North Korea Today No. 96

Research Institute for North Korean Society

North Korea Today
96th Edition November 2007

No More Phone Use if the Telephone Bill Exceeds 3,000 won
Authorities are continuously issuing directives that limit the use of landline telephone nationwide. Even for those residents who have permission to use the phones, if their usage exceeds 3,000 Won, they will no longer be able to call outside the city limits. This directive is a step up from the previous directive that cut off the phone when the usage went over 5,000 Won.

Residents Complain Restrictions on Landline Phone Use
As authorities cut off landline phones as an attempt to crackdown on phone calls outside the city limits, there have been strong complaints by the affected residents. As the result, some cities are reconnecting the landline phones. In some areas such as Hamheung함흥, Hyesan혜산, Chungjin청진, Pyongsung평성, and others, the residents went down en masses to the local post office wanting to “unsubscribe to the phone service that is no longer useful” and wanted a refund of 700,000~750,000 Won that they had each paid to initiate the service in the first place. Since some post offices couldn’t refund the money all at the same time, they are reconnecting the phones beginning around October 17, 2007. In midst of this situation, the initial connecting fee for the phones has dropped from more than 700,000 won to 200,000 won.

No Public Lecture after President Roh’s Visit Baffles the People
Although there was a post-summit lecture for bureaucrats in the central government, the lack of organized and mandatory lectures aimed for ordinary North Korean people have left them baffled. Immediately after the first summit with President Kim Dae-Jung, there were a series of lectures to remind people not to engage in any illusions about or expect anything from South Korea.

This time there was frequent TV coverage of the President Roh’s visit. One official opined, “They were perhaps trying to encourage those people having a difficult time or reverse the mindset of those who are planning to escape to the South. It’s a silent warning that the South will no longer accept defectors from North Korea since the inter-Korea relationship is improving.” Recent rumors of imminent delivery of American heavy oil and South Korean rice have piqued the interest of the residents.

Hostility Towards South Korea Gradually Decreasing after Roh’s Visit.
Many residents are reporting that any lingering hostility they felt towards South Korea have decreased because of Roh’s visit. Although South Korea had supposedly sent a large amount of aid, very few residents have actually seen any and the strong ideology education effort that followed on the heels of Kim Dae-Jung’s visit had actually left many North Korean residents with a sour taste in their mouth. However, the recent visit by Roh was neither accompanied by any strong language from the authorities nor followed by ideological crackdowns on the residents, leading to a more relaxed, favourable climate.

Although regular residents don’t hear detailed news of the summit, there have been rumors that South Korea has sent fertilizers and flood aid this past summer, and rice, trucks and cars along with Roh’s visit. There have been no special restrictions on talking publicly about Roh’s visit or how well-off South Korea is. This is in stark contrast to the recent regulations against assemblies of more than 3 people at a time andearly-morning exercises. At the same time, officials have been more cautious about what they say since they don’t want to be caught off-guard thinking that the authorities have relaxed in their vigilance.

The First National Party Cell-Secretary Conference held in 14 Years
The national party cell secretary conference당세포비서대회was held at the 4.25 People’s Cultural Center4․25인민문화회관 in Pyongyang on the October 26, 2007 for the first time in 14 years. There were about 300 participants from each province, all of whom were model cell-secretaries chosen from every county and city. Under the guidance of organizational heads, about 300 cell-secretaries from North Pyongan Province, including 10 participants from Sinuiju신의주, used the reserved train to go to Pyongyang on the night of the Oct. 23rd, as did those from other provinces. As the result regularly scheduled train services from October 23rd to 26th were all canceled. The program of this conference includes 5 days of lectures, 3 days of training, and 2 days of meetings for a total of 10 days. It will last till early November.

Rationing Long Grain Rice Has Begun in North Hamgyung Province
Since October 29, North Hamgyung Province began rationing 3 kg of long grain rice per household that has been received through the port of Chungjin from South Korea on the loan base. Apart from Pyongyang, North Hamgyung Province is the only region where rice distribution has been resumed. The North Hamgyung province was a highly threatened area since there were deaths from starvation since June 2007. The mortality rate is expected to decrease for awhile, as the residents receive rations again.

Children Unwilling to Go to School for Pressure of Contribution
There is no sign that pressure over school children to make various contributions to schools will diminish. One middle school in Pohang포항 in Chungjin청진, North Hamgyung Province, requested its students to contribute 2,000 won to the school under the pretext of furnishing class rooms and any 3 items among notebooks, pens, winter vests, waist belts, and winter socks to the People’s Army. Elementary schools in Hoeryung are collecting 500g of sunflowers from students to prepare birthday presents for Chairman Kim Jong-Il’s upcoming birthday. Even in other regions, elementary and middle schools are collecting various items from students. Normally, they require upper grade students to donate 20kg of scrap iron, 4 pieces of rabbit skins, and 1kg of apricot seeds, while lower grade students to donate 500g of scrap iron, 500g of apricot seeds, and 200g of castor oil plants.

However, because students from poor families can hardly catch up with these excessive requirements, increasing number of poor students have already stopped going to school. Teachers are giving up poor students and caring only for rich students. In the past, teachers used to visit each student’s house to persuade him/her to attend school,but, it is unthinkable for teachers to do the same presently. A teacher in Chungjin says, “To feed ourselves, we have to flatter rich students.” He also agrees discrimination between rich and poor students has become more severe.

