Pockets of Pyongyang residents picked clean for Ryomyong Street

The North Korean authorities have launched a “loyalty
donation campaign” directed at Pyongyang citizens to obtain funding for the
Ryomyong Street construction project in the capital, which is being hailed as
another legacy project for Kim Jong Un. Daily NK has learned that households
have been pressured to donate 50 USD, leading to complaints among the public.

The campaign comes at a time when the North is struggling
under international sanctions and a decline in income from workers dispatched
overseas, after two separate groups of restaurant workers escaped to South
Korea.

“Following the declaration of the ‘200-Day Battle’,
propaganda lectures claiming that we must ‘support the construction of Ryomyong
Street both physically and philosophically’ was delivered at state factory
lectures and inminban (people’s unit) meetings,” a source from Pyongyang told
Daily NK on June 9. “The lecturers are telling people that Pyongyang’s Ryomyong
Street is going to be the General’s (Kim Jong Un) gift to scientists for the
country’s advancement, and so Pyongyang citizens should lead the way in showing
their loyalty.” 

The people’s committees at each district office have ordered
inminban leaders to collect 50 USD from each household before July for the
first Ryomyong Street collection. “For families that don’t have the money,
there are orders for them to participate in on-site construction by July
instead,” he added.   

As of June 4, some households have already started paying
the loyalty funds to their inminban leaders, an additional source in the capital reported. However,
criticisms of the state have arisen for its behavior in “deliberately creating
an atmosphere of competition” to squeeze out money from people, likening it to
“practices in the feudal age.”

The growing disparity within North Korea also becomes more
apparent during such campaigns. 50 USD in the North is considered substantial
to many, as it would buy roughly 80 kilograms of rice at current market prices
(5,000 KPW/kilogram, 1 USD trades for 8,000 KPW), However, for cadres it
would be considered relatively minor, noted the source.

“People in power, trade workers, and the donju (newly
affluent middle class) can splurge hundreds of dollars on one meal, so they
compare the loyalty fund requirement to providing a bit of pocket money,” the
source said. “On the other hand, you have those who barely scrape by each day,
and they’re being dragged off to the construction site since they can’t afford
to pay the 50 USD.”

Taking into account the nature and importance placed on the
project, the source speculated that greater demands for loyalty funds outside
of Pyongyang are imminent. “Ryomyong Street will be built using funds squeezed
out of the population to import raw materials and by mobilizing soldiers and
other young people, which means it will become the ‘street of tears,’” the
source lamented. 

In November of last year, North Korea completed the
construction of Mirae Scientists’ Street in Pyongyang with apartments,
commercial facilities, a department store, and a day care center. This March,
Kim Jong Un ordered Ryomyong Street to be built as the second street for
scientists with the goal of completion by the year’s end, as an act of defiance
against international sanctions.  

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