North Korea Today No. 106

North Korea Today No. 106
Research Institute for North Korean Society

North Korea Today
106th Edition January 2008

Food Distribution Begins in Select Farm Collectives Beginning 12/31
They finally began distributing food to select farm collectives at the end of last year. In these farms located along the border, they gave out 320 kg of whole corn, including the cobs, to these farms. The laborers complain that this amount is too small for a family to survive on no matter how careful they are. Also, there are many farms in which they gave only 50,000 won, about $355 in USD, for the whole year’s worth of labor, and questions about the lateness of the food distribution this year when all the distribution should have been finished by December 20th at the latest, as in previous years.

Half of the Farms Predict “We will Run Out of Food by the End of February.”
In the farms along the border, there are already talks that they would run out of food by the end of February. This is because many households last year had taken out high interest loans from the rich with the promise to pay them back in the fall. But since they have to pay 200kg for every 100kg borrowed, they have trouble paying back despite toiling in blood and sweat throughout the summer. In contrast, the rich have TVs, VCRs, refrigerators, and bicycles in heir houses, in addition to eating meals made out of half corn and half unglutinous rice입쌀. However, unless you are rich or do especially well in trading, most farm households cannot afford to eat any extra foodstuffs such as meat. The farm households are especially suffering because of the bad harvest of last year.

Increase in the Number of Farmers Who have Lost the Desire to Go On
Caught in a non-ending cycle of working hard only to pay back the loans they took out to continue farming in the first place, many farmers are finally in despair of their situation. They are choosing to give up farming and become destitute because they no longer want to work only to have to pay back the high interest loans that they need to take out to continue farming. One farmer confided, “There are many farmers now who go around begging for drinks and have fallen into bad habits.” Another farmer agreed, saying that “no matter how hard we work, we only fall more deeply into debt. I am losing any desire to go on living and spend my days without purpose. Since the family background is so important in our republic’s system, once your residence card says that your background is a farmer, your children will also be farmers. Besides, higher positions are given to those with better backgrounds. Most farming households who had good backgrounds have gone on to official positions already. Those who are left to farm are the ones with bad backgrounds, with no chance for advancement even for our children no matter how hard I try. When you have trouble filling even your own stomach, what do words like family or socialism have to do with me?”

Power of Anti-Socialist Conscience Investigation Patrol to be Drastically Increased
According to a official간부, the power of the Anti-Socialist Conscience Investigation Patrol비사그루빠 (“ASCIP”), dispatched to the border area, will be increased drastically. From the beginning of the year, they will be able to search homes, make on-the-spot arrests, and even prosecute and sentence criminals. Accordingly, they will be able to order re-education for those arrested if they find the “Ice” 얼음(a kind of amphetamine) or other illegal items on the person or in their belongings. Additionally, the North Korean authorities have given the ASCIP at the border area directions to crack down on instances of smuggling domestic information abroad, such as the use of cell phones.

Mid-level Officials Become Anxious at the Beginning of ASCIP Inspection
From this January, an intense inspection of ASCIP will begin at the border area. However, some mid-level officials are anxious about the inspection. The officials are afraid of the inspection itself and additionally, many residents are threatening them with complaints if the inspection goes through. A local mid-level official worries that even innocent people could be hurt from this inspection because some poor residents are eager to make complaints against local and other officials as soon as the inspection begins. Another local official says, “Some poor residents are imputing all of their distress onto local officials. The government might want to win popularity by imputing all social problems onto local mid-level officials and people just naively fall into the trap.” He adds that it is upsetting that residents believe all problems will be solved once their local mid-level officials are replaced.

“It is the Lim Kuk Jung Era Again”
Some residents are saying the present time is similar to that of the Lim Kuk Jung림꺽정 era during the Chosun dynasty조선시대 hundreds of years ago. Residents say it is similar in that laborers often bow their heads to government officials and police officers. A resident complains, “If father is a government official, his son is so, and if father is a farmer, his son is so. What is the difference between nowadays and the ancient Lim Kuk Jung era?” One resident suspects that the current intense ASCIP inspection is the result of anxiety about the appearance of a hero like Lim Kuk Jung.

An Empty Promise: “Work for the People”
No matter which organization you visit, you can find the written motto, “Work for the People” hanging on a wall—on an opposite wall from where a portrait of Chairman Kim Jong-Il hangs, particularly in the office of a government official. In fact, many criticize that the motto is rather the bulwark of officials’ self-interests. Officials easily impose harsh punishments on ordinary people found guilty of crimes while struggling with dire poverty. By contrast, the officials avoid any punishment despite their corrupt behavior. Some say that last year’s continuously issued regulations were effective in cracking down on some corrupt officials while those who have money and power avoided punishment. In contrast, ordinary people were the scapegoat of these regulations. For the most part, people complain about the credibility of mid-level officials, while some question the state’s leadership and their execution of forceful controls and human rights abuse.

Banning Massage Businesses
North Korean authorities have issued an order to ban massage businesses안마업 nationwide. This decision was reached based on the fact that masseuses provide sexual services and therefore massage businesses are considered a hotbed of prostitution. Last November, all masseuses in Eunduckwon은덕원 in Soonchun City순천시 were fired when it was discovered that they performed illegal sexual services.

A Response to a Student’s Question: Change your Thoughts and Attitudes
One student at Wonsan Economics College 원산경제대학in Kangwon province강원도 suffered a bitter insult because of a question the student asked during class. During a lecture that explained the characteristics of a capitalist economic system versus a socialist economic system, the student, out of curiosity, asked the professor, “Why do capitalist economic systems and their laborers work better?” Instead of avoiding an answer, the professor asked the student to be careful with their words. The next day, a student received a call from an intelligence agent보위지도원 in the college. The student was questioned severely about the incident and their thoughts and was instructed to not ask those types of questions in the future and to correct their thoughts and attitudes.

Series of Accidents Happen at Dangerous Railroad Blocks in Gowon
After series of accidents at dangerous blocks of railroad track in Gowon County고원군 in South Hamgyung Province함경남도, the North Korea’s rail authority철도청 distributed a warning document to engineers in particular, directing them to be careful. Indeed, there were a series of derailments on the 12th, 21st, 26th and 27th of last November, resulting in the total suspension of the train service. All workers in the maintenance team have been mobilized to repair the railroad track to prevent further derailments. However, because of deteriorating tracks, including railroad ties, it is very hard to restore the rail to perfect condition.

North Korea Abolishes Fruit Trade Permit
North Korean authorities have abolished “Wak” 와크, a type of trade permit used for the trade of southern fruits, including apples. This follows the current policy of the Party to spend foreign currency on purchasing food rather than useless goods. Shortly after Customs authorities세관총국 began to execute the new policy by inspecting trade activities, fruit imports drastically decreased while the price of fruit has increased.

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