Amid North Korean government efforts to increase production throughout the country, several workers in their teens recently died in an industrial accident at the Sungri Motor Complex, Daily NK has learned.

According to a Daily NK source in South Pyongan Province yesterday, several workers at the complex were seriously injured in an accident involving equipment at the factory. The workers were taken to a local hospital, but three ultimately died.

Daily NK was unable to identify how many workers were injured or killed due to the accident, but the source said that at least five people were injured.

Apart from the three workers who died, the remaining workers are being treated at the hospital, but all are in critical condition due to their injuries.

The accident occurred when an irregular electrical current flowing into old and dilapidated equipment suddenly spiked, according to the source.

All of the workers who were injured were 17-year-olds and recent high school graduates. They had recently been assigned to jobs at the complex.

The source told Daily NK that one of the reasons the accident occurred was because the workers had failed to receive proper training on how to use the equipment and were unfamiliar with how to handle it.

Pyongyang car
A car on the streets of Pyongyang. / Image: Lawrence Wang, Creative Commons, Flickr

“They were immediately placed into their jobs without any proper explanation [about how to work the equipment] as part of efforts to quickly increase production,” the source said.

The work unit involved in the accident had few experienced workers. They had also been experiencing trouble with working with dilapidated equipment, according to the source.

The authorities had placed teenage workers into the Sungri Motor Complex to help improve the factory’s lack of personnel; however, this recent accident will likely add to the plant’s personnel shortage problems.

The complex’s managers have ordered all workers at the plant to keep quiet about the incident, but locals living near the factory quickly heard about it because it involved injury to several people, along with three deaths.

Locals are expressing sadness over the deaths of the teenagers and are blaming the outdated equipment and irregular electricity current for the accident. In short, they believe that responsibility for the accident is at the feet of the complex’s managers and North Korean authorities.

“Old equipment can’t be turned into new equipment and you can’t turn up the supply of electricity when there is none, no matter how much you talk about self-reliance,” the source said, adding, “These type accidents occur because [the authorities] are just calling for an increase in production without supplying proper equipment or [good] work environments.”

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to
Read in Korean
Seulkee Jang is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about her articles to