North Korean authorities are trying to recruit even more able-bodied construction workers to finish important projects by Oct. 10, the anniversary of the founding of the country’s communist party.

“An order has been issued to bring in extra storm troopers [work units put together on an ad hoc basis to work on construction projects] from each region to make up for labor shortages on construction projects that need to be completed by Oct. 10,” a source in South Pyongan Province told Daily NK on Monday. 

The order was handed down by the country’s Central Committee to party committees in each province and places a priority on recruiting high school students close to graduation and soldiers recently discharged from the military.

Several high priority projects – including the building of the Wonsan-Kalma Coastal Tourist Zone, the modernization of Samjiyon, and construction of the Danchon power plant (in South Hamgyong Province) – have experienced delays since February due to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

North Korean authorities have struggled to secure an adequate supply of materials to the sites after the closure of the Sino-North Korean border in late January. Travel restrictions due to the pandemic have also interfered with the movement of construction-related vehicles. 

North Korean authorities have also ordered work to resume on the projects from early June and the directive to recruit more storm troopers is likely aimed at making rapid progress on the projects.

QUALITY CONTROL

The order also stipulated that newly-recruited workers must be capable of performing construction work. 

“The order contained a provision that banned any kind of perfunctory mobilization or making up numbers,” the source told Daily NK. “This is different from the past, when [local authorities] were encouraged to recruit as many people as possible.” 

The order reflects the fact that many impoverished people have joined work units as a way to simply feed themselves and their families. 

A recent recruitment drive ended up attracting around 7,000 people who were ultimately turned away because of poor health, according to the source. 

“The number of families suffering from hunger has recently grown by a lot, but the state is just focused on finishing the construction projects,” the source said, adding, “There’s a lot of people who are unhappy about the government’s recent order [to prevent people weakened from hunger from joining work units].”

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

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Jang Seul Gi is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about her articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.