September 27, 2021

When North Korean doctors stood up to the government against overwork

Medical doctors argued the Cheollima labor campaign would harm public health, but the regime responded with hostility

The Kim family regime is often accused of working its population to extremes for little pay in the hopes of increasing economic production, and such overwork in North Korea isn’t a recent phenomenon.

In the late 1950s, Pyongyang policymakers announced the Cheollima, or ​​thousand-mile horse, mass labor mobilization campaign. Inspired by China’s Great Leap Forward, the campaign aimed to achieve an impossibly high growth rate simply by forcing people to work more, with little regard for long-term impacts on infrastructure, the environment and people’s health.