A young former soldier at North Korea’s largest zinc mine, the Kumdok Mining Complex, received high honors for his efforts to fix the mine after flooding and was rapidly promoted to deputy managing director of one of the enterprise’s mines, inciting resentment among many in region’s mining community.
The Kumdok Mining Complex is the country’s largest zinc, lead, gold and magnesite mine. The mine extracted large volumes of minerals until two years ago, but international sanctions on North Korea have negatively impacted production levels due to aging infrastructure.
“The mining tunnels that the party places a great deal of importance on frequently experience flooding because they’re either old or collapsed, or for other unknown reasons,” said a South Hamgyong Province-based source on March 6.
“The efforts of a former soldier who worked hard to repair the Ryongyang Mine (which is part of the broader Kumdok Mining Complex) was reported up to the central government and the man was rewarded handsomely.”
Ryongyang Mine produces magnesite that is supplied to the Tanchon Magnesia Factory. However, water recently began to flood the inside of the mine and eventually reached the mine’s entrance. Miners were then mobilized en masse to remove the water.
While provincial party cadres and mining officials deployed water pumps and workers to remove the water, a former soldier reportedly entered the mine enthusiastically to remove the water and was noticed by his superiors.
“Mine officials say that the former soldier was fearless in continuing his work even though the pressure from the water was strong and rocks were falling from the top of the mine. He continued his work even though his shoulder was cut by falling rocks and began to bleed,” a separate source in South Hamgyong Province said.
A provincial party official put the former soldier in charge of the water removal efforts and the whole process ran noticeably faster, the source reported.
The former soldier’s achievement was reported to the central government and he was promoted to a managerial position, while the party committee of the Ryongyang Mine made him the deputy managing director of the mine.
According to the sources, local residents are saying that there has never been a case where a former soldier has been made deputy managing director over far more experienced miners.
Other miners are alleging that the former soldier likes to show off and is shrewd, with his act of courage really just being a fabricated performance. They also point to the fact that the former soldier’s act of courageousness has set a precedent where other miners are feeling pressured to risk their lives to be recognized as “good at their jobs.”
Rapid promotions of former soldiers are not uncommon in North Korea. A former soldier in Onsong County was promoted to a work unit leader position for his work ethic as part of efforts by local officials to encourage a sense of patriotism.