State attempts to stave off heat do more harm than good

Heading into the hottest days of summer,
North Korea is said to have pulled forward operating hours for state agencies,
factories and schools. However, the exceedingly early opening hours set at 5
a.m. are not only causing workers to be late, the early closing hours at state
agencies are creating great inconveniences for residents, Daily NK has learned. 

“With the start of ‘chobok’ (the first day
of ‘sambok’, which mark the three hottest days of summer), all central agencies
in Pyongyang and other offices and schools nationwide have been ordered to
follow the ‘sambok schedule,” a source from South Pyongan Province told Daily
NK on July 21st. “Because of this, all operations now start at 5 a.m. instead
of the usual 8 a.m. and end at 1 p.m.”

This time shift was crosschecked with sources in two additional provinces, but for their safety their locations cannot be disclosed.

The stifling temperatures brought on during
this period are particularly insufferable in Pyongyang and inland areas in the
western and northern portions of the country. “It’s a struggle to work both
indoors and outdoors,” she said, explaining that everyone is required to come
to work before sunrise and finish up their tasks by noon to clock out before
the peak hours of sun.   

The early working hours in the summer were
first implemented after the turn of the century under the orders of former
leader Kim Jong Il. Although central agencies in Pyongyang, regional Party
offices, and offices for those in higher ranks at trade companies are equipped with air
conditioners, summer droughts limit energy output at hydroelectric power
plants, making it impossible to run a fan, much less an air conditioner.

Given these conditions, the source said the
‘sambok schedule’ could help workers improve efficiency on the job if not for
unforeseen issues that have arisen. That is, the sudden change in working hours
has stirred up confusion at factories and schools.

“Even young children need to start getting
ready for school at around 4 a.m. Many are unable to get up so they end up
skipping one or two hours of class, pulling down the attendance rate at certain
times half or more,” she asserted.

She pointed out that as district and regional offices
are already closed in the afternoon, when many people would usually visit, this situation is terribly inconvenient, noting, “State-owned restaurants also
only stay open until lunch time and close when they would be busiest in the
afternoon and dinner time. State officials who are on business trips to
different areas complain since they don’t have anywhere to dine in the

By way of example, regional residents can
just go back home and eat meals in their own houses. On the other hand, an official
from Pyongyang on a business trip to Hyesan, for instance, would have nowhere
to eat after 1:00 p.m. Other goods and services, such as those offered at hair
salons or bathhouses, are possible to forego, but food is, of course, another matter
entirely. While said official could seek sustenance out at the jangmadang
[markets], the price is exponentially higher than the cheap eats available at
state-run restaurants.  

Moreover, despite the state’s determination to tout the ‘sambok schedule’
as a direct manifestation of the Marshal’s [Kim Jong Un] love for the people,
the source said residents have continued to dismiss it as a “desperate attempt at placation.”   

“People say there’s no real point in going
to work early since there’s not only no electricity but not enough work to go
around; all this [directive] does is make everyone more exhausted,” she concluded. 

*The content of this article was broadcast
to the North Korean people via Unification Media Group.