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Chongjinites angry about government pressure to meet scrap metal quota

Authorities in Chongjin have recently been pressuring people to submit their quota of scrap metal for the first quarter, Daily NK has learned.

“Citizens of Chongjin are angry at being pressured by their neighborhood watch units to submit their 20-kilogram quota of scrap metal or pay an equivalent amount in cash if they can’t come up with the scrap,” a source in North Hamgyong Province told Daily NK on Thursday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The North Korean government has neighborhood watch units assign each family quotas for materials such as scrap metal, scrap paper, dried feces powder, and oil crops at the beginning of the year and then track their progress toward their quarterly quotas.

These government demands are part of the country’s system of “non-tax burdens,” which are levied on ordinary people to help achieve various projects, including the construction of housing.

This year, the scrap metal quota for each family in Chongjin is 60 kilograms, but they are supposed to turn in 20 kilograms in the first quarter. With the arrival of March, the last month of the first quarter, neighborhood watch units are urging families to meet their quotas.

“The annual scrap metal quota used to be 30 kilograms. But the quota went up during the pandemic, and recently it has been different every year. This year’s quota is lower than last year’s, but it’s still double what it was before COVID-19,” the source said.

What makes the task especially difficult, the source explained, is that scrap metal quotas are assigned not only by neighborhood watch units but also by workplaces and schools.

And now, neighborhood watch units are demanding that families struggling to meet quotas must pay KPW 1,000 for each missing kilogram.

Assuming that a family paid cash in lieu of its entire first-quarter scrap quota of 20 kilograms, that would add up to KPW 20,000 – enough to buy four kilograms of rice, since a kilogram of rice currently sells for over KPW 5,000 in North Korean markets.

These represent significant non-tax burdens for North Koreans, who often struggle to make KPW 2,000 to 3,000 a day, the source said.

“A lot of people make it by the skin of their teeth every day. When people can’t even afford rice for their meals, they’re obviously going to get frustrated when you demand cash to fill the gap in their quota,” the source said.

Growing annoyance at government demands

Indeed, North Koreans have voiced their frustration with the authorities on this issue.

“Whenever the neighborhood watch announces a meeting, I get tense and afraid of what they’re going to ask for now,” one said.

“No one under a crushing financial burden could appreciate the daily refrain about meeting your quota,” said another.

“There’s more pushback these days because they’re burdening us with more quotas that people can’t hope to meet, either in cash or in kind,” a third said.

“For people on the brink of starvation, nothing could be a bigger priority than food. There’s growing discontent among the people because the government keeps piling on more social obligations, such as the scrap metal quota, regardless of people’s circumstances,” the source said.

Translated by David Carruth. Edited by Robert Lauler. 

Daily NK works with a network of sources living in North Korea, China, and elsewhere. Their identities remain anonymous for security reasons. For more information about Daily NK’s network of reporting partners and information-gathering activities, please visit our FAQ page here.

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Read in Korean

March 25, 2024 at 07:00AM

by DailyNK(North Korean Media)

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