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N. Korean official’s death in China leads to increased ideological reviews of workers

North Korean workers in China are now subject to much more frequent ideological reviews following the recent death of a North Korean official in the country, Daily NK has learned.

According to a Daily NK source in China on Monday, garment factories, seafood processing plants, and electronics assembly plants in Liaoning and Jilin provinces that employ North Korean workers have been conducting daily ideological reviews since last month. The reviews and ideological lectures were initially held weekly.

The source said the intensified ideological crackdowns were due to the recent death of a North Korean official in Nanping Town, which is in the city of Helong, Jilin Province.

Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun recently reported that 2,000 North Korean workers in China conducted a demonstration after occupying their factory in January over unpaid wages. In the course of the action, they beat to death the North Korean official in charge of managing them.

Before the Yomiuri Shimbun story, Ko Young-hwan, a special adviser to South Korea’s unification minister and a former North Korean diplomat, included allegations of a strike by North Korean workers in China in a report.

A Daily NK investigation through multiple sources found that a male North Korean official in his 50s, who was in charge of managing overseas workers, was indeed killed in January by workers at a Nanping Town garment factory with thousands of North Koreans.

All the sources said that several workers got into a physical altercation with the official when they expressed dissatisfaction over wages and that the official was killed in the process. However, the sources pointed out that the factory was operating as usual on the day of the incident and afterward.

The official’s remains were returned to North Korea immediately after the incident, and many of the workers involved in the attack were quickly repatriated. North Korea appears to have moved quickly to stop rumors of the incident from spreading and to prevent similar unrest elsewhere.

Ideological lectures focus on “loyalty” and plots by “enemy countries” 

In the wake of the incident, North Korean consulates in China have moved to reinforce the ideological vetting of officials tasked with managing trade or overseas workers. They have not mentioned the incident directly, nor have officials seen fit to mention it during ideological reviews of North Korean workers.

The ideological lectures focus mainly on how “the situation around the Korean Peninsula is becoming increasingly tense due to the plans of enemy nations like the United States and South Korea to suffocate North Korea” and how workers must “strengthen their loyalty to the state at such times.”

In particular, officials frequently mention passages from late North Korean leader Kim Il Sung’s memoir, With the Century, during ideological reviews each morning at large garment factories in Liaoning Province.

North Korea’s recent intensification of its ideological indoctrination of workers sent to China appears aimed at preventing the official’s death from sparking ideological unrest among other North Korean workers in China or defections.

Many North Korean workers are unhappy with their long stays in China and low wages and are concerned about the possibility of not getting paid.

“North Korean workers in China typically earn between RMB 1,800 and RMB 2,300 [approximately USD 250-320] per month. Of this, they are forced to pay between USD 130 and up to USD 200 as party funds or dues to the Socialist Women’s Union of Korea or the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions,” said a garment factory worker in China. “They only get about USD 20 a month in pocket money, while North Korean officials say they will give them the remaining USD 100 when they return home. But many workers are worried about whether they’ll ever see that money.

“North Korean company managers who know about the incident [in Nanping Town] have recently been feeding their workers pork, and most of them paid their workers pocket money last month – even though they used to skip every other month – as part of efforts to appease unhappy workers,” she added.

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.

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

Read in Korean

March 06, 2024 at 01:00PM

by DailyNK(North Korean Media)

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