North Korea Today No. 104

Research Institute for North Korean Society

North Korea Today
104th Edition December 2007

The Police Organizes the Anti-Socialist Conscience Investigation Patrol to Control Commercial Cars
The checkpoints between Chungjin청진 and Onsung온성 in North Hamkyung Province함경북도 are strictly controlling commercial cars by organizing Anti-Socialist Conscience Investigation Patrol 비사회주의그루빠 (“ASCIP”). There are six checkpoints: Mt. Komoo고무산, Jeongurrie전거리, Poongsan풍산, Baemgoal뱀골 in Hoeryung회령, Sahmbong삼봉, and Kangan강안. At every checkpoint, the ASCIP stops the cars, search them, and confiscate merchandise found inside the cars. Last December 8th, at around 3 pm, at the Sahmbong checkpoint, they confiscated all the commercial items from a vehicle belonging to a dairy shop in Chungjin and sent the items to a shop in Onsung. The vehicle was carrying items worth about 8 million won in total, including 15 bicycles, 2 metric tons of wheat flour, 1 metric ton of sugar, 3 million won worth of cookies and candies, 300,000 won worth of vinyl flooring장판지(레자), and daily necessities worth 500,000 won. The owner of the items begged to return them to him, but he was told by the ASCIP that he would not get them back because he had done trading in violation of the government’s directives and therefore it was his fault. He used to be a laborer at a dairy shop in Chungjin, and just started doing his own business by borrowing money from everywhere. He finally collapsed and was sent to the Sahmbong clinic삼봉진료소.

Students’ Dream Job is Market Trading
Nowadays, elementary or middle school students no longer want to become officials or soldiers, or to join the Party. When students are asked what they want to choose as their future jobs, most students want to sell goods after graduation. Some kids of that age are not going to school, and a lot of these kids are already involved in trading. When they go to school, students need to make extra contributions to school, so they seem to think that it is better not go to school. Instead, they hang around in the market and sell noodles or vegetables to support their family. Trading in the market is not easy anymore because the inspection on market trading has gotten tougher than before, but many kids who are quite quick can do ‘grasshopper trade(peddling) 메뚜기장사’ to avoid police officer’s inspection. On the other hand, as the gap between and rich and poor is widening, children of rich families said that they want to go to university or commercial bookkeeping school부기학교. Although they perform worse in schoolwork than the children of laborers, they are showing off their parents’ wealth and power by receiving special tutoring, practicing typing with a computer keyboard, or being selected as a class president with bribery.

A Nationwide Investigation about the Long-distance Bus System
According to the investigation results about the operation system of long-distance buses in some places conducted by the Permanent Committee 상임위원회 of the People’s Supreme Assembly 최고인민회의, many individuals are illegally running the business by registering as enterprises. As a consequence of this investigation, the central government has issued a nationwide order to inspect the operation system of long-distance buses, and has prohibited individual investors from operating these buses in some locations. In the near future, it is expected that the government will issue an order to discontinue the bus operation invested by individuals altogether.

Abuses of the bus number 116 Serious in North Hamkyung Province
In Chungjin, North Hamkyung Province, only the 116 buses are operating presently because the Party does not allow the operation of privately-run buses any more. The 116 buses are expanding its rounds from 1 to 2, or 3 times a day, since they have to do the jobs usually done by the private buses. As the choices of buses become limited, people often argue and fight with each other to manage to get on the bus. Even passersby have fun watching those scenes. To get a seat in the bus, they have to wait at bus stops from very early in the morning. The 116 buses sometimes load over 100 people to make more money although their maximum capacity is only 40 people. Passengers can hardly have any space to even stand inside the buses. It is natural that the accidents involving the 116 buses happen often. Last November 4th, in Musanryung Hill무산령, a 116 bus fell off the cliff because of its bad brake. No one died but 8 people were injured in the accident.

People are complaining more and more about the inconvenience. Some people are complaining that it is inappropriate to stop the operation of private buses and allow the 116 buses to monopolize. One said that the owner of the 116 buses is a psycho who likes only money. Another said that the owner of the 116 buses is a playboy색깔투사 and the current ban on private buses is because he lobbied for it. People who don’t know that this measure is from the Party are only imputing the responsibility to the owner of the 116 buses.

