Kim Chaek Iron and Steel Complex is unable to operate properly due to shortages of materials and fuel, according to sources. The Complex is North Korea’s main producer of “Juche steel”, treated as an economic symbol of self-revitalization and mentioned in this year’s Common Editorial.
Additionally, since the dire state of Kim Chaek Iron and Steel Complex has an influence over other related enterprises and factories in the region, the entire economy of Chongjin is reportedly in substantial difficulties.
A source from Chongjin reported today, “Almost every factory and enterprise in Chongjin is in hibernation. Even Kim Chaek Iron and Steel Complex and Chongjin Steel Mill, both of which had been running to some extent, cannot play their proper roles and are frozen.”
The Kim Chaek Iron and Steel Complex, employing 25,000 workers, is where “Juche steel” is produced with high energy anthracite instead of imported crude oil and coke, hence its being a symbol of the Juche idea. The nearby Chongjin Steel Mill employs approximately another 8,000 people.
The North Korean authorities stress that the Complex is a model factory. Therefore, as the New Year’s Common Editorial is released annually, so Rodong Shinmun releases “The Kim Chaek Complex Letter” to encourage production increases at every factory in the country.
However, the reality is that operations at the Kim Chaek Complex have dropped to less than 50 percent of last year’s, according to the source, while the Chongjin Steel Mill is operating at around 30 percent. This is because they have not been able to procure materials and fuel due to the economic crisis.
The source explained, “Even when smoke is coming from all six chimneys in the sintering factory, it is not enough for the main blast furnace, and even when the Party urges them on, there are not enough materials for half the furnace capacity.” He went one, “That much is only possible because cadres from the central and provincial committees have been dispatched to the spot.”
According to the source, the sintering section of the complex produces sintered materials mixed with iron ore, lime and coke; the core materials of “Juche” steel.
He added, “When workers see smoking chimneys at the Complex in the morning, they are relieved, because the factories frequently stop working altogether.”
“As long as the sintering furnace is working, the main furnace is also running, and the steel factory and rolling factory also work,” he explained, adding, “Therefore, when they find chimneys at the sintering factory without smoke, citizens sigh that ‘The furnace died again’.”
The current freezing weather and lack of electricity are other decisive elements in production difficulties.
The source said, “The ore pipeline from Musan is now frozen solid, so supplies of ore cannot be carried here in time. They carry them by train, but due to frequent blackouts only a few freight cars can move. So people complain ‘How can we feed the furnace with that?’”
In this situation, related enterprises and factories have also been suspended and, accordingly, all economic activities have shrunk.
The source said, “When the Complex runs, some food, oil, sugar and soap can be supplied to workers, markets in the vicinity can be activated, and this influences Chongjin downtown markets.” In short, due to the suspension of the operation in the Complex, workers’ lives have grown worse.
Another source noted, “Last month, the furnace (2,000 workers), sintering section (1,500), and coking (1,000), provided workers with a little bit of food, so workers from other sections envied them. But this month the situation for all sections is the same; poor.”
Since the Kim Chaek Complex is treated centrally as a symbol of the North Korean economy, its production rate implies that the overall economic situation in North Korea continues to decline.