Forced mobilization of North Korean residents continues at Samjiyon project site

Samjiyon construction site. Image: Rodong Sinmun

Daily NK sources have again reported that the North Korean authorities are forcibly mobilizing residents to work at the Samjiyon modernization project, despite the poor working conditions that continue to drive workers away. Specifically, sources report that participants in a training program for preschool teachers in Pungso County, Ryanggang Province, reacted angrily when they were ordered to participate in the project.

“A group of preschool teachers found out that a week-long preschool teachers training program that began on August 8 was actually just a ruse to force them to work at the project site,” a source in Ryanggang Province told Daily NK.

According to the source, the training was supposed to begin at 8 AM, but the local Pungso County Party administration committee director suddenly appeared and told all of the participants to go to the Samjiyon project site. Preparations had evidently been made for all of the participants to immediately head to the site for construction work..

The participants, however, strongly protested the order. The official tried to persuade them to go, but they reportedly responded that it would be “over their dead bodies.” The official then changed tack and calmed the participants down by saying that the training would resume normally again at 2 PM that day.

The participants, however, simply went home or to the homes of friends without returning to work, concerned that the authorities would again attempt to send them to Samjiyon, the source said. Those that went to friend’s houses returned to their own homes that evening.

Three days before the incident, another group of preschool teachers participating in a similar training scenario were put on a freight train and sent to the Samjiyon construction site, the source said.

The new batch of training participants then suspected that the authorities were also trying to send them off to Samjiyon on the pretext of holding a “training session,” a separate source in Ryanggang Province added.

“Later, the authorities ordered the teachers to pay 50 Chinese yuan if they didn’t want to work at the project site, but everyone just ridiculed that and refused to pay.”

North Korean university students play music at the Samjiyon construction site. Image: Rodong Sinmun

There have been several attempts by the North Korean government to force residents to work at the Samjiyon construction site. In late June, an elementary organization affiliated with the Socialist Women’s Union of Korea in provincial, municipal and county factories in Ryanggang Province was ordered to send all of its members to the site. In mid-May, municipal and county People’s Committee directors ordered inminban heads to go to the site after returning from a conference in Pyongyang.

The authorities appear to be making an all-out effort to compensate for the lack of workers at Kim Jong Un’s pet project site given that government officials themselves are being forced to go.

The poor working conditions have led many North Koreans to leave the project site or avoid working there altogether.

The authorities have sent university students from throughout the country to the site during their summer vacation. Korea Central TV (KCTV) reported recently that around 4,800 students from some 110 universities throughout the country conducted “socio-political activities” at the Samjiyon modernization project site during their summer vacation.

The students did not engage in “socio-political activities,” however; they were instead forced to work at construction sites in the area. KCTV reported that students helped prepare the land for construction, excavated earth, and made concrete, among other construction-related activities. Some students reportedly played in a brass band to help encourage other workers at the site.

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