The bus number 116 Caught Carrying the “Ice”
In Chungjin, some drivers of the 116 bus make their living by carrying the “Ice” 얼음 (a kind of amphetamine) in their buses and receiving delivery fees in exchange for it. Following the statements of some “Ice” sellers caught in Hoeryong, those drivers who had carried the “Ice” were arrested as well. They are presently imprisoned in the public prosecutors office검찰소 in Hoeryong. They allegedly received 100,000-150,000 won per 100 kg of “Ice” as a delivery fee after bringing the ice from Hamheung to Chungjin.

Frequent Occurrence of Vehicle Accidents on Snowy Days
As the temperature has dropped across North Korea (NK) in December with snow in many places, there have been reports of vehicle accidents from all over the country. Even though NK does not possess a large number of vehicles, it is not hard to find overturned vehicles on every road. It is possible to see many rolled-down vehicles even in the valleys. On the night of December 6th, there were serious traffic accidents where 4 trucks and 2 buses rolled down the valley from the hill of Dongrim County동림군고개, North Pyongan Province평안북도, and the Sangchari hill상차리고개 located before Pyongsung평성, South Pyongan Province평안남도. On the accident spot, the vehicles were burned and no passengers survived the disaster. Witnesses described that the vehicles involved in the accident were going up the hill and started to skid because the road was slippery, then rolled down the valley. Passengers from the bus behind the tumbled-down vehicles recalled the horrible experience of just witnessing the passengers who could not escape but died in the burning vehicles.

Water Shortages Critical in Sinuiju
Although the winter has already come, the water supply system still does not work in Sinuiju신의주. Because the residents do not have any choice except for taking water from reservoirs or wells, tone can often see old people or children haul their carts to get water. Residents living near the water resources do not seem to suffer much, but it is much trouble for people who need to go a long way to get water. Some residents complain that it takes usually half a day to take water and they anxiously wonder how long they need to endure this suffering.

On the other hand, as it’s getting cold, the number of people using the public bath목욕탕 is increasing. However, people can barely use the facility and often see the notice “the public bath is closed” because it cannot be operated with the shortage of electricity and water. The public bath can be divided into three types: cold water, hot water, and a sauna. It costs 500won to use the cold water section and 1000 won for the hot water section.

Spring Water Business in Sukhari Prevailing
As the water pollution is getting worse, an increased number of people are getting into water business. Many people buy spring water from sellers who bring water from Sukhari석하리, 20 Li리 (approx. 8 km) away from Sinuiju, and it costs 500 won per 10 kg. Those engaged in this water business are mostly men (due to heavy physical involvement of the business); they carry 100 l of water by bicycle several times and deliver it to their regular customers.

The quality of water in Sinuiju was not bad in the past. However, the water supply facilities of the city are not only very old - originally installed under the Japanese rule, but also some of them are even broken. As a result, they are no longer functioning properly in purifying water these days. In the meantime, the water supply had been cut off for a while due to the flood damage of 1997. During that period, units and enterprises had to go to neighboring villages to get drinking water. Since two years ago, relatively well-off people have begun to buy spring water from China, Hwangchiryung Hill황치령 in Euijoo County 의주군 , or Sukhari. Now, it is common to see a queue of people riding bicycles, also called as bike troops, carrying water in the morning. It is becoming so competitive to get water from Sukhari, due to the increasing number of people in water business, that it would be hard to get some water unless going there early in the morning, according to a water sales person in Sukhari. Regular customers of spring water from Hwangchiruyung Hill on Mt. Baekmasan백마산 and Sukhari on Mt. Sukdoosan 석두산make a great fuss when their suppliers fail to deliver water. Some wealthy people, therefore, hire people who are exclusively responsible for delivering the water. These water deliverers usually stand in front of apartment buildings with carts and wait for their potential employers. It is common to find that when deliverers finally find an employer after waiting a while, though it is often a one-time offer, they got excited just like children. Depending on the amount of water to carry, they often get paid from 500 won to 5000 won. Because this is considered a relatively good pay in North Korea, they wait eagerly for an employer.

Wonsan City Lays a Water Main in Bubdong County
Residents of Wonsan City원산시 have been suffering from bad tasting water and waterborne diseases, such as stomach disorders. For such reasons, Wonsan City has laid a water main in Bubdong County법동군 connecting to the City in order to provide fresh water to the residents. The inhabitants say that they are able to enjoy spring water through the water pipe in Bubdong County, because of Chairman Kim Jung Il’s thoughtful consideration. A plan to extend the water main to Budong County had been suggested twenty years ago but it had not been executed until recently due to the lack of construction materials.

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