Children of struggling North Korean coal miners hauling coal to supplement family earnings

Ha Yoon Ah  |  2018-05-02 17:31

North Korean coal miners have resorted to mobilizing their children to raise money amid spiraling coal prices and subsequent salary losses, reports sources inside the country. 

"As the price of coal has gone down considerably, coal miners cannot earn what they used to and are having a hard time making a living. Now there are kids as young as 10 years old carrying loads of coal to earn money," a resident of South Pyongan Province told Daily NK on May 1. 

"Instead of going to school, they are coming out with their mothers to move coal to earn enough to survive. The kids are transporting bags of at least 15-20 kg of coal over their shoulders around five times each day."

One bag of coal is sold for around 1,000 KPW (0.12 USD) in one coal mining district in South Pyongan Province, according to the source, leaving these workers with just enough in profits to purchase a 1 kg bag of corn (2,000 KPW, 0.25 USD) after a days work and transportation fees are accounted for.

Previously, when the coal industry was more active, individual entrepreneurs paid miners for bags of coal which they would then sell at a higher price. But now, with coal exports blocked by sanctions, it has become more difficult to find individuals willing to invest in paying the workers, a source in North Pyongan Province said.

He explained that coal miners who have relied upon earnings from their work to provide for their families have reportedly said they are left with no choice but to use the extra help from their children. 

"Working through the day is not even enough in most cases, so the children usually begin moving coal at 3:00 am, collecting the hauls at their house, and then once it's dark, they go around selling it door-to-door," the North Pyongan Province-based source said.

"People without enough money must do this, or else they will not be able to eat."

*Translated by Colin Zwirko

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