Following the completion of the farming season and annual payments in kind for workers in agricultural regions, North Korean authorities have imposed a number of taxes on those same communities.
“In both Pochon and Samsu counties, they started pushing various payments on us right after we finished the threshing. And that doesn’t even include the materials we were already giving to support Samjiyon,” a source in Ryanggang Province told Daily NK. The border town of Samjiyon has been scene of one of North Korea’s largest construction projects throughout 2018 and 2019.
In North Korea, each local government and state organization is responsible for financing certain projects and other assorted costs. These can include key regional construction projects, goods for the military, hosting of local events, projects undertaken by students in the region, and ever-present “loyalty” payments of hard currency to the central state.
“Our monthly people’s unit contributions are more than 20 RMB,” the source explained by way of example. “Workplaces also take 10 RMB from each person to pay for the decoration and upkeep of their rooms for propaganda and cultural education.” These rooms are both ubiquitous and mandatory in North Korean public buildings.
Additionally, the source said that the Socialist Women’s Union of Korea takes three RMB in taxes from each of its members to cover the cost of donating a single rabbit skin to the military for annual winter military drills.
“In people’s units and workplaces alike, they take both food and non-food items to support reservists taking part in the winter drills, too,” the source explained. People also reportedly anticipate having to make donations to orphanages and for the care of homeless children.
“It is autumn and so people say they can ill-afford all this,” the source said. “We should be gathering together the food to get us through next year, which makes these burdens far from trivial.”
Given that residents of upland areas of Ryanggang Province get their distribution primarily in the form of potatoes, they find making payments such as these in cash particularly difficult, resulting in widespread discontent in those areas.
*Translated by Chris Green
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