GoodFriends: Research Institute For North Korean Society

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North Korea Today No. 110

Research Institute for North Korean Society
North Korea Today
110th Edition February 2008

Shot to Death While Stealing Rice
Haeju Citizens Are Angry at the Death of the Railway Laborer
Railway Laborers in Haeju Without Food for Three Months
Increase in Domestic Conflicts Due to Food Shortages
“Never Get Married to Farm Workers!”
Some Workers Voluntarily Go to Farm Because of Food Shortages
”Don’t Trade in the Market Means Escape North Korea ?”
“Individual Farming Is the Only Hope”
President of Jangsaeng Export Company in Chungjin Arrested
President of Jangsaeng Export Company in Chungjin Dies During Preliminary Hearing
Gimchaek Steel Mill Stopped Food Rations to Workers
Chungjin Trolley Bus No Longer Running
College Student Wounded as a Result of Excessive “Ice” Inspection
Hoeryun Residents Indignant at Undeserved Death
Old Men in Pyongyang Going to the Subway Hall to Survive Severe Cold Weather



Shot to Death While Stealing Rice
On the night of January 6th, one of 2 railway laborers who were trying to steal rice was shot to death. They did not stop stealing rice from the train carrying rice in the Haeju station 해주역 even though the escorts호송원 were firing blank shots공포탄 at them. The escorts were annoyed by their resistance and shot one of them, who died immediately. The other one was arrested at the scene.

Haeju Citizens Are Angry at the Death of the Railway Laborer
Citizens in Haeju are angry at the death of the railway laborers. They criticized the government’s extreme measure on those who were trying hard to feed their family. Some of them say, “Why did they kill him? They could have scolded or sentenced him for what he had done. If they kill people who are stealing food for their survival, it means that they regard people who are starving as their enemies.” Some in the neighborhood say that the railway laborers did not do something that deserves death considering the tough life they were living. Some requested that the government also punish those carriers for killing the laborer, and blamed the railway administration and the government who did not care about their employees and could not prevent them from stealing food.

Railway Laborers in Haeju Without Food for Three Months
Railway laborers in Haeju and their families are having a very difficult time making ends meet because they haven’t received food for three months in a row. As their difficulties become publicized because of the recent shooting death, many sympathize with their plight. They are saying “Whose fault is it that we are too poor to eat?” and criticizing the government by pointing out that the government’s lack of ability has led to a situation in a supposedly socialist country in which individuals have to risk losing life for food.

Increase in Domestic Conflicts Due to Food Shortages
Because people in North Korea do not have enough food to feed themselves and their families, they have lost smile or laugh in their homes and easily lose their tempers. When many couples have conflicts and arguments, they blame their spouses for these tough situations. It is not rare to see people take out their anger on their children and even shout at them to leave home in order to ease the food burden., Kids who do not go to school often get together and say simply and openly, “It is not possible to trade in the market without money, so we will go to China by using all possible connections.”

“Never Get Married to Farm Workers!”
Lately, young marriageable women do not want to get married to farm laborers. When they marry these workers, their children and they cannot get out of the farm to get non-farming jobs. First of all, working in the farm is very arduous and laborious, so most women want to avoid the job. Female farm workers in their prime put on soldiers’ shoes covering up to their ankles called by Jihajok지하족[1] or men’s sneakers because of the short of money, and weed in the stuffy corn field even in hot and humid weather. Even if farm workers have a violent fever with a temperature of up to 38°C, they need to work in the farm to not lose the work points for worth of labor(노력)공수. If they are absent from their work even one day a year, their share will be reduced so much that they go to work stubbornly even with the awful physical condition. When it is absolutely impossible for them to go to work in the farm, their parents and children go as replacements in order not to have their work points reduced. Under such circumstances, female farm workers are trying to quit and leave their work, and young women who are in poverty are eager to get married to ordinary workers or office employees. Female farm workers can leave the farm as they get married, but male farm laborers cannot leave the farm until they die even though they get married to office workers.

