North Korea Manufactures School Uniforms in Inter-Korean Industrial Zone Without Permission — Radio Free Asia
Some North Korean students will report to school this summer wearing high-quality uniforms made in a South Korean-built factory that was shut down following missile tests by Pyongyang.
Sources in the country told RFA that the company that supplies uniforms to schools in North Hwanghae Province has started manufacturing summer uniforms in the nearby Kaesong Industrial Complex, a Korean joint manufacturing area that was once a showcase for North-South cooperation.
The resort briefly closed in 2013 during a period of high tension between Seoul and Pyongyang. In 2016, South Korea halted operations at the complex in response to a North Korean missile test, and operations remain suspended.
Although the uniforms made in Kaesong are superior, the unilateral start of South Korean factories could cause friction with Seoul, sources said.
“Last week, an official from the Provincial Garment Industry Management Bureau and I returned to North Hwanghae Province with summer uniforms that passed product inspection. We brought them from a garment factory in the Kaesong Industrial Complex,” an official from the province, which sits just across from South Korea’s demilitarized zone, told RFA’s Korea Service on Tuesday under cover of a statement. anonymity for security reasons.
The bureau is tasked with making enough summer uniforms by the end of the month, after which they will be given to elementary, middle and high schools in the province as a gift from the country’s leader Kim Jong Un, the source said. .
“That’s why the bureau has been using sewing and cutting machines in Kaesong since March, with permission from the Central Committee. They mobilized Kaesong residents who previously worked in the industrial complex,” he said.
“Mobilization” is North Korea’s forced labor code, in stark contrast to when the industrial complex was in operation and workers, at least in theory, earned many times more than their counterparts outside the complex.
North Korean use of the complex without South Korean permission could be frowned upon below 38e parallel, but North Hwanghae is located just south of Pyongyang and is a strategic region for propaganda purposes. Students should be at their best.
“The Central Committee has taken special measures to use the facilities of the industrial complex…partly because the other garment factories in North Hwanghae are so old. But the main reason is that the highest dignity often visits the province to offer advice,” the official said, referring to Kim Jong Un’s well-documented visits to factories, farms, schools and affected areas. by natural disasters, so that it can be portrayed. as a benevolent leader.
“It is an urgent priority to introduce school uniforms to students in a timely manner,” the source said.
Truckers are shipping fabrics imported from Sinuiju, on the border with China, to Kaesong for use in factories, a source north of Pyongyang in the southern province of Pyongan told RFA.
“I heard from a driver who brought the imported fabrics in a freight car that they were still producing clothes in the Kaesong Industrial Complex in the factories that were operated by South Korean companies,” he said. he said, on condition of anonymity to speak freely.
“They make winter clothes for officials.”
Since the complex closed in 2016, some of the equipment has been repurposed by businesses as far afield as North Pyongan province in the northwest, a source on site told RFA.
“Before the pandemic, several of the garment factories that made money here moved equipment from Kaesong garment factories without permission,” he said on condition of anonymity for security reasons.
“Although the processing of garments has been suspended due to the coronavirus lockdown measures, the machines at the industrial complex here have been used to make schoolbags and uniforms for students in the province,” the third source said.
“Although there are local garment production units…in Sinuiju, they are not as good as those in the industrial complex. So they used it to make school uniforms faster and with better quality.
South Korea’s Unification Ministry said on Thursday it had detected vehicle movement inside the Kaesong industrial complex and was monitoring the area to determine if North Korea was operating facilities in the complex. without authorization.
Translated by Leejin J. Chung. Written in English by Eugene Whong.