, with threats of punishment lingering for those who fail to deliver, thus causing significant emotional stress.
“Remarks such as, ‘The system is killing us,’ can be frequently heard across reconstruction sites,” the source added. “In the past, people were able to avoid labor by paying daily bribes, but even this system has disappeared, as virtually all citizens are tasked with restoration work.”
Many residents have been mobilized for restoration work on a daily basis, and are living in temporary shelters made of planks or plastic tarp.
“It’s said that instructions to complete housing restorations by November have been handed down, and as such the workloads have become much more severe and the construction sites are now teeming with people.”
Some are sanguine about the development, hoping to spend winter in a warm house if the construction is completed quickly. But bitter past experiences have aroused pessimism in others, who believe that even if the restorations are completed, they will not personally benefit.