Deprogramming NK Economics

Kaesong Worker Defects

So, I was wondering, just how popular is the Workers’ Paradise among its hand-picked proletariat, that is, those able to pass the best family history, background, and loyalty screening the government of North Korea can manage? Not very, evidently:

A North Korean defector who escaped from an inter-Korean industrial complex in the border city of Kaesong where she was employed remains in a third country, a South Korean activist here said Wednesday.

The 27-year-old woman, whose identity was withheld for her safety, fled Kaesong in late September and has since asked for help to travel to South Korea, according to Kim Yong-hwa, who leads a Seoul-based civic group advocating for the human rights of North Korean defectors. [Yonhap]

Don’t worry. It’s just a matter of time before the National Intelligence Service leaks her name, address, and a list of her relatives to the Dong-A Ilbo.

If confirmed, it would be the first known defection from the industrial complex, where about 36,000 North Koreans are employed by dozens of South Korean factories operating under the tight control of authorities from Pyongyang. [….]

Exactly what motivated the woman to defect is not known, but Kim said she was apparently forced to choose between her marriage and her job, which earned her a relatively good salary in the impoverished nation.

The communist North bans female workers at Kaesong plants from getting married, a violation of their rights, Kim added. “(The young woman) is said to have gotten a warning once from the authorities over the matter,” he said. [emphasis mine]

I’ve been waiting to find out just how much of that much-touted $60 a month salary the workers at Kaesong actually get. Assuming the activists base the following on a debriefing of this woman, the answer is …

Kim says North Korea exploits its workers at Kaesong by giving them only US$2 out of their monthly wage of about US$60 paid by South Korean firms.

Not even the North Koreans can stop those winds of change when they’re a-blowin’. Yet somehow, I don’t think this is the sort of transformation that either Kim Jong Il, Roh Moo Hyun, or Comrade Chung had in mind when they set up this corporate gulag. The last kind of change they must have wanted was the kind that leads to people actually yearning for freedom, a living wage, and the rest of that “pursuit of happiness” crap. (Chung, of course, would have bundled her off to Camp 22 before the press ever got wind of this.)

This incident does not bode well for North Korean officialdom’s view of Kaesong. As an experiment, Kaesong is a lot like testing land mines with a pogo stick: confirmation of its success necessarily leads to its catastrophic destruction.

Ht: GI Korea


  1. Hi James! I agree…read the comments as well…the thing to do from now on is to unite…there is no left wing or right wing anymore with respect to the DPRK…alot of us see real progress ahead with this burgeoning bipartisanship.



Comments are closed.