Kaesong zone continues to undermine official DPRK narratives

Pictured above (Google Earth): Two official marketplaces in Kaesong highlighted in yellow.  South Korean treats are popular in these markets.

According to the Daily NK:

Shin Ramen (a brand of instant noodles), Choco-pies and coffee mix, the snacks offered to Kaesong Industrial Complex workers, leak out and are now very popular in the jangmadang in Kaesong, according to sources.

The news was revealed by a South Korea government official and a staff member from an enterprise in the Kaesong Complex on the 15th.

North Korean workers often ask their employers for Shin Ramen uncooked and packed so that they can sell it in the jangmadang to augment their wages, according to the Ministry of Unification.

One staff member from a company stationed in the Kaesong Industrial Complex explained, “The time when the North Korean workers are given Shin Ramen, Choco-pies and coffee mix is the time they look forward to the most.”

“I am aware that North Korean workers take the several ramen given to them at snack times or when doing evening overtime back into North Korea,” he added. “They sell the ramen they take for roughly the same price as a kilo of rice. But it is not just Shin Ramen; Choco-pies are very popular with the North Korean workers, and they also use Shin Ramen soup as a seasoning at home.”

Kaesong Industrial Complex companies are known to get assistance from domestic companies, so pay less than market price for the Shin Ramen and other snacks that they offer to workers.

The company staff member said he saw the situation in a positive light, explaining,, “There have been almost no inter-Korean exchanges of late, so in this situation the Shin Ramen and Choco-pies and other things offered by enterprises provide a link between the North Korean people and South Korea. If the workers take the Korean-made products and sell them in the jangmadang then not just the workers but also the North Korean people get to know about South Korea.”

Unfortunately, meanwhile, although workers in the Kaesong Industrial Complex receive a wage of approximately $100/month, they are not free to keep it. 30% is taken by the North Korean authorities in the form of a ‘Socialist Culture Policy Tax’, and other costs are extracted as well. Therefore, the take-home pay is around $30/month, although even this is not paid in cash but in the form of an exchange coupon.

A Ministry of Unification explained one part of that system, saying, “Most of the money and other things that come from the South go to the central North Korean authorities, but a proportion goes to Kaesong city authorities. That money which goes to Kaesong City is meant to be for the purpose of buying rice for distribution to the local people.”

There are now approximately 46,000 North Korean workers in the Kaesong Complex, and complex operations are, as such, a $4.6 million monthly subsidy for the North Korean authorities.

Despite the measures put in place by the South Korean government following last year’s Cheonan and Yeonpyeong Island incidents, the number of workers earning money in Kaesong has continued to expand. According to the Ministry of Unification, at the end of February there were 46,420 workers, an 11% increase on one year previously. Earnings have also risen significantly in the same period.

Donald Kirk was the first (of whom I am aware) to write about the subversive nature of Choco Pies back in May 2009.

Read the full story here:
Shin Ramen Popular in Kaesong Jangmadang
Daily NK
Kim Yong-hun
2011-7-15

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