Poor School Attendance in Gangwon Province
Many children in Wonsan, Gangwon Province cannot afford to attend even elementary school. They often drop out of school and trade in markets with their parents or gather herbs in the fields or mountains to make a living. The situation may be the same in other regions, but some high officials of Gangwon Province express concerns for these children who do not receive any proper education. Some say with a sigh, “Wouldn’t everyone Gangwon province will turn illiterate?” In fact, in Wonsan, one can easily find children selling water in the markets or on the streets. People say that it is easier to see children on the streets and markets during the day rather than in schools.

Homeless Children(Kkotjebi) Increasing in Chungjin
In September one could spot an increasing number of homeless children꽃제비 in market areas of Chungjin; by October, the number seems to have doubled. In the market, younger homeless children are often seen fighting for food waste thrown away from restaurants. One resident living near the market says: “I cannot even tell whether they are people or animals. By day, theyare begging or looking for some food waste in the market and by night, they gather together and sleep in places such as iron ores. Their faces and clothes are so dirty with dust and soot.” The other day, one homeless children was severely burned by a fire while he was sleeping at an iron ores and finally died suffering from a third-degree burn without any medial treatment.

Explosion of Gasoline Tank Truck
Recently a truck carrying 8MT of gasoline that belongings to a Moran branch모란분사 company in Chungjin, exploded when it tumbled down Musanryung Hill무산령. With this accident, passengers in the vehicle were burned to ashes. The truck was carrying gasoline which was bought with the investors’ money. Upon the news, the investors gathered at the company and demanded their money back. The managing director of the branch and the foreman are investigating the cause of the accident, but it is predicted that they will soon be discharged from their positions because of the substantial monetary loss. In addition to this accident, on October 17, 2007 a truck rolled down at the entrance of Raksan락산 (Kwang-ju-ryung Hill광주령) located between Rajin라진 and Chungjin청진 and killed a 35-year-old woman, two soldiers in their 20s, and two university students.

A gold mine collapse killed 3 miners
At 10 am on the October 23, 2007, a goldmine excavating gold-bearing rocks in Hwechang County회창군, South Pyongan Province평안남도 collapsed. Because of this accident, three miners from the No. 2 squadron died and two were severely injured.

Hoeryung City Discontinued Construction Again
Due to insufficient construction materials, the city of Hoeryung discontinued the construction project again. The construction was interrupted since 40% of construction units was short of lumber and 35% lacked cement. The construction headquarters pressuring the units to finish covering roofs, walls, and setting windows by the end of November with no exception.

The Hoeryung Construction Discontinued Again, the Central government Rushing for Answers
Along with the Party of the City of Hoeryung, the Central Party had an urgent meeting to try to find answers for the Hoeryung construction project, which was put on hold again. The case is so critical that the Prime Minister recently visited the city. He expressed that this situation would be investigated thoroughly to make sure the construction would be completed by December 24 to celebrate the ‘Day of Mother Kim Jung- sook’김정숙 어머니 명절[1]. During this visit, he also investigated supplies and funds that all provinces, cities, and counties in North Korea had supported for the Hoeryung City Project. It seems that the central party will give order for additional assistance immediately. A couple of days after the Prime Minister’s visit, the Minister of Agriculture stated his plan to visit Hoeryung. With the news of the Minister’s visit, an official of the Hoeryung government says, “When the agricultural situation of border cities is improved, people’s lives are going to be stabilized and the current problems can be solved. Because the minister needs to manage the agricultural issues of Hoeryung thoroughly to satisfy the Chairman Kim Jungil on his field supervision, the minister is going to visit the city,”

A useless regulation banning trading of certain items
Although the rules and regulations about trading in the market have been reinforced, banned items are still traded and sold as usual. Since October 8, 2007 in Sinuiju, officials have been confiscating banned items such as cosmetics, bags, cigarettes and medicines as soon as they were displayed in the showcases, and have been collecting fines from the sellers. However, when the police come, traders hide them under the showcases and sell them to buyers in secret. In some unlucky cases, police uncover the illegal trading. However, the merchants bribe them with cigarettes or alcohol to be released. However, some of the strict police officers would forfeit all the items. Many traders complain the government about the banning rule, but some of them said that any regulation is useless.

Shortage of Beans
There is a shortage of beans throughout the country. In the case of North Hamgyung province함경북도, most of the collected beans are processed as food for consumption and then rationed for high ranking officials. The rest is sent to factories in Chungjin to make soy sauce. However, it is very hard to make soy sauce in these factories, as they have only three hours of electricity per day and do not have enough salt, which is a key ingredient for soy sauce. They then make soy sauce out of extracted protein from wheat and acorns which are then treated with hydrochloric acid. 1,500 MT of Chinese Bean Oil have been also imported recently due to lack of bean oil in the country. When tested, the Chinese bean oil contained four times more harmful substance than regular bean oil. Regardless, it is widely available in the local markets in North Hamgyung Province, and is sold at 4,000won per kilogram.

Drug Use Inspection
The ‘Ice’얼음 [2]inspection is being carried out in North Hamgyung province since late September as part of the nationwide ice inspection and crackdown efforts. Consequently, seven people were caught and had their trial is on the September 28. One person was out on bail; two were sent to the Re-education center 단련대; three were sent to Labor Education Centre로동교화형; and the last one was sentenced to ten years in Detention centre교화소. On the October 5th in Hyesan혜산, Ryanggangdo량강도, six households were banished because of drug abuse.

[1] Kim Jung-Sook: Kim Jung-Il’s mother, her birthday is also celebrated nationwide
[2] Ice: a kind of amphatamine – common illicit drug readily available in North Korea

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