North Korean authorities increased ‘loyalty’ contributions ahead of national anniversary

Image: KCNA

The North Korean authorities reportedly forced traders living abroad to contribute to the government’s “loyalty fund” to support the events held on September 9, the 70th anniversary of the country’s founding.

A North Korean trader in Yanji, China, told Daily NK on September 10 that the authorities demanded that he contribute 2,000 RMB [around 330,000 KRW] to the loyalty fund, and that this was “a scheme to take money from those working abroad to pay for the events on September 9.

“The international sanctions on North Korea have already made it difficult to do my job, so it’s excruciating that they are continuously asking for more money,” he said.

“I don’t get any support from the authorities while I’m abroad. I’m in a difficult situation and it feels like I’m being robbed.”

The North Korean authorities are increasing the frequency of their demands for money while shortening the time period in which funds must be provided. They are also asking for significantly more money than in the past. Ultimately, traders are facing more difficulties in contributing to the loyalty fund due to the international sanctions on North Korea and the damage these sanctions have had on their businesses.

“There was hope that the sanctions would be loosened after [Kim Jong Un’s] meetings with all those presidents, but everyone working abroad has now given up such hopes,” another North Korean trader currently in China told Daily NK, expressing his frustration over the situation.

US-led international sanctions are still in effect against North Korea, and the country’s authorities have had trouble securing funds for the government. Accordingly, North Korea has shifted the burden of supplying funds to its people, including traders living abroad, under the pretext of contributions to a “loyalty fund.”

North Korean locals continue to complain about the continuous financial demands placed on them by the authorities, and it appears that discontent is set to rise in the future.

Daily NK reported last month that the North Korean authorities were shifting the cost of developing the Wonsan-Kalma Marine Tourist Zone and the preparations for the September 9 events to ordinary North Koreans. The authorities have taken portions of people’s monthly salaries without prior warning, and continue to demand payments to the loyalty fund.

A manager of a North Korean restaurant in China’s Liaoning Province told Daily NK at that time, “The authorities demand we pay 2,000 yuan extra each month on top of the monthly payments we provide […] We have no choice but to take this money out of employees’ salaries.”