North Korea Today No. 102

Research Institute for North Korean Society

North Korea Today
102nd Edition December 2007

Pyongsung Market to be the New Model for the Market Operations
With the official release of the new regulations on the market operations, there has been a decision by the central party to make Pyongsung City평성시 into a model to spread the nationwide. To that end, the central party dispatched a subject matter expert 전문지도성원 to correctly manage the operations of the Pyongsung Market평성시장. This is the first time that the central party dispatched anyone for the purpose of directing the market operations.
As such, Pyongsung City residents are worried that a maelstrom will occur in the near future.

Peddling Increases After the Ban on Market Trading Activities
Now that no one under 50 is allowed to trade, it is been tough for younger people to even come near the marketplace. However, since they are banned from trading in the marketplace, it was only natural that they engage in trade in back alleys out of sight from the police, creating a ‘hide- and-seek’, between the traders and the police. The traders would engage in selling all day except for 7-8 am and 7-8 pm, during which the police commute between work and home. The illegal traders disappear so quickly during those times that it’s almost impossible to catch them in the act. Since they barely survive on their daily earnings from trade activities, they are desperate and do not get easily discouraged. It’s called grasshopper trade메뚜기장사 when the traders and police play hide and seek with each other. It’s called so because the traders pop in and out so quickly depending on police presence. Recently tighter restrictions on the markets have caused such grasshopper trade to skyrocket.

Commercial activities run out of back alleys usually consist of the food trade, from rice cakes, tofu, rice, to fried foods. Near Hamheung City함흥시 Apartments District , retired seniors earn survival money by fixing bicycles, repairing shoes, popping corn, refilling lighter fluids, and repairing other odds and ends such as umbrellas and bags. In Sinuiju신의주, one scoop of corn (around 1.4kg), when popped, will fetch around 350 won. On the average, you have to pop corn ten times a day to earn 3,500 won. After the market restrictions have been enforced, it is common to hear tear-filled stories on how much more difficult it has become just to make it day by day.

It gets worse every day
After the crackdown on the market activities, everyone is saying that it’s getting worse every day. One woman complained, pounding her chest in frustration, “All possible means of making a living is cut off and we are faced with no options, which makes me feel angry as I sit helpless in my kitchen. My husband’s workplace wants something, my kids’ schools want something, and even the Democratic Women’s Union 녀맹 wants something. Anything that is still in operation wants something from us. So, how am I supposed to keep a family together?” As the situation gets worse, there are more women who are turning to the sex trade.

Wives Nagging their Husbands Not to Work at Public Enterprises
As living in North Korea is getting tougher recently, most wives have been nagging their husbands not to work at the public enterprises기업소. A laborer in Soonchun순천 said that his wife nagged him so much to find any job where he can make even a single penny, and he also shared his wife’s biting comments at work, “My wife asked me why I work for the public enterprise when they don’t distribute any food or any payment. Why do you work for free?” He stated that for a while they had made a bare living due to his wife’s trading used clothes at the market, but since the government inspected and banned her trade a while ago, so she became easily agitated. He deeply lamented this situation, “I know that I should have collected even firewood in themountain to make money. However, if I don’t go to work at the public enterprise from tomorrow, the judicial authority will annoyingly summon me and I don’t know how I can avoid the situation.”

Government Officials are the Targets of Complaints about Inspection
As the central government has tightened up its control by adding layers of restrictions and inspections,, some residents began to complain about the governmental officials . Every resident says, “Nowadays the officials do not seem to think about the solutions to improve people’s living, but instead consider ways to rake in money by unscrupulous means.” This interviewee cynically remarked the officials’ unscrupulous behaviors that they inspect in public but embezzle in private.

Electric Power Lines Thieves Arrested in Urang County
Hoyang Fisheries Villiage호양수산마을 in Urang County어랑군 of North Hamgyung Province함경북도 is a small village where only 60 households live. However, the villagers have been living a life without electricity since last May until now. The total length of one power line into the village is as long as 25 Li리 (approx. 10km), but the line is stolen as soon as it is connected. The Fisheries Enterprise 수산사업소 explained that they had given up on bringing electricity to the village because the lines have been stolen so many times while the price of one line for 10km is as much as 600,000 won. The lines have been stolen on 10 occasions so far, they explained. Meanwhile, suspects have been recently caught on the spot by the security officers while they were trying to steal the power lines. They were college students who came to a side-working field부업장 to do some farm work in the Metal Department of Chungjin College of Mining청진광산대학. It is alleged that 3 college students and one professor have conspired, stolen power lines, copper wires, and aluminum wires on many occasions, and sold them for 15,000 won per kg. The students and the professor have been expelled from their school right after they were caught and the person who had received and sold the lines has been sentenced to Education-Centre. It is said that they have earned 5 million won as a profit from selling those stolen power lines.

