Over 300 North Korean fishermen feared dead from fisheries campaign

North Korean fishermen are often pushed beyond acceptable safety limits during fishing operations, under orders by the Kim Jong Un regime. An increasing number of residents are becoming upset at the regime’s propaganda claims that the subsequent deaths of fishermen are ‘acts of loyalty,’ as family members of the missing can do little more than grieve at the dockside.
“More than 300 fishermen, who were forced into a ‘fishing battle’ following orders by the authorities to ‘provide enough fish for 300 days a year,’ have not yet returned. About 200 fishermen went missing or died during the squid season in June and another 100 fishermen are still missing from the sailfin sandfish season last month,” an official in South Pyongan Province told Daily NK on December 28.
This report was revealed to Daily NK by a senior official working with an administrative department responsible for keeping track of the number of accidents and deaths that occur in each province.
“The actual number of missing or dead fishermen is assumed to be much more than what is reported, because there were dozens of day laborers as well as 6 or 7 crew members in each of the old small fishing boats dispatched to sea. The provincial administrative and Party bureaucrats are only interested in producing reports that highlight their ‘loyalty’ to the regime, and have little regard for rescue attempts for the fishermen at sea,” the source noted.
“(The authorities) are not even making efforts to collect the bodies of the dead, let alone conduct a rescue operation during the 300-day push to catch as much fish as possible. The regime has only published one story in the state newspaper about 6 crew members in a stow-net fishing boat who died saving portraits of the Kim family while in the western sea,” the source added.
“In recent days, the authorities have been repeating the story about those fishermen who allegedly died saving portraits of the Kim family during lectures for residents and students. People are resenting the regime’s desire to emphasize the importance of the portraits over any effort to recover the bodies,” said a source in South Hamgyong Province.
On December 22, the North Korean state newspaper Rodong Sinmun published an article entitled “The loyalty of the dead fishermen will be eternally remembered under the red flag of the Workers’ Party.” It states that portraits of the Kim family were found in a box inscribed with the name of a boat from the western shores of Onchon, South Pyongan Province. The publication claimed that the dead fishermen are “loyalists” who died protecting the box until the end.
“On the east and west coasts, private carpenters build wooden ships of varying dimensions. But tens of thousands of these ships are known to have already sunk or gone missing due to mechanical breakdowns. The families of the missing fishermen are unable to request a rescue operation because the authorities are not receptive on the matter,” a separate source in South Pyongan Province added.
“The families of the missing crew members have been waiting for the fishermen to return for months. They cannot hold funerals for the missing because they don’t know if they are still alive, and they cannot even lodge a missing persons report because if they do, they are likely to be interrogated and monitored by State Security Department agents or Ministry of People’s Security officials, accusing the missing of having tried to ‘escape’.”
Meanwhile, the South Korean coast guard has rescued 10 exhausted North Korean fishermen who were adrift for three months in the East Sea, as well as 3 drifting North Korean fishing boats on December 11 and 12. The fishermen and the boats were sent back to North Korea in accordance with humanitarian principles. It was revealed that most of the fishermen on one boat had starved to death while drifting at sea. The Kim Jong Un regime has recently been emphasizing the importance of fishing in order to promote its image as a regime for the people that provides fish, after having failed to adequately supply meat.
The Rodong Sinmun reported on December 28 that thanks to Kim Jong Un’s dynamic fishing campaign, a “fisheries miracle has transpired in the Mallima era.”
“The fisheries sector has long been lagging behind, so it required a lot of investment and time. The fact that we could achieve an impressive fishing catch in such a short period of time just goes to show that North Korea has become a strong power. This proves that the golden year has actually been realized and that the time has come for residents to enjoy their happy lives on their own,” the piece read.