As the Kaesong Industrial Complex slowly moves toward a return to normal production, a number of its former employees have been dismissed by the North Korean side as a result of so-called “ideological problems,” Daily NK has learned.
A source from Shinuiju in North Pyongan Province reported on the 4th, “During the KIC shutdown in April, ideological sessions were held where some workers confessed they had been influenced by the impure ‘capitalist wind.’ They were then dismissed and sent back to their family hometowns. Upon hearing that the complex was to reopen, some had hoped to be reinstated but the authorities ignored this. On the contrary, they actually worked to isolated them from everyone else.”
“The Upper [the authorities] just instructed them to go and find work elsewhere; that was it. But no matter how good they are after working for ages in Kaesong, no enterprise or factory wants to use them because they are tainted goods now.”
According to the source, Kaesong workers were subjected to several weeks of self-criticism following the shuttering of the complex in April. They were made to write in detail their conversations with South Korean business owners, no matter how fleeting the encounters in question may have been.
As is the bread and butter of self-criticism sessions, workers were also encouraged to report on the mistakes or misjudgments of others. This led some to fabricate wrongdoings, in addition to those real issues as may have emerged.
“At the time the atmosphere was rough; people were revealing minor transgressions, mostly based on the presumption that the complex wouldn’t reopen anyway,” the source said. “People claimed they had overheard someone on the production line say ‘South Korean products are better quality,’ or that someone or other had smuggled stuff out of Kaesong to sell on the market.”
“These people have been marked and cannot return to Kaesong,” the source confirmed. “Overnight they went from good jobs with reliable salaries down to the ‘hostile class’.
“As they can’t talk about what happened or go to another job, these guys feel heightened animosity [toward the authorities]. Some said they would give up early and go to live quietly on their private plots in the mountains.”
However, despite the serious nature of the situation for those technically dismissed from their positions in this way, North Korea is highly corrupt. Therefore, it is unclear to what extent the political problems that emerged during and after the Kaesong Industrial Complex shutdown can be “made to disappear” through bribery.