North Korean authorities will reassign soon-to-be discharged soldiers currently deployed in reconstruction efforts in flood-stricken Komdok, South Hamgyong Province, as miners in the region, Daily NK has learned. 

According to a Daily NK source in the North Korean military last Thursday, North Korea’s military manpower department issued an order June 21 for about 110 soldiers taking part in reconstruction efforts in Komdok to be reassigned as miners after they are discharged this autumn.

The decision means that the discharged soldiers will remain in the area as laborers rather than being sent home. 

The move is part of broader efforts to redeploy soldiers awaiting early discharge to collective farms and mines and, ultimately, is aimed at bolstering the local workforce with little regard for the soldiers’ personal wishes. 

Though large numbers of troops have been deployed to the Komdok area from last year to help mining production return to previous levels, production normalization has yet to be achieved, Daily NK’s source said. 

“It was possible to predict this mass redeployment ever since [military] service periods shrank around the Eighth Party Congress earlier this year,” said the source. “Going forward, Korean People’s Army personnel will fill positions in places where there’s insufficient workforces.”

Since last year, political and personnel departments of military units reportedly told soldiers that there would be “no unreasonable deployments.” This turned out to be an empty promise.

Komdok Mine
Photographs taken at the Komdok Mine. / Image: DPRK Today

Instead, those departments have changed their tune since the order was issued, telling personnel to “replace their guns with rock drills.”

Military units appear to be moving quickly to hand over lists of soon-to-be-reassigned soldiers and their personal items to Komdok Mine’s labor department. They are also subjecting soldiers to ideological training, saying now is the time to “show utmost loyalty” to the ruling party and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, according to the source. 

However, soldiers are complaining that they are facing a lifetime of working in the mines.

Local people in Komdok are not especially happy, either, wondering who will rebuild their damaged homes now.

With construction work moving slowly and the rainy season approaching, locals – who have been living communally since last year’s flooding – are worrying about when work on their homes will finally finish.

On June 20, North Korea’s Arirang Meari published an article entitled, “Continuous Innovation at the Construction Site for Homes in the Komdok Region.” The article claimed that soldiers were recording “new daily exploits” at the construction site to lift the miners’ village at Komdok into a globally unprecedented “miners’ city.”

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.
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Jeong Tae Joo is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. He focuses on North Korean military matters. Please direct any questions about his articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.