North Hamgyong Province’s party committee turned over several workers at the food distributor to the provincial prosecutor’s office on Oct. 12 after they were investigated by the party’s organizational department for failing to properly carry out party policy on recycling.

The workers included the enterprise’s party secretary, manager, and statistics officer, a source in the province told Daily NK on Tuesday.

The provincial party detained the workers and subjected them to investigation for failing to salvage waste and for throwing out usable items in contradiction to party policy. Amid resource shortages, the party has demanded that companies conserve even the smallest of items and reuse them following approval by “experts.”

The source said the provincial party began taking local enterprises to task over the recycling issue after North Hamgyong Province finished almost dead last in a province-by-province review of implementation of the party’s recycling policy, a result regarded by the province as a “disgrace.” 

chongjin security
A view of Chongjin. / Image: Daily NK

He said the workers at the Chongjin grain distributor were “made examples,” with authorities taking issue with the enterprise’s failure to “greatly” contribute to the implementation of the recycling policy. 

However, the workers at the grain distributor are reportedly complaining that the punishment is unfair. They argue that basically, recycling is based on the waste from production processes, but grain distributors produce no such waste.

What waste they do produce is limited to the straw or jute sacks the rice comes in or the chaff produced during the husking process. The sacks go back to where they came from, and even the chaff goes entirely to foodstuff factories, so they have nothing worth recycling.

The workers also reportedly complained that their superiors instructed them to use the chaff to prepare the enterprise for winter, suspending their state allotments of electricity and coal. This left them even less to recycle.

However, the source said prosecutors are not taking this situation into account. In fact, they appear to be taking issue with other errors the enterprise allegedly committed.

The source said people are saying the workers will receive about three years of forced labor. He added that prosecutors are not even allowing family visits, so relatives are “simply pacing about in regret.”

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Jong So Yong is one of Daily NK's freelance reporters. Questions about her articles can be directed to