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North Korea Today No. 319 Hot Topics December 2009

[“Good Friends” aims to help the North Korean people from a humanistic point of view and publishes “North Korea Today” describing the way the North Korean people live as accurately as possible. We at Good Friends also hope to be a bridge between the North Korean people and the world.]
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[Hot Topics No. 319]
Technician Worker Salary is between 2,000 and 2,500 won
Full Payment of Salary for December is not Carried Out As Planned
Central Party Orders Lower Party to Attend to Public Opinion Regarding Salary Payment
Wage Payment Raised Morale of Mine Laborers in Saebyul County
Rice Distribution Price: 44 Jeon, Sale Price and Government-Purchase Price: 44 Won

[Food]
Musan Mine Distributed Whole Corns in December
Only 1.5 tons of Corn per Jungbo Produced in Changtae-ri Farm, Hoeryong
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[Hot Topics]
Technician Worker Salary is between 2,000 and 2,500 won
A directive from the Ministry of Finance was issued ordering, “the full payment of living cost for workers by December in order to stabilize the livelihood of people’s lives with currency exchange as well as to ensure proper flow of currency.” As such, each city, county, factory, and enterprise started to pay December salary to workers. The salaries paid were 1,500 won for regular workers and 2,000-2,500 won for technical workers which are not much different from the previous levels. However, the amount can be viewed as 100 times more in terms of the value of currency. The salaries of other positions are 3,500-4,000 won for city Party officials, 3,000-3,500 won for police officers, 5,000 won for security agents, 3,000-4,000 won for doctors, and 2,000-3,000 won for teachers. Previously, it was not easy to buy 1 kg of rice with one month worth of living cost, but now the enhanced value of currency would allow people to purchase food and some commodities. Meanwhile, the North Korean authorities warned that although the full amount of salaries will be paid for November and December of this year, people will receive different rates of salary depending on the productivity level. According to this plan, those who perform economic activities will receive the full amount, but those workers at non-operating factories and enterprises as well as no productivity related work would receive salary at the level of 300-500 won.

Full Payment of Salary for December is not Carried Out As Planned
It is reported that the Party directive of paying full salary to workers for December regardless of number of days worked is not implemented properly. While some of the factories and enterprises have actually paid the full amount in many cases, salaries were paid after deducting 200-300 won. This is because the heads of accounting at the factories received the wage in a lump sum from the bank and paid each worker based on the actual number of days worked. A worker who was absent for more than 20 days a month received only 200 won after all the deductions. Some workers who learned about the policy of “paying the full amount for this month regardless of number of days worked” filed a complaint to the City Party for not receiving the full amount. Some workers engaged in arguments with officials and complained about lack of money for living, and others expressed strong dissatisfaction about the way officials handled the work. In the midst of those controversies, those households received salary whether it was enough or not went to the market to buy goods for the first time after a long break. Many people were looking to buy warm shoes and winter clothing which they could not afford because they did not even have money for grains. The market is finally regaining vitality after the severe tightening caused by currency exchange.

Central Party Orders Lower Party to Attend to Public Opinion Regarding Salary Payment
As the payments of salary had been made in December for the first time after the currency exchange, the Central Party ordered each Province, City, and Country Party to collect information on public opinion and how workers received their salary. The Party requested that each party official pays visits to lower units and interview workers in person to learn about the situation. The purpose of this order is to conduct inspections on the salary payment as some of the factories and enterprises did not follow the Central Party’s order of paying full salary regardless of the number of work days. Following the order of the Central Party, the Province Party issued the orders to City and County Parties. As such, City and County Parties will conduct investigations on the status of salary payments and public opinion from the 28th until the 30th, and then discuss the results of the investigation during the annual reviews at the all-member meeting which will be held on the 31st.

Wage Payment Raised Morale of Mine Laborers in Saebyul County
Gogunwon Mine Public Enterprise in Saebyul County, North Hamgyong Province paid December wages to their tunnel diggers. A regular laborer was paid 5,000 won, which is equivalent to 500,000 won in old currency. A household with three family members working in the same mine received 15,000 won in total. The family used to be poorest, but the wages enabled them to afford a bicycle, a video recorder, a TV and other items. The high rate of absenteeism significantly declined after the wages were paid. The mine laborers described the situation as following: “Yelling and scolding did not make the laborers work hard, but this time they show up without being screamed at. They do not complain about the workload at the coalface or about the tools. They solve the problems by themselves and work hard.”

Rice Distribution Price: 44 Jeon, Sale Price and Government-Purchase Price: 44 Won
The Cabinet ordered that food supply should be made for December first. The distribution price for one kilogram of rice is 44 jeon (1/100 of won), the per kg prices of corn and corn noodles are 26 jeon and 30 jeon respectively. The sale price at a public distribution agency for residents who are outside the distribution system is 44 won for 1 kilogram of rice, and the per kg prices for corn and corn noodles are 26 won and 28 won respectively. While the distribution price was lowered, the purchase prices were set to be high. Party officials predicted that the price control measure will raise the purchasing power of the residents, allowing them to be better off.

[Food]
Musan Mine Distributed Whole Corns in December
Musan County Mine United Enterprise in North Hamgyong Province distributed food and paid wages for December to all of its public enterprise branches. An official at Musan County Mine United Enterprise said that the food and wages were provided to about 80% of the labor force as of the afternoon of December 20, and the provision will be made to the entire enterprises by the next day. For food, whole corns were distributed at 26 jeon (1/100 of won). The official said that he is required to investigate how the wages and food were actually distributed and report to the Provincial Party.

Only 1.5 tons of Corn per Jungbo Produced in Changtae-ri Farm, Hoeryong
This year’s corn crop in Chantae-ri Farm in Hoeryong City, North Hamgyong Province, was reported to reach only 1.5 tons per Jungbo (2.45 acres). Rice and corn combined, the total yield was about 15 tons. The farm laborers said “We were lucky to have 15 tons.” At high altitude, the mountainous farm is not the best location for farming, but the situation worsened this year. This fall, late crop potatoes were distributed instead of corns, and cash distribution would not be made at all.
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