Workers’ Monthly Wages Adjusted to 400 Won

Changchun, China — At recent two-day lectures (December 8th-9th) for political cadres and accounting clerks of factories and enterprises in Yangkang Province entitled, “Regarding the Position of Our Republic and the Justification of the Redenomination,” decrees were presented to clear the liabilities of North Korean enterprises and downwardly adjust the monthly wages of each worker to 400 won.

A source of Yangkang Provicne explained in a phone conversation with The Daily NK on the 11th, “Wages of workers used to ranged between 1,300 and 2,500 North Korean won.” “If this is put into operation, then the wages of the secretaries of the Provincial Committee of the Party would be leveled to approximately 1,000 won.”

“It was agreed that a precise measure relating to wages was not yet perfect and would be relayed to the accounting clerks at a later time,” the source adds. “Under the decree, all debt relations among existing enterprises would become ‘zero’ and foreign currency earning organizations will hereafter undergo adjustments. However, due to the fact that the size of liabilities between enterprises is not so significant, it is essentially a meaningless measure.”

Unusually, on the morning of the 9th, the lecture broke free from the customary one-sided presentation of the Party decree in favor of audience participation. Attendees stated one after another: “We must establish reasonable prices as soon as possible and stabilize the workers;” “If the food problem is not resolved, then we will not be able to prevent rising prices;” “The existing wages and [state mandated] food prices should be adhered to;” and so on.

In the end, the Yangkang meeting offered a temporary, partial settlement of enterprise wage and debt issues as well as the announcement that more follow-up measures will be introduced in the near future. Authorities also stated that “national course of action” on price-related matters will be subsequently delivered.

The only government-authorized pricing to be finalized involved railway shipping charges. A “temporary” train route table has been posted at the Youth Hyesan Station, with Hyesan-Pyongyang fare set at 46 won and Hyesan-Baegam fare at 18 won.

“When judging by distance, it is almost more expensive to operate intra-provincial trains,” the source observes. “Fixing the Hyesan-Pyongyang cost at 46 won was based on the temporary trains that ran when university students in Pyongyang would return to their hometowns during the early break. There is no other meaning.”

But the fact that other price measures were not announced at the cadres meeting helped maintain a sense of confusion among North Korean citizens. “Nowadays, even when two or three people gather, they will mutter, ‘Where is our country headed?’” bemoans the source. “The state should decide on wages or prices, so the markets can run normally.”

“But since the authorities have been dragging their feet, ordinary citizens have not been able to regain their senses.”