Sanctions have tragic unintended effect on Chagang Province

Kang Mi Jin  |  2017-03-15 16:02
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"Recently, a woman in her 20s hanged herself on a tree in the hills nearby. She was already dead and accidentally found by children who were collecting branches, a source in Chagang Province told Daily NK on March 13.

"As most of the munitions factories in Chagang Province have stopped or reduced production, unemployment has increased together with the number of families suffering from the fallout. The woman who killed herself seems to have acted in despair after having a heated argument with her parents about their poverty and lack of food."

According to the source, Chagang Province is a region with a high concentration of military-industrial factories and the residents receive production line items given in exchange for working in the factories to produce military supplies like ammunition and cannon shells. The region also deviates from the general trend of marketization enveloping the rest of the country, thus making its constituents far more dependent on state provisions than other regions where the markets sustain the local economy. 

The situation in Chagang took a turn for the worse when the Chinese government began to enforce sanctions against North Korea, banning the import of military-related items.

"The Huichon Machine Tool Factory provided its workers with aluminum goods to be exchanged for grain. But most people save their food during March so it is almost impossible to swap food for aluminum. People in the area are really suffering as a result," the source explained.

To date, the authorities have not put forth any measures to alleviate the situation. In fact, Ministry of Peoples Security (MPS) personnel are seeking to shift the blame on to the victims.

"They are compounding the sorrows of the family of the victim by decrying suicide as an act of rebellion and downplaying the factors that drove her to it by emphasizing that circumstances are hardly akin to the Arduous March (the widespread famine of the mid-1990s). 'Its nothing like the Arduous March, so she didn't have to kill herself, a separate source in Chagang Province said, quoting MPS officials.

 The victims family, she added, was irate upon hearing this and replied to the officials, Lets see what youd say if it were your own child.

Others in the area are sympathetic, wondering when they will all be liberated from this poverty, she added.

*Translated by Yejie Kim
*Edited by Lee Farrand

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