North Koreans swamped with “state-sponsored tasks” in the new year

North Korean farmers load collected manure onto a truck in spring of 2017. Image: Daily NK

North Korean residents are feeling the burden of mandatory participation in labor mobilizations ordered by the regime, along with having to provide material and financial support for government projects.

A source in North Hamgyong Province told Daily NK on Janaury 16 that “people are busy carrying out the social tasks that began earlier this year.” The tasks focus on manure collection and material support in an effort to boost production numbers in time for Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il’s upcoming birthdays.

“Members of the Socialist Women’s Union of Korea who conduct business in the markets rather than a formal workplace have to contribute a total of 1 ton of manure, or 150 kilos each per day,” she added. “Those working in companies have to meet their own manure targets of each collecting 10 kg of human waste, 30 kg of dog/cow/lamb or other animal droppings, and 50 kg of humus soil.”

If they fail to meet their quotas, they are forced to work night shifts. Many are having to continue working in their day jobs while also trying to meet their ‘manure battle’ quotas.

That being said, the total amount of manure authorities are targeting for collection this year is 200-500 kg (per adult). This marks a reduction from last year, and is a development that residents have expressed some relief about.

Even Socialist Women’s Union of Korea members are noting that the “situation has improved.” In the past, the government set quotas for specific types of manure to be collected, but this year it has only presented a total quota requirement. The government may be aiming to prevent any interruptions in the market activities of union members.

A separate source in South Pyongan Province said that while high school students were each given 300 kg and middle schoolers 100 kg manure collection quotas, elementary students were not given any quotas to fulfill despite previously being “unconditionally mobilized” into such drives in the past.

“Carrying sacks or backpacks, inminban leaders are going around and collecting two eggs and 7,000 won from each person within their districts for the manufacture of gifts to be handed out to children on Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung’s birthdays (February 16 and April 15, respectively),” he added.

In some cases in the past, residents would avoid opening their doors to the inminban leaders, anticipating that the officials were going to request donations.

Construction site in Samjiyon. Image: KCNA

“Residents are sending materials to the Samjiyon construction site following an order by the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) for material and human resources to be sent to the site,” said a source in Ryanggang Province, emphasizing that the modernization of Samjiyon County is still forcing many to send their own money and materials to the site.

“Each company’s bulletin board has a notice entitled ‘Names by Unit of Those Who Contributed Materials to the Construction Shock Team in Samjiyon’. The notice has a ranked list of names, gender, workplace, class, total amount collected and signature of each person, in an effort to encourage people to contribute.”

A separate source in South Pyongan Province said that one clothes factory in Pyongsong with 500 employees has already secured a large volume of materials after around 100 staff members made contributions at the end of December.

The North Korean authorities are actively encouraging people to contribute more materials, emphasizing that “supporting construction at Samjiyon is of good conscience” and that “contributing more to the project is better; even the contribution of 0.5 kg of corn is welcome.”

An additional source in Hyesan, Ryanggang Province also reported that an order calling for people to “contribute all of the soybeans and corn you can” has been handed down under the pretext of support for the Samjiyon construction projects, but there are many who can’t afford to contribute due to their dire financial situation.

Ha Yoon Ah is Daily NK's editor-in-chief. Please direct any questions about her articles to