Dongpo Coal Mine Stopped Operating Due to Absence of Its Workers
The Dongpo Coal Mine동포탄광 in Onsung County온성군 of North Hamkyung Province stopped its operation since its workers did not come to work for a while. Even the mine officials탄광간부 visited every worker’s home to persuade them to come back to work arguing that only if you work, you can feed yourself. Nonetheless, the workers would not listen to them, complaining they did not have the energy to work because they could not eat, and even though they dug out a huge amount of coal, they did not get any food in exchange for it. Even threats and pleas from the mine officials did not work out.

This incident has been finally reported to the Central Party, because the mine could not force the starving workers to work any more. After examining the situation, the Party held a meeting to give out some food to the workers and finally provided one-week amount of emergency food to each worker’s household. Besides, thanks to Chairman Kim Jong-Il’s consideration, two large-sized cars and one crane have been endowed to the mine. Only after that, the mine has resumed its operation. The coal mined here is sent to the Daeheung Mine대흥광산, the stone powder from which is used for manufacturing ceramics.

Non-Tax Contribution Causes Inflation on the Price of Sunflower Seeds
Each Neighborhood Unit인민반 in Chungjin City청진시 is collecting every kind of non-tax contribution from its residents, which has led to the price increase of some items. The Namyang 2-dong남양2동 Neighborhood Unit in Pohang district포항구역 is collecting 4kg of sunflower seeds from its residents who reluctantly donate the seeds by purchasing them at markets. And thus, the price of sunflower seeds has gone up to 2,200 won per kg from 1,600 won per kg.

Hoeryung City Ordered to Dismantle Houses near Railroads
Hoeryung City회령시 is bustling in preparation for the festivities to celebrate the upcoming 90th anniversary of the ‘Day of Mother Kim Jung-Sook김정숙.’ As the Central Party officials from Pyongyang평양, officials of the People’s Armed Forces인민무력부간부, and other municipal officials are planning to visit Hoeryung City for the festivities, by train or by car, Hoeryung City hasissued an order to dismantle all residential houses near the railroads. Most of those houses were randomly scattered and were so shabby as though they would collapse at any time. To enhance its overall landscape, therefore, Hoeryung City has decided to tear down all old shacks and houses and to rearrange the area. If the residents of the area do not follow the order, the City announced, they will be forcefully removed by the police officers. In executing the order, the managers of every factory and enterprise as well as the Secretary of the Party are in charge and are told to watch on any undesirable thoughts and behaviours may arise and control before it takes hold of the people and no trouble would arise. In addition, the City is also ordered to clean or remodel the houses which are not on the removal list.

Residents to be Removed in a Severely Cold Winter
Since the dismantling of houses near the railroads was decreed, the residents must face many obstacles. Some of them have been sent to farms, day care centers탁아소, or warehouses. The residents complained, “In this severely cold winter, how come the City decided to put people in a temporary place without any consideration of our convenience? How can we possibly live here?” Despite their concern, the City enforced its decision to demolish the area. Besides, it was also ordered to cut off all the corn stalks near railroads, to paint all buildings’ exteriors, windows, doors, the ridges of roofs city-wide, and to clean up untidy and disorderly areas.

“Root-Out the Causes of Drugs”
Hamheung City함흥시is conducting a joint operation with the Anti-socialist Conscience Investigative Patrol비사회주의그루빠검열조and National Security Council보위사령부검열조to search out anti-Socialist groups. They are especially focusing on “Ice” (a kind of amphetamine)-related cases, encouraged by the recent Chairman Kim Jong-Il’s policy to pull out the roots of “ice” from the society. Part of the people who were caught in the anti-Ice investigation were researchers and junior and senior Ph.D.’s from the Hamheung branch함흥분원 of the Science Center과학원. Faced with lack of research funds, equipment, and even survival essentials, these scientists had engaged in the drug production trade to make money. The Anti-socialist Conscience Investigative Patrol비사회주의그루빠검열조 brought up the issue of punishing these scientists to the superiors, who decided to let the senior and top-notch scientists go while handing out in-party penalties to the others. They had originally recommended that every single one should be exposed and punished for what they had done, but the policy makers countered, “Who then would engage in research if all those scientists are punished? There are those among them who had contributed to the nation and should be allowed to continue their work.”

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