North Korea recently issued an order that directs factories throughout the country to resolve supply shortages on their own and to devise measures for producing their own raw materials, Daily NK has learned. 

“A Cabinet order was issued on Apr. 21 to factories countrywide that have stopped production because of the lack of raw materials,” a North Korean source told Daily NK on May 6. “The order directed them to find solutions for the shortages through the spirit of self-sufficiency reiterated at the plenary session in early April.” 

SELF-SUFFICIENCY RULES

According to the source, the lack of production of socks and shoes – items that are in high demand among North Koreans — is becoming a major issue because factories are producing very little due to the lack of raw materials. 

The Wonsan Shoe Factory and Hungnam Shoe Factory used to operate off raw materials imported from South Korea in the early 2000s until 2010, but these factories only operated to meet monetary targets (production targets with set financial goals) or to produce shoes for government officials. 

After imports from South Korea stopped in 2010, Chinese materials were imported for use in those factories to manufacture small amounts of shoes. Now, however, production has stopped for so long in these factories that their manufacturing equipment has reportedly begun to rust. 

“The order pointed out that all factories should find solutions to domestically produce raw materials rather than just shutting down. The order also demanded that factories avoid relying on imported materials and to even form teams of engineers to create ‘our-style’ raw materials and domestically produce as much as possible,” the source told Daily NK.

“As part of an effort to minimize the use of foreign-made raw materials, the order stipulated that 80% of the raw materials used by the factories should be domestically produced, while the remaining 20% can be imported,” the source added.

The order further stated that there could be more economic difficulties moving forward due to the global pandemic and reiterated that “factories should begin finding ways to secure raw materials themselves because the state is unable to rely on imports to supply them any longer.”

GRUMBLING IN THE RANKS

There has reportedly been grumbling among factory managers who have received the order. 

“Managers in those provincial factories are complaining that they lack necessary technology [to create raw materials] and that, in any case, [other] raw materials would need to be imported to domestically produce the raw materials they need,” the source said. 

“They have no idea how to make things on their own when they have nothing. They are saying it is difficult to make a sudden switch to produce things domestically when they have been relying on exports for so long,” the source continued.

“Factory managers need to readjust their production plans, but they’re in a rut because the central authorities are not allowing them to lower their production goals and simply tell the managers to produce self-sufficiently,” he added.

*Translated by Seongjin Park

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

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Kim Yoo Jin is one of Daily NK's freelance journalists. Please direct any questions about his articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.