North Korea levies “dog hide tax” on stay-at-home women

Sources suggest that the new tax is aimed at earning more foreign currency for the regime

North Korean women bikes
North Korean women on bikes near Sakju County, North Pyongan Province. / Image: Daily NK

North Korea has broadened a “dog hide tax” to provincial chapters of North Korea’s largest women’s organization in what appears to be increasing efforts to tax the female population, Daily NK sources in Ryanggang Province reported on Sunday. 

“In the Samjiyon County chapter of the Socialist Women’s Union of Korea (SWUK), members of each elementary [local] unit under age 60 are expected to submit an average of three to four dog hides, without exception,” a Daily NK source in the province said. 

SWUK members who cannot pay the tax in dog hides are required to pay USD 6 (KWP 50,000), which is equivalent to around 10 kilograms of rice and much more money than usually levied on party members or laborers, the source reported. 

Most union women forgo paying the tax in dog hides and opt for the cash alternative. Some union members in financial difficulties are asking for a reprieve, the source said, adding that North Korean authorities have ordered that the dog hides be turned in by mid-November.

North Korean officials typically hand down orders to collect dog hides before the approach of cold weather. While North Korean authorities have long “purchased” the dog hides from North Koreans, no compensation is actually handed out, making it essentially a tax on the population.

TAXING “STAY-AT-HOME” WOMEN

It is likely that SWUK members are being levied with the new tax because most of them are involved in private business activities at local markets, Daily NK sources in Ryanggang Province said. 

SWUK members, which number an estimated 200,000 to 250,000 women, do not work in factories or companies and are typically “stay-at-home” women aged 30 and above. Many, however, work in the markets to earn extra money for their families, according to sources in the country.

In short, North Korean authorities are intent on collecting more taxes from these women given their important role in the country’s increasing level of marketization.

Recently, Daily NK reported that SWUK initiated a campaign for collecting USD 8 under the pretext of purchasing chicken soup for the Korean People’s Army (KPA). 

Daily NK sources have described such collection campaigns as part of efforts by the North Korean state to raise foreign currency. Dog hides collected by the government are generally sold into China. 

GROWING TAX BURDEN FOR WOMEN

During the Kim Jong Il era, the dog hide tax was generally demanded from party members and students, the pretext being a payment for expressing one’s loyalty. With dog hides difficult to acquire, students typically collected leather by breeding rabbits.

Recently, however, ordinary North Koreans are increasingly being forced to collect dog hides, while payments for those who can’t collect the hides have been increased to KPW 20,000, Daily NK sources said. 

There are also many cases where North Koreans faced demands for payments from both their place of work and their inminban (similar to neighborhood watch units), meaning they owe a total of KPW 40,000 to the state, one of the sources said.

SWUK members already having to pay these existing dues would face an even greater burden if they have to submit payments to the union as well, he added. 

*Translated by Violet Kim

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