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Young N. Koreans increasingly skip work due to economic hardship

As North Koreans face continuing economic hardship in the wake of the pandemic, more and more young people are skipping work. Employers are issuing stern warnings and even taking legal action in serious cases, but this only makes young people more defiant.

“The number of young people skipping work in Hyesan has more than doubled. While there used to be a few absentee workers at workplaces, there are now five or more on average,” a source in Yanggang Province told Daily NK on Feb. 29, speaking on condition of anonymity.

According to the source, absenteeism among young people in Hyesan has been on the rise recently. The source explained that many people have little motivation to show up for their government-assigned jobs, which often pay little or nothing, as the economic situation has not improved even after the pandemic.

At a cement factory in Hyesan, five young people missed more than ten days of work in February. The factory had representatives visit the homes of the young truants to assess the situation, but the factory has yet to come up with a concrete plan of action.

“A young man met the love of his life in 2022. They had just started living together because financial difficulties prevented them from getting married, and they had a child last November. But in their poverty, the mother couldn’t afford enough food to breastfeed properly, and the baby whimpered with hunger every day. So the young man has been skipping work while looking for other ways to earn some money,” the source said.

The factory manager who stopped by the young man’s home was shocked to see the family earning a living from a small patch of land they farmed near the city center. The manager felt sorry for the family and returned to the factory without taking any further action.

When seven young people skipped work at a construction company in Hyesan this month, three of the absentees were given disciplinary labor sentences.

“Although officials sternly warn young people that frequent absenteeism will result in legal punishment, and although several people have actually been sent to disciplinary labor camps, absenteeism isn’t decreasing. This shows that young people consider their livelihoods more important than their jobs,” the source said.

The source quoted a North Korean youth as saying, “We have seen with our own eyes that our parents remained loyal until they collapsed from hunger, but their efforts went unrewarded.”

“When we’re on the verge of starvation, what’s the point of being called a hero or getting some kind of medal?” said another.

“We can’t survive unless we pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. That’s why going to work is worse than death and feels like a kind of torture,” said a third young person.

“Young people who have suffered economically even after the end of the pandemic feel desperate about their future. If the authorities rely on legal measures to deal with this, young people’s distrust and antipathy towards the state will only increase in the future, which could have serious consequences,” 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.

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

Read in Korean

March 04, 2024 at 12:38PM

by DailyNK(North Korean Media)

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