North Korean authorities have substantially hiked the “party contributions” North Korean workers in Russia must contribute to state coffers, Daily NK has learned. This essentially means authorities have begun aggressively securing foreign currency through workers dispatched overseas.

According to a Daily NK source in Russia on Wednesday, the authorities raised the “loyalty funds” (party contributions) on workers in Russia by anywhere from 30% at the low end to 55% at the high end.

The wages of North Korean workers sent to Russia differ according to the industry (construction or woodcutting) and the size of their workplace. There are also many days they cannot work due to climate and seasonal conditions. As a result, workers do not have fixed yearly incomes and incomes differ greatly between individuals.

In general, however, party contributions that all overseas workers must pay are decided based on what sector they work in. In the case of construction workers, the yearly contribution was raised from USD 7,200 to USD 10,000, while that of forestry workers was raised from USD 4,500 to USD 7,000.

Party contributions have long been increased little by little every year, but never have they risen nearly 60% like this year, based on the source’s account. 

For example, forestry workers could make money for themselves without having to share it with the party during the six months of spring and summer, when there is no logging work to do.

A construction site in Russia photographed in June 2019. North Korean workers were reportedly working there at the time. / Image: Daily NK

Now, however, they will have to work to earn party funds during the six months when they officially have no work to do, the source said. 

North Korean loggers usually harvest blueberries during the off season. They will have to harvest over 150 kilograms of blueberries a month to cover their party contributions.

Recently dispatched North Korean workers were reportedly flabbergasted when they learned of the new party fund scheme upon arriving at their Russian workplaces.

Workers felt betrayed by the state when informed that their “loyalty fund” contributions had suddenly risen. Many had already planned out their savings based on pre-ascertained numbers tied to their respective industries.

“Both construction workers and forestry workers will have to work every day to just barely pull together their yearly contributions,” said the source. “Because workers who can’t pay the funds have to return home, they’re trying to do any work they can. But there’s not much work they can do.”

The rise in party contributions apparently only applies to civilian workers. In the case of soldiers, most of their wages already go to the state. 

In 2017, the United Nations Security Council called for the repatriation of overseas North Korean workers. North Korean authorities have paid the resolution little heed and have been sending new workers overseas to earn foreign currency.

North Korea reportedly sent a new batch of workers to Russia in April and about 200 workers to Mongolia in May.

North Korean authorities are reportedly training another batch of workers in Pyongyang to be sent to Russia and China, as well as to Syria, Egypt, Iran, and other places in the Middle East.

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.
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Seulkee Jang is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about her articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.