Some apartments in Hyesan whose residents are mainly government cadres and members of the donju have recently begun hiring security guards and are paying them monthly wages, Daily NK has learned. 

A source in Yanggang Province told the Daily NK on Friday that the guards are being paid a fixed amount on a set day of the month when each household pays apartment-related fees. 

In North Korea, the “security guard” occupation first appeared in Pyongyang during the early 1990s. At the time, ruling party cadres would hire security guards as part of efforts to hide secrets they did not want anyone else to know. Later, party cadres in Rason and Sinuiju began hiring security guards as well. 

Initially, security guards were hired on an as-needed basis at apartments in Hyesan and only select households had to pay for their services. Later, however, apartment residents decided to give security guards a monthly salary by collecting fees from each household. 

Security guards receive different salaries depending on the apartment. The average monthly salary a security guard can receive is around RMB 600 (around USD 90). That is enough to buy around 140 kilograms of rice, which means the salary is sufficient for supporting a family of four. 

Hyesan, Ryanggang Province in August 2018
Apartments can be seen in Hyesan, Yanggang Province in this August 2018 photo. / Image: Daily NK

An average security guard’s salary is more than 240 times higher than the KPW 3,000 monthly wage workers at state-run companies receive. The occupation is now popular among many young and middle-aged people as a result. 

Among North Koreans, there are broadly two reactions to security guard work. The dominant one is pessimism: “There’s nothing to steal, so what security [does anyone need]?”

This is to say, locals feeling the country’s recent economic difficulties due to COVID-19 restrictions think there is little need for anything to be protected anymore. 

Other North Koreans, however, think the “security guard industry” may grow in the future. Some suggest, for example, that if business activities pick up once again, there may be an increase in the number of people who want to hire security guards to protect their stuff.

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