The North Korean authorities have issued orders demanding the collection of 10kg of scrap iron per person in advance of this April’s major national events.
A source from North Hamkyung Province today Daily NK yesterday, “The authorities are shouting about how we must collect more than 10kg of scrap iron per person from factories, schools and homes in every area of North Korea, including Pyongyang.”
Scrap iron collection is not a new idea; North Korea ordinarily carries out similar drives twice a year in spring and autumn. However, right up until last year the amount requested was ordinarily less than 5kg and the policy was not implemented very strictly. People who did not submit their share were simply told to make it up six months later, or in many cases were overlooked completely.
However, the atmosphere this year is different. According to the source, “Our local people’s unit leader is putting strong pressure on, saying ‘don’t come to me with reasons or excuses’ and emphasizing that the authorities will regard not contributing to the celebrations in April as an ideological problem.”
“They are asking for money from people who can’t find iron,” the source added. “They are calculating 200 won per 1kg so want 2,000 won for 10kg, and are threatening that those who don’t participate in the project will be excluded from holiday distribution.”
Naturally, this is unwelcome. “These days, special distribution means at best a day or two day supply of corn,” the source pointed out, “so a lot of people are thinking, ‘How about we don’t request special distribution and you just leave us alone’.”
In 2004, the Union of Democratic Women Organization was told to gather fully 30kg of scrap iron per person. At that time the authorities told the women, “We can live without candy but not without bullets.” Then, on November 18th, 2005, the founding day of the union, a tank called the ‘Women’s Union’ was publicly unveiled, with the authorities claiming it was the result of their hard work.
As a result, this year’s stricter than average drive has caused women who remember those days to comment, “Are they planning to make another ‘Women’s Union’?”
The scrap iron collected in the drive is normally sent to North Korea’s main iron and steel works, including Kim Chaek, Hwanghae, Sungjin and Gangsun, to be turned into items for use in construction projects.