this image taken from video North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, second from
right, smiles while watching a military parade marking the 65th
anniversary of the country’s founding. Photo / AP
At the best of times, life is not great for most North Koreans. They
live in an isolated totalitarian state beset by food shortages and ruled
through fear by one of the world’s most repressive regimes.
spare a thought for denizens of the Hermit Kingdom toiling there right
now, amid a brutal heat wave that has seen temperatures surge past the
In a bid to get work done in cooler hours,
Pyongyang has mandated that all state workers start their day at 5 a.m.
during this month-long peak summer period known as the “sambok.”
central agencies in Pyongyang and other offices and schools nationwide
have been ordered to… now start at 5am instead of the usual 8, and end
at 1pm,” an anonymous source told the Daily NK site, in an article
published also by the Guardian’s North Korea network.
The source detailed the hardships brought on by the new
schedules, including exhaustion among children and the absence of
eateries at dinner time (they are shuttered because of the early start
to the day).
Here’s some more context from the article, written by Choi Song Min:
early working hours in the summer were first implemented after the turn
of the century under the orders of former leader Kim Jong-il. Although
central agencies, party offices, and the elites working at state-owned
companies are equipped with air conditioners, this summer’s drought has
limited energy production at hydroelectric power plants, making it
impossible to run a fan, much less an air conditioner.
electricity shortages are a real problem at this time of the year. Part
of the derivation of the word “sambok,” writes Choi, comes from a
Chinese character that can be translated thus: “to lie face down because
the summer days are so hot that even a frog cannot endure it, lying
flat with its stomach stuck to the humid earth.”