North Korea Today No. 99

Research Institute for North Korean Society

North Korea Today
99th Edition November 2007

Soonchun Vinalon Factory President Publicly Executed
This past August, the president of an export company of the Soonchun Vinalon[1] factory 순천비날론공장 in South Pyongan Province평안남도was publicly executed. The main reason for the execution was that he sold the factory equipment in order to buy food to distribute to the workers when they were dying of hunger because of food shortages in the first half of the year. After an official investigation, he was convicted not only of selling the factory equipment but also of hiding his past as a Chi-an-dae치안대member. Chiandae refers to a low level civil militia during the Korean War that arose out of those groups oppressed by the communists and took the side of the American and South Korean forces when they briefly occupied North Korea.

The Soonchun Vinalon factory has not been operational for a long time because of lack of carbide. Also, the factory has suffered from inoperable facilities due to the inadequate construction from the very start. Therefore, the factory had also sold part of the facilities as scrap iron – like other factories in the country. However, when the former Prime Minister, Park Bong-joo 박봉주, was appointed as the overall manager of the factory and performed a comprehensive audit, the selling of factory equipment became an issue.

The selling of factory equipment is not something that can be authorized solely by the president of the export arm of the factory. It had to have involved everyone from Party officials당간부, National Security Council officers보위부원, Police Officers보안원, and other people in power.

Therefore, they needed a scapegoat, and used the executed president’s record of the Chiandae membership as a way out for them. Even the workers who had angrily reacted by claiming, “What crime is there to selling off equipment to buy food for us,” have now given up, saying, “I guess there is nothing to be done since he was a Chiandae.”

Although the official investigation revealed that he was a Chiandae member, no officials really believe that he was a real Chiandae. They say it’s ridiculous for such a past to be suddenly revealed in a society like North Korea in which the resident registration and record keeping is so strict. Basically, this scandal was concluded by the sole execution of the president, along with the inevitable conclusion that the factory would be difficult to restart because of many crucial pieces of the equipment have been sold off.

Public Lectures on the Result of the 2nd Inter-Korea Summit Begins
Public lectures on the results of the 2nd Inter-Korea Summit have begun. According to an official who attended one of the lectures, they said that they have agreed to cooperate with South Korea to construct a ship building dock in Anbyun County안변군, Gangwon Province강원도and a shipping industry base선박공업기지 in Nampo남포 in the West Sea of Korea because South Korea’s shipbuilding industry is about to go under. Also, they are saying that the NLL is now designated as ‘Joint fishing area’공동어로구역 called the Peace Line. But the attendees at the lectures seem so indifferent. They are all waiting for the lectures to end. They are probably all thinking they cannot afford to waste time and attention politics because they have to worry about earning even one more cent to feed their families.”

Impromptu Remarks Made during the General Assembly of the National Party Cell Secretary Led to the Cancellation of the Picture-taking Event with Kim Jung-Il
The reason has been disclosed why the General Assembly of the National Party Cell Secretary전국세포비서대회 held in late October had ended earlier than planned and cancelled the picture-taking event with Kim Jung-Il (the No.1 Event1호행사). It was the impromptu remarks made by a cell secretary from Baekam County백암군, Ryanggang Province량강도 during a meeting. As the discussant, he was speaking according to the transcript which had been approved by the Propaganda and Agitation Department선전선동부, but in the middle he suddenly added his complaining remarks about how the residents from his county suffers from hardships, which were not on his transcript. One party cadre pointed out the seriousness of this incident by saying: “The General Assembly of the National Party Cell Secretary전국세포비서대회 is where we learn what to do from now on, not where we speak out our complaints. Speaking about something that the Party did not direct to speak should become an ideological issue.”

Eventually, the picture-taking event with Chairman Kim Jung-Il(the No.1 Event 1호행사)was cancelled. Only high party officials of each county, city, and province remained and had the ‘Fight for Ideology meeting’사상투쟁회의. The cell secretary from Baekam County백암군 said that an ideological secretary사상비서 of the primary party초급당 had ordered him to say that, which made the matter even worse. One attendant at the meeting expressed his disappointment: “We controlled ourselves everyday not to drink alcohol just for the event to take pictures with Chairman Kim Jung-Il, but we are so disappointed at today’s cancellation of the No. 1 event1호행사. After the meeting, every participant left with presents: a bag, some magic markers, ten ball point pens, and a hanging scroll.”

