A photo of the Komusan Cement Factory in Puryong County published by North Korean state media in March 2020. / Image: Rodong Sinmun

A kiln explosion at Komusan Cement Factory in Puryong County, North Hamgyong Province has led to casualties, Daily NK has learned. 

A source in North Hamgyong Province told Daily NK on Tuesday that two workers were immediately killed and another six gravely wounded when a kiln in the factory’s refractory section exploded on Nov. 24.

According to the source, Komusan Cement Factory had been waging a “struggle” to achieve the first-year “people’s economy” targets of the current five-year plan for national economic development, firing on all cylinders and at full capacity with no time spared to repair its kilns.

The source said the factory’s party committee called on the facility to “absolutely” achieve the five-year plan’s first year targets, even if this presented hardships. In particular, it called for the factory to operate at twice or triple its previous workload so it could report to the party that it had achieved its targets by Dec. 17, the anniversary of the death of late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

Accordingly, laborers rested and worked in shifts, keeping the factory in continuous operation. Finally, on the afternoon of Nov. 24, one of the kilns exploded, killing or hospitalizing eight people.

The factory subsequently said the accident occured because it had no choice but to fulfill tasks from the party, even if this meant overloading the facility, as the state had imposed on it additional production targets.

Meanwhile, the party committee of North Hamgyong Province held an emergency virtual meeting with officials from Level One and Level Two enterprises in the province to convey news of the accident. The committee reportedly told the officials that while achieving “people’s economy” targets is important, the party prioritizes the health of workers. It said production facilities should give their workers sufficient rest and properly maintain their facilities.

Moreover, the provincial party called for an accurate diagnosis of the latest accident to prevent recurrences. In response, a joint team of provincial prosecutors and investigators from the provincial branch of the Ministry of Social Security has gone to Komusan Cement Factory — the scene of the accident — to investigate by examining records of kiln repairs, work shifts and accident prevention measures. 

The provincial party also reportedly stressed that there will be no accidents or mishaps if enterprise officials fulfill their mission and duties as they “resolutely realize and pursue” the goals set out in a letter sent by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to participants of the recent “Fifth Conference of Frontrunners of the Three Revolutions.”

The source added that while the provincial party also called for “saving without fail” the workers who were seriously injured in the latest accident, their families can only sigh as the victims were injured so severely that they may never work again.

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.
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Jong So Yong is one of Daily NK's freelance reporters. Questions about her articles can be directed to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.