Local factories in South Pyongan Province face closure amidst theft epidemic

Factory in North Pyongan Province, North Korea
Factory in North Pyongan Province, North Korea. Image: Daily NK

Factories in South Pyongan Province are facing operational issues and have requested financial support from the provincial government. There has also been an increase in the number of workers who are stealing factory equipment and materials to feed themselves and their families.

“The Pyongsong Automation Equipment Factory, Pyongsong Woodworks Factory, and metal product and silk factories in Mundok, Sukchon, Kaechon, Tokchon and Pyongwon, have requested financial support from the province’s Local Industrial Management Department,” a South Pyongan Province-based source reported on April 21. “They were just told to ‘work it out themselves.’”

The province’s Local Industrial Management Department discussed shutting down the factories, according to the source, who reported that “in mid-March, the province’s Local Industrial Management Department discussed shutting down some local factories that are facing operational issues.”

He continued, “Department officials said that shutting them down was a practical way to deal with the lack of new products and their failure to transform their management systems.”

The factories have long faced operational difficulties due to international sanctions on the import of needed source materials, the source said. The North Korean economy is also facing stagnation, which has only made their situation worse, the source said.

The quality of the products produced at the factories is poor compared to imported products, which means they have become uncompetitive in the market. North Koreans are not buying anything but grains and other food at the markets these days so there is been a drastic decrease in demand for products from these factories.

Factory workers are also stealing equipment and source materials from some of the factories to sell in local markets. This has become a major social issue mainly because workers are stealing just to put food on the table.

“The head of police in South Pyongan Province warned officials at a provincial Party committee meeting recently that there’s been an increase equipment and source material theft from factories in Kaechon, Tokchon, Pukchang and other areas,” an additional source in South Pyongan Province added.

“Bronze wires, welding poles, metal poles, aluminum, electrical wires, mini-motors, and silicon steel plates are being stolen, along with cement and even wood from construction sites.”

There are also many cases of theft from wood lumber yards and livestock farms on the outskirts of cities in Ryanggang Province, according to sources in the region. Groups of “Soto,” a term for gangs of two to five thieves, are stealing wood and livestock from private farms.

Nevertheless, these cases of theft are not aimed at making profit; rather, thieves just want to buy food for themselves or their families. The country is facing growing food shortages and thieves are simply trying to get by.

“Businesses are not doing well these days and business people are facing financial difficulties. That’s why there’s a rise in stealing,” said a Ryanggang Province-based source, adding that “Some North Koreans are stealing from businesses invested in by the Chinese.”