Amidst reports that North Korean workers in financial jeopardy are stealing from factories and selling their loot to local markets, a group of women were recently hauled to a public trial for stealing and selling manure.
“Three women were caught selling manure they had stolen from the Namhung Youth Chemical Co-operative Factory,” a source in South Pyongan Province told Daily NK. “They faced a public trial in the Namhung Workers District in Anju, South Pyongan Province.”
While selling goods stolen from factories is common in North Korea, the three women faced punishment due to extent of their crimes. It’s not clear, however, what kind of punishment they received after the public trial.
“The women provided places to stay and food to manure procurement officers who spend just a couple months in various parts of the country. They were able to receive some of the manure the procurement officers were handling as payment for their services, which they then sold at the local market,” said the source.
“The women found out when the manure the procurement officers were handling was going to be shipped, and made a lot of money by taking payments in manure equivalent to ten times the amount they would have been paid. They received around 30 to 40 tons of manure per year in this way.”
One kilogram of manure goes for around 3,000 won in North Korea’s markets so the women earned around 95 million to 120 million North Korean won. This would equal around 11,875 to 15,000 USD – a fantastic sum considering North Korean workers only earn around one dollar per month.
A source in North Pyongan Province added that the women lived near manure factories and “had a large network of factory officials they could tap into.”
“Their network was so large – stretching across local police stations, prosecutors’ offices and Party committees – that manure procurement officers in South Hamgyong Province, North Pyongan Province and the two Hwanghae provinces couldn’t touch them,” she said.
They likely earned substantial profits during the farming season due to the high price of manure.
“Farms purchase manure at high prices in cash because they can’t rely on government supplies of manure,” said the South Pyongan Province-based source, adding that “this has caused endless cases of corruption.”
North Korea has massive manure production factories, but they are old, lack raw materials, and don’t sufficient electricity to operate properly. Most of the manure they do produce goes to the military.
Farms that need manure to conduct agricultural activities to meet their production quotas are faced with having to pay a premium for manure.