North Koreans express frustration over new government foreign-currency collections

Kang Mi Jin  |  2017-11-13 11:01
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The North Korean authorities have recently begun demanding new loyalty payments from citizens in a move that sources inside the country see as desperate efforts to raise foreign currency due to pressure from strengthened international sanctions.  
 
A source in South Pyongan Province informed Daily NK on November 7 that the central authorities as well as provincial, military, and even industry officials have begun systematically demanding all outstanding bills be paid and all debts settled. 
 
Another source in Ryanggang Province said that while people are accustomed to settling their debts at the end of the year, the premature demand for payment even of individual personal debts is unusual. 
 
"8.3 workers (people officially employed by factories but who pay a fee for permission to engage in other business) and anyone else connected to a designated workplace are being strongly pressured to submit their mandatory contributions for the year, he said, adding that every resident, from young people to Party members are receiving orders to pay up as part of the loyalty payments campaign.
 
The authorities have been attempting to extract more and more money from the people under various mobilization banners. In the most recent attempt, the government claims it needs to improve its foreign currency reserves, while in others it has cited medical or military supply shortages, called for early payment of party and organization dues, or mobilized citizens for farm work. 
 
"Many have been shocked to learn that a family of 4 are suddenly required to pay around 500,000 KPW (about $60 USD). This equals about 40 days worth of rice for the family or about 200 kg of corn," the Ryanggang-based source explained.
 
"Women must pay about double the amount that is requested by the husband's work unit. People are angrily criticizing the move, saying that the authorities are doing this because they know that women work in the markets and make more money than the men."
 
People have also been heard complaining about the extreme pressure being imposed on them by the authorities. Both sources noted that poor households are saying that if they had the means they would pay, lamenting the fact that the authorities continue to demand payments despite their inability to make them.

The government's attention to price shifts has also been a key reason for the strong pushback from residents. The authorities are raising their demands for items such as pork and firewood when the price of those items in the markets goes up, leading to even greater difficulties. 
 
Last year, the price of 1 kg of pork was around 13,000-15,000 KPW, but this year it has risen sharply to 20,000 KPW. Firewood has also risen from 370-420,000 KPW per cubic meter last year to 430-500,000 KPW this year. 
 
"All payment requirements have risen since last year due to the market price increases. Since the price of firewood has gone up, schools have demanded higher payments from people to secure it, and women are being forced to pay more towards military aid due to the higher price of pork," the South-Pyongan-based source added. 
 
Revelations of these new tax schemes disguised as Party or workplace fees come as Daily NK continues to find out more about the various ways in which citizens are being wrung for cash by the authorities. 

*Translated by Colin Zwirko

 
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2017.11.06
Won Pyongyang Sinuiju Hyesan
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