A shoe factory in Wonsan once hailed as an “exemplary work unit” will soon be under investigation by a team from North Korea’s communist party and Cabinet, Daily NK has learned. 

The investigation comes after the factory was found to have made “severe flaws” in carrying out the dying instructions of former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. Kim had ordered the factory to produce footwear using North Korea’s own materials and technology more than 10 years ago.

According to a Daily NK source in Gangwon Province on Wednesday, the factory had also failed to accomplish its production quotas over the past two years.

“The Wonsan Shoes Factory originally told the Party that it would be able to produce ‘North Korean-style’ shoes, but over time [officials] have come to believe the report was nothing but lies. This investigation aims to look into the matter,” he said. 

The Wonsan Shoe Factory / Image: DPRK Today

According to the source, Kim Jong Il visited the factory in 2009 for on-the-spot guidance and ordered it to produce shoes using “North Korean materials and technology.” Before his death in 2011, Kim once again visited the factory and viewed samples of shoes supposedly produced using domestic materials and technology. 

At the time, the factory had in fact ceased operations due to a lack of materials, but the factory’s technicians hastily wrote an “academic paper” stating that it would be possible to produce shoes using pure scrap rubber that was not mixed with any imported crude rubber. They even created some sample products to show Kim Jong Il.

The Wonsan Shoes Factory was later commended as a “exemplary unit” for carrying out Kim’s dying orders. Daily NK’s source explained, however, that only 20% of the technology used to create reagents for recycling scrap rubber was actually developed in North Korea, which meant that the factory was unable to use the technology on its production lines.

Although the factory went to the lengths of publishing a paper on how shoes could be manufactured with domestic materials and technology, it appears to have failed to produce such products. 

According to the source, investigation team has been instructed to sniff out any falsehoods used to put on “the charade” for the leadership and examine all technical and administrative problems related to production, including the failure to implement production plans and the “attitudes” of the workers.

The team of technicians who wrote the paper had been professors in the past, but their titles may be taken away [following the results] of the investigation,” the source said. “Using imported crude rubber to produce a few samples to avoid getting reprimanded -along with deceiving the Party – is a serious issue that may result in party punishment.”

“Party punishment” refers to punishment handed down to party members, and may include being expelled from the communist party. 

The source told Daily NK that the investigation is expected to last approximately 20 days.

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

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Jong So Yong is one of Daily NK's freelance reporters. Questions about her articles can be directed to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.