Some Workers Voluntarily Go to Farm Because of Food Shortages
Workers of some companies voluntarily go to work in the farm as they can barely feed their families and themselves. Because they cannot receive any payment from their work, they seem to think that working in the farm is better than in their companies because they will get distributions. In general, parents send their daughters to the farm because their daughters can quit the farm work when they get married. Sometimes men go to the farm when they do not have women or daughters. A small number of people go to work in the farm to feed their wives and children even though they know that they cannot leave the farm once they join.

”Don’t Trade in the Market Means Escape North Korea?”
So far, most people have been making their living primarily by farming from spring to autumn. Besides farming, market trading has been the most important livelihood for them. Usually, young women could feed their family by trading in the markets. However, many people’s livelihood has been severely affected after women under 49 have been banned from trading the market since last October.

Women generally complain that the recent ban on market activities means driving them to South Korea or China. Some of them cannot help but make their old mothers go to the market and sell something. Some of them join old ladies as their trading partners. Those old ladies just stand behind and when market patrols시장관리원come, they step forward and then step back again when the patrols are gone. They share profits from trades, too. Those young women trading like this complain that since they have to give some share to those old ladies, it would make them much harder to feed themselves.

“Individual Farming Is the Only Hope”
For individual farmers, farmland is everything. In spring, they plow the land and sow seeds. And farmers do weeding during the growing season in summer and harvest the crops in fall. This is the only way to maintain their living. Thus, they work desperately and hard. During the dog days of summer, farmers begin their days at dawn to avoid working under the fiery glades of the sun. Their farmland is usually located on a hill. In evening, on their ways home from hard work, farmers often find difficult to descend the hill due to sore legs. Sometimes, they fall down and even feel that they are never able to get up again. Despite such physical exhaustion, they try hard to snap out of it and take steps forward. Finally, when get home, they collapse from exhaustion. In autumn when ears grow on corn stalks, farmers build huts to patrol their harvest. Later in mid-October, they gather in crops. To bring these corns to home, farmers must have a permit, which is considered evidence that those corns are not crops of individual patches of land farming개인소토지농사. In that way, they can avoid inspection, otherwise the crops from their year’s hard work are confiscated to the state. Farmers cannot be more dependent on individual farming개인농사 for a living when there is no land for the Non-Public Distribution Management비배관리, no rations from the state, and a strict control on local trade activities

President of Jangsaeng Export Company in Chungjin Arrested
The steel mill industry in North Hamheung Province함경북도 suffered greatly when Kim Chul김철, the president of Jangsaeng Export Company장생무역회사, which was housed within Gimchaek Steel Mill김책제철소 in Chungjin청진, was arrested by the National Security Agency국가보위부 last August. Until then, he had earned a lot of foreign currency through his business savvy and was considered a patriot, having received a commendation from Chairman Kim Jong-Il김정일국방위원장 himself. He had resolved the food and energy problem in Gimchaek Steel Mill by selling steel sheets철판 in exchange for corn and oil. Because of his business acumen, he once was responsible for over half of all steel export from North Hamheung Province. He had also fortified the mill’s internal capacity by obtaining 5 steel melting furnaces, 3 fuel oil tank trailers연유유조차, 15 fork lifts자동적재차량, and 8 container trucks, earning big praises in the process.

The National Security Agency found out that part of the pig iron선철, steel plates열강판, and scrap iron파철 was being imported into South Korea through China and arrested the president last August. The focus of the investigation was whether the president knew that his products were going into South Korea at a time when all economic activity with the South was supposed to go through the Unification Bureau of the Worker’s Party 통전부. However, some quarters are saying that the real reason the well-regarded president was arrested was that he neglected to do his “National Security Business” 보위부사업 well by not regularly paying bribes to the agency officials. In actuality, the National security Agency had originally asked the Bureau of Overseas Counter Intelligence 해외반탐국 to look into the matter of pig iron exports. When they found out that part of it was being sold to South Korea, the matter was elevated to Kim Jong-Il and arrested the president.

