This article paints an impressively bleak picture of daily life in a place that is almost as bad as Detroit.
It hardly seemed that life could get worse. And then, one Saturday afternoon last November, his sister burst into his apartment in Chongjin with shocking news: the North Korean government had decided to drastically devalue the nation’s currency. The family’s life savings, about $1,560, had been reduced to about $30.
“Ai!” he exclaimed, cursing between sobs. “How we worked to save that money! Thinking about it makes me go crazy.”
On paper, he said, a Chongjin state construction company employs him. But the company has few supplies and no cash to pay its employees. So like more than a third of the workers, the worker said, he pays roughly $5 a month to sign in as an employee on the company’s daily log — and then toil elsewhere.
Such payments, widespread at smaller state companies, are supposed to keep companies solvent, said one 62-year-old woman who is a trader in Chongjin. Even a major enterprise like the city’s metal refinery has not paid salaries since 2007, she and others said, though workers there collect 10 days worth of food rations each month.
“How would the companies survive if they didn’t get money from the workers?” she asked without irony.