North Koreans, forced onto winter worksites, turn to markets for protection
Reports of frostbite are emerging from the northern alpine regions of North Korea, as a sustained cold front keeps temperatures below freezing. The authorities continue to exacerbate the situation by forcing residents to participate in uncompensated outdoor work on state projects.
“There are frequent cases of frostbite reported by residents who have been forced to work in the freezing cold,” said a Ryanggang Province source during a telephone call with Daily NK on January 19. “We often hear about Shock Troops [pseudo-military recruits mobilized for state construction projects] suffering from frostbite on their ears, hands, and feet.”
“Despite the bone-chilling weather, people have been mobilized to wake up at daybreak and deploy to work sites. Some have discovered frostbite on their extremities without even noticing.”
The recent reports underline just how dangerous the working conditions are for those ordered to work on these projects. The authorities do not provide sufficient protective gear, leaving many exposed to the hazards of labor in the freezing cold. Some residents feel they have no choice but to buy protective equipment using their own money.
Asked to explain the market popping up to address this need, the source said, “Every time a story emerges about someone contracting frostbite on their ears or hands, people start to purchase knitted hats and thick gloves. In particular, most of the merchants in the markets have started to wear the knitted hats since last year - a sign of their popularity.”