Soldiers overtly demand money from photo-snapping tourists

The images shown here reveal the daily reality of
the mass mobilization order issued by North Korea’s authorities for the
rice planting season. These photos showcase scenes from the Hwanggumpyong
Island Economic Zone, located in the middle of the Yalu River near Sinuiju. They were captured by Daily
NK’s special coverage team from the Chinese border city of Dandong and they
were taken at the end of May. The residents are shown hard at work as part of
the mobilization in the agricultural region in Hwanggumpyong Island.

One particularly striking image is the navy
blue gym class uniforms worn by the male high school students. They were part
of a group mobilization to the farm. The students were spotted by the special
coverage team working with their bare hands at 4 o’clock in the

According to Daily NKs sources in South Pyongan Province, high schools and
universities have shut down in order to facilitate the so-called 
agricultural support battle. Sources in
North Hwanghae Province reported that some students in that region have even
launched complaints that their right to education is being infringed upon.

On the other side of the fence, two North
Korean soldiers were seen monitoring the mobilized workers and keeping tabs on
the foreigners observing them through the barbed wire fence on the border. The
special coverage team also noted the presence of approximately 10 Chinese
tourists standing on the Chinese side of the border who were taking pictures of
the North Koreans despite the fact that the soldiers were waving their fingers
and ordering them to stop.

Another surprising aspect of this
interaction was when the two soldiers approached the tourists and asked for
money by gesturing with their hands. They signaled the “money sign”
by each rubbing together their thumb and index finger. Some Chinese tourists were uninterested
while others tossed cigarettes or snacks to the other side of the fence. After
this, the soldiers did not pay much attention to the tourists, even giving the
occasional wave.

Just a few years ago, visitors to the
border region witnessed North Korean soldiers who carefully approached
cigarettes that the visitors had thrown over. Now, they overtly ask the same
visitors for money. 

North Korea and China announced the joint
development of the Hwanggumpyong Island Economic Zone in 2011 but sources inside the country indicate the region is not attracting the kind of businesses and
investments that it initially expected.  

*This article has been brought to you
thanks to support from the Korea Press Foundation.

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