People mobilized to build a levy on the Yalu River. The lack of equipment and fuel means that the construction is done almost entirely through manual labor. This kind of unpaid labor makes life even more difficult for ordinary people. Taken by ASIAPRESS in July 2021 in on the Chinese side of the border facing North Pyongan Province.

In late June, amid the emergence of starvation and other major economic issues in the country’s provincial cities, the Workers’ Party headquarters in Pyongyang ordered all party cadres in North Hamgyung Province to conduct self-criticisms. This development came amid the Kim Jong-un regime’s failure to implement effective policies to combat the deepening of poverty in the country, which has led to the spread of distrust and discontent toward Workers’ Party policies. (KANG Ji-won)

◆ State-run media remains silent

“On June 17, all party cadres were ordered by the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party to write self-criticisms. The self-criticisms were to be two pages long and focused on whether the cadres had properly conducted their duties to manage the chaos afflicting people’s lives, and what measures they would take going forward to manage these problems.”

This report was given by “B,” a reporting partner who lives in a city in North Hamgyung Province. “B” received news of the order from a cadre he knows who works in the city’s party committee.

The Eighth Plenary Session of the Eighth Central Committee of the Workers’ Party was held on June 17. State-run media, including the Rodong Sinmun, never made mention of cases of starvation or that a discussion had been made about chaos in people’s lives. KCNA, however, included the following sentence in a report published on June 19:

The report stated that, in the economic activities conducted during the first-half of the year, strict discipline failed to be established in the process of unconditionally fulfilling the people’s economic plan, and that a series of negative effects that had led to the failure of substantial progress in efforts to establish an independent basis for the economy were analyzed in a serious manner.

◆ Sitting around without any measures to deal with the problem

According to the cadre “B” spoke to, the Central Committee in Pyongyang claimed that cadres in provincial party organizations had failed to do their work properly, simply sitting around keeping their seats warm while failing to even attempt to solve the problems faced by the people in their lives, and that their laziness in trying to identify solutions had led to various social issues. The Central Committee criticized these cadres, ordering them to properly fulfill their roles.

Even high-level cadres were subject to the Central Committee’s criticism. “B” said that the highest-level official in the provincial party committee, the committee secretary, along with leading officials in municipal and county-level party committees, were ordered to write self-criticisms. These officials were also ordered to identify measures that could alleviate the terrible situation. “B” told ASIAPRESS that:

“There seems to be a lot of discontent in the party organization about the order to write self-criticisms. The only way to quickly solve the chaos is to distribute food, but there’s no food available to release to the public. I’ve heard that cadres have discussed transporting potatoes recently harvested in the southern region of the country. There’s an order telling cadres to focus on helping people survive until August 15, when the corn ripens; however, there’s no specific measures from the leadership, and no guarantee that food will come to the city. Since April, the regime has promoted the fact that food would enter from China and Russia, but that food is nowhere to be found.”

As of July 19, ASIAPRESS was unable to confirm whether all party cadres outside of North Hamgyung Province were ordered to write self-criticisms.

※ ASIAPRESS communicates with its reporting partners through Chinese cell phones smuggled into North Korea.