The North Korean authorities have recently handed down sentences of forced labor to Musan Mine workers who have not shown up for work. The development comes in the wake of reports that iron ore from the mine is being smuggled out of the country.
“Around 50 Musan Mine workers who failed to show up for work were recently sentenced to disciplinary labor. Depending on the number of days were missed, the workers received sentences ranging from a month to a maximum of six months,” said a North Hamgyong Province-based source on January 17.
“They now have to cut down trees in the mountains and participate in construction projects. The construction projects are mainly focused on government and apartment buildings in and around Musan.”
Musan Mine has faced a number of difficulties since Kim Jong Un came to power. In mid-2013, the mine was reportedly operating well with authorities promising in September of that year to raise the wages and ration levels of miners as an incentive to increase the flow of iron ore into China. This was seen as achievable if the authorities were going to receive their expected payments from China for the exported products.
Wages for miners were increased 100-fold at the time and miners welcomed the fact that 200,000 KPW of their 300,000 KPW monthly salaries were paid as non-cash items including rice, vegetables, side dishes, daily necessities and even electronic devices.
The situation, however, did not last for long. The authorities were unable to maintain their monthly wages after North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests led to international sanctions and the banning of exports. ......