Min Cho Hee
In a move sure to add weight to suspicions that North Korean industry is in the midst of a very serious funding crisis, a source has reported to The Daily NK that the Chinese partner has taken unprecedented power in a new mining joint venture in North Hamkyung Province.
The inside source reported on Sunday that when Saebyul Coal Mining Complex, a North Korean mining management organization, sealed a contract between Gogunwon Coal Mine, Ryongbuk Youth Coal Mine and a Chinese enterprise, it agreed to hand over an unheard of degree of discretion in affairs of personnel management, materials and working methods to the Chinese enterprise.
The source explained, “Now, the Chinese enterprise has authority over staffing, food distribution, wages and materials. Accordingly, it has reduced the administrative staff and drastically improved productivity.
According to the source, the Chinese are guaranteed operational independence free from the control and instruction of the Saebyul Party committee, and take 60% of net profits. If true, this is a new model of collaboration and cooperation in business between China and North Korea.
The source added, though, “The number of people in the Party committee has also been reduced, though it is unlikely to be got rid of completely due to the nature of the North Korean system.”
He said, “Since last year, North Korea has been trying to attract Chinese investment and three or four Chinese companies have been in negotiations over mine development in this way.”
The Chinese enterprise plans to convey the lignite produced in the mines to China, process it there and sell it domestically.
The source noted, “North Korean workers are delighted with this method of collaboration. They get guaranteed wages and food, and the working environment has also improved thanks to new, stronger mining timbers, so productivity has increase.”
In the cafeterias at the mines, they serve 900g of rice to everyone, and pork and eggs, which workers like. According to the source, “Workers want to take meals served in the cafeteria home for their family members. In this worker-friendly mood, Party cadres are unable to complain.”
Gogunwon Coal Mine and Ryongbuk Youth Coal Mine are both located in the “Gogunwon Workers” district of Saebyul, North Hamkyung Province. They both contain good quality coal seams, and are among the best coal mines in North Korea.
Another source from North Korea suggested on Monday that North Korea is losing a lot of control of the economy in its northern provinces, saying, “The purse strings in the border regions of our country have basically been handed over to China, and ‘our socialist pride’ is in the hands of China. Any factory where they produce even a small amount of goods has been invested in by the Chinese”