Labor shortages in North Korea have forced authorities to begin mobilizing women to fulfill leader Kim Jong Un’s ambitious plan to build 10,000 homes in the capital Pyongyang by the end of this year. City sources told RFA.
Pyongyang is North Korea’s most populous city and is home to some of the most privileged members of society, but a severe lack of housing. At the ruling Korean Workers’ Party’s eighth congress in January, Kim promised to ease the shortage with 50,000 new homes by the end of 2025, including 10,000 by 2021.
Construction began almost immediately after the announcement, with organizers using the military to provide special labor brigades known as storm soldiers.
But even though the hurricane soldiers worked long hours tiringly, there simply weren’t enough of them to complete the gigantic construction tasks. As a result, the authorities had to look for untapped labor resources to add to the ranks of the hurricane brigade if they hoped to be completed by the end of December.
Despite being called housewives in colloquial terms, married women in North Korea are becoming increasingly important economically to households as the main breadwinner of the family. Because no one can survive on the official salary of the government that men earn at their official job, running the family businesses belongs to their wives to support the family. family.
Advocate women to build projects that do not have to burden their families.
A Pyongyang construction official told RFA on April 6: “Recently, a storm brigade consisting of only housewives was sent to a construction site in Pyongyang.
“This is due to the lack of manpower at the site to carry out the Central Party’s order to complete 10,000 houses in Pyongyang this year,” the source asked to remain anonymous for security reasons.
The source said, Pyongyang is no stranger to ambitious construction projects. During the reign of Kim Jong Un’s grandfather Kim Nhat Thanh and father Kim Jong Il, the city completed a number of housing development projects on the famous scientist streets of Kwangbok, Tongil, Pyomyung and Mirae. language.
But the reality of Pyongyang today is that most ordinary citizens still suffer from a lack of housing, the source said.
Because of deprivation, many adult Pyongyang have to live with spouses, parents and siblings in small apartments, exceeding the maximum number of accommodations.
“Kim Jong Un attended the groundbreaking ceremony to build 10,000 houses in Pyongyang and ordered the completion of the project by the end of this year. But due to the lack of manpower… they organized housewives and sent them to work at the sites, ”said the source.
“The nighttime houseworkers work hours are set from 8 p.m. to midnight, and these women are overwhelmed by working too much at night, where they are,” the source said. have to do tasks like transporting dirt on a stretcher ”.
Another source also from Pyongyang, told RFA on April 5 that neighborhood guards in every district of Pyongyang had been exploited to provide meal assistance systems to construction teams, but soon the government began calling them over to provide labor.
“The Highest dignity announced at the Eighth Party Congress that Pyongyang will build 50,000 homes by 2025. The 10,000-house quota is designated as the national target for the year, so the authorities are in immediate trouble. even with women in guard units, ”said the second source. uses a respectful term to refer to Kim Jong Un.
“The meal support system is required in every county. They take turns preparing food for the storm shelters once a week, ”said the second source.
The country guarantees three meals a day for storm shelters, who work seven days a week. Asking each county for meals is also a burden on household finances.
“It was shocking that they forced residents to include meats like chicken and pork for lunch boxes while the residents themselves almost never ate meat. Residents complain that the government is irresponsible in pushing the city to build 10,000 houses, especially when it is difficult to make a living during the coronavirus epidemic, ”said a second source.
“Most people in Pyongyang know that building 10,000 houses is nothing more than an effort by Kim Jong Un to flaunt his achievements rather than solve the capital’s housing problem. They say the authorities, who are even lobbying housewives to give up their responsibilities to provide for their families, and the further burden of providing meals, should know exactly what they are doing. Who is this project for?
Construction managers are ignoring safety standards due to the pressure of their 10,000-home quota.
RFA reported last week that about 20 storm shelters died from electric shock in their onsite workers’ barracks. Due to the overworked force of the hurricane force, even the person assigned to be on duty at night when the fire happened was sound asleep, letting the fire burn down the whole building.
Jeong Yon Park’s Report for RFA’s Korea Service. Translation by Leejin Jun. Written in English by Eugene Whong.