'70-day battle' burdens stacking up

Lee Sang Yong  |  2016-03-16 17:32
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Amid mobilization efforts and diminished market opening hours ahead of the 70th Party Congress slated for May, North Korean residents have seen another burden added to a growing list of compulsory tasks to be carried out for the "70-day battle" leading up to the landmark convention.

Daily NK spoke on March 14 with a source in North Hamgyong Province, who reported that workers at all state-run enterprises must now attend daily "loyalty meetings" starting at 5a.m. The sudden institution of the meetings without further explanation, and the troubles brought on by shifting schedules to attend them, has led to disgruntlement among the affected population.

This news was corroborated by two additional sources in South Hamgyong Province. 

Pulling up the schedule on these meetings is a departure from past gatherings of the same nature, which were typically held after work shifts ended and revolved around dutifully carrying out revolutionary tasks handed down by Kim Jong Un. 

Weve never had meetings like this at dawn before, the source explained. 

The structure of the current assemblies also strays from the former standard. Rather than lengthy discussions--typically an hour up to an hour and a half--on the ideological foundation and significance of the tasks demanded of the citizenry, meetings at present are said to adjourn as soon as the management outlines and delegates the duties to workers. This has prompted many workers to joke that the "loyalty meetings" are now part of the infamous, often disastrous, speed battles favored by the leadership. 

Its really just all about the regime getting people to start working sooner, the source asserted. Theyre using the 'loyalty meetings' as an excuse to get them to the factories earlier in the day. Although the '70-day struggle' is undoubtedly a big part of it, it is also plausible that the authorities are trying to distract everyone from the looming specter of sanctions, keeping them so busy that they dont have time to think about it."

While the exact rationale behind the early hour is open to question, the collective reaction it has elicited from workers is anything but. At first youve got to go in [at that time] because theres no avoiding it, he said, conveying sentiments shared with him by factory workers. 

"Show me someone who would maintain that level of devotion otherwise! Fear of punishment is the only thing keeping anyone in line--not bona fide loyalty [to the regime]."

*Translated by Natalie Grant

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