North Korean police officer beats factory worker stealing manure

Satellite imagery of Hungnam Fertilizer Complex
Satellite imagery of Hungnam Fertilizer Complex. Image: Google Earth

Amidst reports of factory robberies in some areas of North Korea due to the country’s economic difficulties, a North Korean factory worker was seriously assaulted by local police while trying to steal manure.

“A worker at the Hungnam Manure Factory stole some manure and had passed the factory’s front gate, but was caught by a policeman conducting a night-time patrol,” a South Hamgyong Province-based source told Daily NK.

“The worker tried to runaway with his loot, but the policeman caught up with him and beat the man severely with his electric shock baton.”

Factory workers and members of factory defense security teams that patrol the factory generally work together to steal manure. In this case, however, the worker attempted to steal the manure alone before getting caught.

“The worker wasn’t very smart and hadn’t had any experience stealing before,” the source reported, adding that “he was unable to put food on the table, so his kids couldn’t go to school. Things got so bad he tried to steal manure but ended up getting beaten brutally for it.”

“The policeman reported the incident to the factory and the worker was fired the next day,” the source continued. “He has no money to get medical treatment for his wounds, his kids are starving, and his wife left home to get money from relatives but hasn’t returned yet.”

North Korea has no laws concerning workplace firings; Section 5 of the Socialist Labor Law states: “Unemployment does not exist in North Korea.” According to Section 14 of the same law, “labor is the sacred duty of a citizen of the Republic.”

The “firing” reported by the source in this case seems to indicate that the worker was either re-assigned to another workplace or was let go and is no longer at the factory.

“There are no cases of workers being fired in North Korea,” a defector in South Korea told the Daily NK. “The worker in question was described as being ‘fired’ but he was a manager so he likely just lost his title.”

An additional source in South Hamgyong Province said that the family of the worker is “almost at the point of having to live on the streets” and that he is “not sure if the family can survive another month because no one is looking in on them.”

The Hungnam Manure Factory, which is North Korea’s largest manure production facility, has suffered from decreasing production rates and factory workers are failing to receive proper levels of rations. This situation has led workers to steal manure and sell their ill-gotten gains in local markets. The amount of manure being stolen is so large that robberies are causing a major headache for factory managers.

A separate source in South Hamgyong Province reported that according to data from the factory’s production department, workers steal around 10% of the factory’s production each year. The total annual production rate of the factory is reportedly around 700,000 to one million tons of manure.

“Patrols monitor all parts of the factory day and night. The factory management has taken down the one meter high wall installed five years ago and increased its height to two meters to prevent thievery. It has even stuck broken pieces of glass on top of the new wall,” he said.

“Workers will in all likelihood continue to steal manure given that they still face economic difficulties no matter how hard they work at the factory.”

Mun Dong Hui is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about his articles to