Neighborhood watch directors refuse to mobilization orders to Samjiyon construction site

University students mobilized to the Samjiyon construction site
University students mobilized to the Samjiyon construction site. Image: Rodong Sinmun

North Korea’s neighborhood watch directors are rejecting mobilization orders calling them to work on a banner construction project in Ryanggang Province, according to regional sources.

“Inminban (neighborhood watch) directors slated to replace the directors who were mobilized in the ‘first wave’ are refusing to go,” said a Ryanggang Province-based source. “One inminban director even confronted a local district director on the evening of June 22.”

The local district director had received an order to mobilize all inminban directors in the area to work at the Samjiyon construction site. Having called the directors to his office, he told them that it was their turn to head to the site.

The inminban directors, however, refused to go and a young director reportedly raised his head and stared at the local district director as he spoke, in what was a show of “immense disrespect toward the other official.”

According to a separate source in Ryanggang Province, the local district director hit the young inminban director on the head with a flashlight in anger several times, prompting the young inminban director to announce that “he would only go to Samjiyon if his assailant resigned from his post.”

“The local Party committee director intervened in the fight,” the source continued. “He fired the local district director to calm the young inminban director down. The young director headed to Samjiyon the very next day.”

Daily NK reported in June that municipal and county people’s committee directors ordered inminban directors in their respective areas to work at the Samjiyon construction site following a meeting in Pyongyang.

North Korean authorities are sending inminban directors and law enforcement officials, along with ordinary North Koreans, to state-run construction sites to ensure there is enough labor available at the site, and to strengthen solidarity toward the regime as the country continues to suffer from economic difficulties.

Inminban directors who were mobilized to the site and have now returned, however, report that working conditions at the site are terrible. Citing these conditions, there is a growing number of inminban directors who are refusing to go to the site.

The Daily NK previously reported that inminban directors had revealed the dismal labor conditions at the Samjiyon construction site to their constituents.

When they were suddenly ordered back to the site, an additional source in Ryanggang Province reported that many of the directors said they would “prefer to go to forced labor camps than to return to the site.”

The source added that North Koreans are generally trying to avoid being sent to work at the site, and government agencies are handing out monetary incentives to get more people to work at the site, which is faced with severe labor shortages.

North Korean state media has also been enlisted to encourage more people to work at the site and send whatever aid they can. The first page of the Rodong Sinmun had an article entitled “Enthusiastically Building Gardens at the site of the Samjiyon Modernization Project.”

The article stated that “massive construction of buildings and gardens are being undertaken to ensure Samjiyon County becomes the standard for a cultural city in the mountains and a pure symbol of socialism.”

Another Rodong Sinmun article on June 9 entitled “Enthusiastically Supporting Samjiyon County Construction” told readers about work units involved in the project and encouraged readers to join them.

On June 3, the newspaper published an article that covered the entirety of page three and called for readers to “support the Party’s plans and decisions by enthusiastically helping complete the second stage of the Samjiyon modernization project.”