◆ Residents complain that “Authorities are ordering cremations to make money”

In fact, a main concern of residents is the cost of relocating tombs and cremating remains.

A reporting partner in North Hamkyung Province explained, “Just living is difficult right now- the burden is too great. We are moving the tombs but it takes people and the cost for cremating remains is extortionately expensive. There are a lot of residents complaining that cremations are being ordered just to squeeze money out of the people.”

The crematorium is running day and night with people coming to pay tribute once more to their ancestors. There’s a line out the door of people waiting to do so but they are expected to pay a fee to the crematorium of 300 Chinese yuan (about 43 USD). This is more than a whole month’s income for an average worker. In addition, the cost of relocating a tomb is about 60-100 Chinese yuan (8.5-14.5 USD). According to the reporting partner, “grave demolition” teams of 3-4 men are hired to dispose of old tombs.

In North Korea’s cities and countryside, cemeteries were built away from residential areas and at the foot of mountains. These mountains were lined with tombs and available sites for burials gradually diminished.

The authorities say that their intention is to clean up the many forgotten tombs and to free up land for use. By establishing a custom of cremation, however, it is likely that the regime also intends to raise funds through operating crematoriums.

Cremated remains can be stored at the crematoriums but the fee is 100 won per day and 365,000 won per year (about 4.3 USD). More and more people are electing to cast the ashes into rivers instead.

※ASIAPRESS contacts reporting partners in North Korea through smuggled Chinese phones.

Editor’s notes on North Korean reporters

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