Yesterday, the North Korean authorities unilaterally declared that they would withdraw all workers from the Kaesong Industrial Complex, saying that the actions of South Korea and the United States had driven them to it. As a result, this morning no workers were delivered to the manufacturing zone.
However, as tensions mount in Seoul, Daily NK has learned that the workers themselves have been told that normal working hours will resume in due course, and that in the meantime they should simply rest for a day or two before taking part in alternative state projects.
A Pyongyang source in contact with a worker in Kaesong by phone told Daily NK on the 9th, “Regarding yesterday’s stoppage and withdrawal of all North Korean workers, the authorities told the workers ‘to take a few days off to prepare for mobilization.’ They are expecting to get two days of rest then be sent out to farms and other social projects starting on the 11th.”
It is not hard to guess what kind of ‘social projects’ the authorities mean: with the ‘Day of the Sun’, the anniversary of Kim Il Sung’s death, just days away on the 15th, there will be plenty of song and dance routines to learn, as well as the preparation of commemorative lectures, film and literature study events and more.
“The authorities told workers that they had been ordered to stop operations, but there was no word on closing down the KIC completely,” the source reaffirmed. “The workers expect that the zone will soon start again, and nobody is worried about losing their jobs.”
However, the source did warn, “The workers are far more worried about not getting paid for a while than about the KIC closing down. Because the KIC has never been closed before, even when North-South tensions were really high, they feel that the authorities should do something to help them now.”
Meanwhile, Daily NK has learned that the stoppage in Kaesong has driven up the price of desirable South Korean-made ‘Choco Pies’ in the market, where they are sold illegally after being taken out of the KIC by North Korean workers, who receive them as snacks during working hours.
According to the Pyongyang source, “The KIC Choco Pies went for 500 won before, but since the 8th they have been 750 won.” Market prices in distant regions are considerably higher.