Direct Report from Central Party Officials to Chairman Kim Jung-Il (No. 1 Report) Led to Stricter Market Control
According to some party officials, the reason for tighter control on the market is because some central party officials made a direct report to Chairman Kim Jung-Il about what they had seen in person. While they were driving around Pyongsung City평성시, they saw people trade merchandises at markets and even on the roads. The report which was ratified by Chairman Kim Jung-Il allegedly includes the following statements, “ People are obsessed with money, break away from teamwork, and do all kinds of wrongdoings for money. If we let this happen, our socialism will evolve into capitalism and we might face the pains that the Soviet Union and East Germany had suffered. Therefore, we should strictly prevent this from happening and solidify our socialism.”

The Price of Gimjang for a Family of Three Costs 100,000 Won in Sinuiju
The Public Enterprises in Sinuiju신의주 have distributed 15kg of Korean radish무우 and 40 kg of Korean cabbage배추 to each resident. However, every working-class household is complaining that the amount distributed to them is not enough to do Gimjang김장 (preparing a large amount of Gimchi김치 for the winter consumption) this year. Rich people can purchase additional vegetables in the market, but poor people can not afford to do that. Because of the price increase for Korean cabbage and radish a family of three people would need at least 100,000 won for Gimjang. This means that the very poor cannot prepare Gimjang for this winter. Women in Sinuiju are deeply concerned at the high cost of doing Gimjang this year, and sigh whenever they gather together. Containers and urns for Gimchi are not produced in North Korea anymore, so people have to use 50-liter Chinese soy oil containers. This Chinese container is sold at over 10,000 won. Even though it is the Gimjang season now, it is too quiet to think it is. In an apartment complex where 36 households live, only one household among them may be able to finish Gimchang this season.

A nationwide order to help flood victims in South Hwanghae Province
The central government issued a nationwide order to donate goods in aid to South Hwanghae province affected by the flood. The rationale behind this order is, “Because people in South Hwanghae Province are suffering from the flood, households should help and support to meet the daily needs of the flood victims.” Therefore, each district offices녀맹동사무소 of the DWU (Democratic Women’s Union) are asking the members to send goods to people in South Hwanghae Province.

Banning water trade has a negative impact on children
The number of homeless children, Kkotjebi꽃제비, is increasing in Gangwon Province강원도. Since the government issued a ban on water trade물매대 , a primary livelihood activity for many children, they have lost their main source of income overnight and have become beggars and are living as Kkotjebi.

Investigating Market Traders in Pyongyang
In Pyongyang평양, the Anti-Socialist Conscience Investigation Patrol비사회주의그루빠 officers visit the houses of market traders for inspection. The officers usually ask, “When did you begin the trade at the market?” and “Why do you trade?” When the officers asked an old couple when they began the trade, they answered “We began to receive our retirement pension several years ago. However, because our pension is 3,000 won and it is not enough for us to live on, we have been meeting our everyday needs by selling socks at the market. If we don’t trade at the market, we cannot survive at all.”

Besides these questions, the investigators asked them in detail what their children do now; from where and how many items they bought for trading. The couple who served as Party officials all their lives were not only disappointed that the reward for their loyalty to the Party was trading in the market in their old age, but also aggrieved that they have to be inspected repeatedly and comply with new regulations and restrictions on selling goods in the market.

Fees for School Firewood 5,000 won 10 Times higher than of Last Year
Schools are collecting fees for firewood this winter as expected. The fee increase this year is inconceivably high, which left parents speechless (or in shock). The fee has gone up ten times, from 500 won last year to 5000 won this year. Even when the fee was 500 won last year, parents from an elementary school in Sunam district수남구역, Chungjin city청진시, North Hamgyung province함경북도 considered the fee high, and took a so-called “collective action” and refused to send their children to school three times. This year, stronger resistance by parents to the fee increase is expected.

“Not to Collect Non-Tax Fees from Students”
On November 4th, the Ministry of Education issued an order not to collect non-tax fees from students, because the non-tax burden for students is becoming exceedingly high. School teachers and officials are making strenuous efforts to take measures to meet the increasing number of students who cannot afford firewood fees. Some schools announce that they would take two straw bags of cobs of maize instead of firewood fees.

In order to prepare for firewood, some teachers take their students to the mountains to get firewood, and this is hard work for little children who do not even know how to cut trees. Moreover, as it is often hard to find trees on nearby hills, these young students have to walk to distant hills or mountains, and thus it is frequently past dinner time when they arrive home. Concerned parents, who were waiting for their children for dinner without eating first, even go to hills and bring their kids home with them.

[1] Vinalon비날론: A Synthetic fiber invented by North Korean scientist called Lee Seung-ki, two years after the invention of nylon. This fiber is close to cotton that Kim Il-sung awarded Vinalon as the Juche Fiber주체섬유.

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