On Dec. 21, 20 male members of North Korea’s “Storm Trooper” units who were injured during construction work in Samjiyon were married to women at a group ceremony, Daily NK has learned. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un directly issued the marriage order, according to Daily NK sources.
“The ceremony was held in the meeting room of the Samjiyon Municipal Party Committee,” a source based in Ryanggang Province told Daily NK. “North Korean leader Kim Jong Un himself ordered the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) to provide these men with wives, which is how it came together so quickly.”
At a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Township of Samjiyon County on Dec. 2, Kim Jong Un asked the chairman of the Samjiyon County Committee of the WPK about members of Storm Trooper units who had either died or become injured during the construction process. The chairman reported that there had been 17 fatalities along with 20 men whose injuries had left them crippled.
“Upon receiving the report, the Great Leader [Kim Jong Un] ordered the County Committee to take responsibility for consoling the families of those who had died or been injured,” a source told Daily NK. “He also ordered the Party to arrange marriages for those whose injuries had left them physically disabled.”
The Samjiyon Municipal Committee immediately began to recruit female volunteers willing to marry the injured men, sources reported.
However, because the Municipal Committee was unable to recruit enough volunteers, they ultimately solicited recommendations from each of the units in the Ryanggang Province chapter of the Kimsungist-Kimjongilist Youth League to fulfill the quota. Some of the women were likely coerced into the marriages, sources said.
Because Kim Jong Un himself had directly issued this order, the weddings were held immediately. Kim also ordered that the newlyweds be given the best residences among newly constructed buildings in Samjiyon, sources said.
“The Party also provided them with the customary five cabinets and six appliances,” one of the sources added.
In North Korea, the phrase “five cabinets and six appliances” refers to items widely held to be essential for newlyweds. The “five cabinets” refers to a linen closet, a wardrobe, a bookshelf, a decorative cabinet, and a cupboard for dinnerware. The “six appliances” include a television, a recording device, a refrigerator, a washing machine, and a sewing machine.
ROLLING OUT THE RED CARPET
The newly married men were also awarded with the Order of the National Flag, first class, sources said. The Order of the National Flag is one of the highest honors in the country, and depending on the situation, also comes with the title “Hero of the Republic,” or “Labor Hero.”
“It is unprecedented for the authorities to award the Order of the National Flag, first class, to people who were injured during construction work,” one Daily NK source said. “The awards were handed out because Samjiyon is where the Supreme Commander [Kim Jong Il] was born.”
Kim Jong Un’s emphasis on Samjiyon’s political importance, and the role Samjiyon plays in the idolizing mythology surrounding his rule, is why the WPK went to such lengths to compensate the injured victims, sources explained.
The North Korean authorities have stressed Samjiyon’s importance as the “birthplace of Revolution,” the site where Kim Il Sung’s fight against Japanese colonial powers began, and where Kim Jong Il was born. North Korea promotes Samjiyon as the “ideal city,” reborn through the striving of patriotic hearts and a do-or-die spirit.
However, some North Koreans have criticized the forced group wedding, characterizing it as a show of favoritism bestowed on a select minority.
“Do they know how many people suffered because of the poor conditions at the Samjiyon construction sites?” one source asked. “It’s not just these few victims. There are a lot of people who say that the Party downplayed the number of victims in their report to Kim Jong Un, and that is why only a minority were compensated.”
*Translated by Violet Kim
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