Samjiyon work brigade laborer dies while stealing corn

North Korea has failed to provide proper supplies to laborers for the winter, sources report

Samjiyon construction site
A scene from North Korea's modernization initiative in Samjiyon, Ryanggang Province. / Image: Rodong Sinmun

A work brigade member died in Samjiyon County, the site of a massive state-led modernization project. Sources reported to Daily NK on Nov. 6 that he was killed in an accident while trying to steal food for the winter, which he couldn’t afford.

The incident occurred on Paekam Ridge: Two workers of a work brigade – also called “shock troop brigades” – from South Pyongan Province had decided to steal corn from a moving cargo vehicle. After they had climbed the truck, one of them was thrown off and plunged down a slope. 

“The man smashed into a tree root at the bottom of the hill and died,” one of the sources said. He added that “the head of the South Pyongan Province work brigade was demoted after the incident” as a result.


Samjiyon County is located in Ryanggang Province. It’s currently the site of massive state-led modernization project aiming to make the area resemble a “revolutionary shrine” for the ruling Kim family.

Kim Jong Un himself has expressed a strong personal interest in the area and has pledged to make it a “model of a cultural city in the mountains.” 

The construction is set for completion in 2020. Kim’s government officials recently urged the factories in Samjiyon to increase their production of construction materials.

Meanwhile, Daily NK sources reported that both locals forced to work on the construction and builders deployed from all over the country face difficult conditions as they are left to survive on their own.


The region’s temperatures typically drop below zero from October. Regardless, North Korean officials have largely failed to provide work brigades with the supplies needed to survive the winter, among them foods like kimchi, firewood and undergarments.

Workers are left to fend for themselves instead. Depending on their brigade, some get a leave of absence to procure supplies from their hometowns or by other means. Others are ordered to obtain their items from the areas they’re stationed in.

The latter applied to the two men from South Pyongan Province, who tried to steal the truck. The head of their brigade had ordered them to stay and “somehow” procure their supplies locally.

Because the men apparently couldn’t afford to buy any items, they decided to steal them, which then resulted in the tragic accident.

*Translated by Violet Kim and edited by Laura Geigenberger

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