President of Jangsaeng Export Company in Chungjin Dies During Preliminary Hearing

The arrested president of Jangsaeng Export Company in Chungjin died during his preliminary hearing예심기간 while in custody of the National Security Agency. Some say that he was shot to death in the Interrogation facility구류장 of the National Security Agency, but others say that it was diabetes that killed him while being interrogated. Then again others also say that “he was healthy in his sixties without diabetes… he must have died because of the harsh interrogation.” His death came as a huge shock not only to the employees of Gimchaek Steel Mill but also to the residents in neighboring cities and counties who knew him by reputation. One resident was angry, saying, “No matter how much money you earn for the country, they find out something behind your back and find an excuse to kill you. That’s what the National Security Agency does. They kill those whom they decide to get rid of.” Another official sighed, “When I hear of these things, I wonder why go on living in this dirty land without freedom. Good people are killed through entrapment while obsequious villains live well. It’s only our lives that must be pitied.”

Gimchaek Steel Mill Stopped Food Rations to Workers
As Jangsaeng Export Company in Chungjin has recently been faltering, it has affected Gimchaek Steel Mill as well. Since October 2007, Gimchaek Steel Mill has had no food rations to its workers. Even in difficult times, workers were able to at least receive corn on the cop thanks to Jangsang Export Company. These days, however, as the company’s president was arrested and food aid from South Korea significantly cut, the food distribution stopped completely. With no food rations, the increasing number of workers does not go to work despite police officers 보안서’ warnings. Local steel traders were also affected by this; sales of any kind of iron or steel, including scrip iron, pig iron, and steel sheets, have been banned. Meanwhile, the authorities decided to place Jangsang Export Company under state management and appointed a new president.

Chungjin Trolley Bus No Longer Running
Trolley buses무궤도전차of Chungjin city stopped operating on January 11, 2008. These old trolley buses made about 25-30 years ago often broke down during in operation. Buses looked too shabby to distinguish if they were buses or big pieces of scrap iron. Even though the city tries to fix them, it has neither the needed parts nor money to purchase them. The original plan was that the city was going to buy the parts with bus fare; yet, there are only a few buses operable. Even operable buses stop for 3-4 hours in the middle of streets due to electricity cut-offs. As a result, not many people are willing to take buses. The trolley car enterprise전차사업소expects difficulties in re-running trolley buses in the future.

College Student Wounded as a Result of Excessive “Ice” Inspection
A few days ago, the “Ice”(a kind of amphetamine) Investigation Patrol 단속조 in Chungjin City received criticism from people for going overboard with the inspection. The investigation patrol searched passers-by for smuggled “Ice” from 9:30 pm to increase their performance results. They even had stakeouts in front of suspects’ houses, and secretly watched people coming in and out of the houses. In addition, Mr. Kim, , who lives in Pohang district포항구역and a junior of College of Mining광산대학 was caught by the police patrol on his way home from his friend’s place. During the body search, they found a tool for taking the “Ice”, so took him to the police inspection unit. In the process of questioning the source of the “Ice”, he was severely beaten and wounded by the police for the reason that he was reluctant to reply. In the end, he was cleared of the smuggling suspicion and could come back home, but he could not go back to school because of severe injuries. People said they have nothing against inspection, but criticized the inspection patrol for catching the wrong person and physically hurting him during the questioning.

Hoeryun Residents Indignant at Undeserved Death
Last December 28th, an electrician전공 in the Department of Electric Power Supply배전부 died from a car accident. Mr. Kim, director of the Mangyang police substation망양분주소 in Hoeryung city회령시, was on his motorcycle when he crashed onto the electrician on his bicycle. The electrician fell down immediately. The Police officer보안원 riding on the back seat of the motorcycle kicked the electrician’s body couple of times to check if he was alive. After realizing that the electrician had difficulty breathing, they hastily moved the electrician’s body to a guardroom경비실of the City Construction Enterprise시건설기업소 and then returned home. The electrician’s intestine was burst from the crash. Seeing interrupted breathing, a security guard경비원in the enterprise reported to the local public clinic 진료소and the Mangyang police substation.

Although the police officer and the medical doctor of the local public clinic moved him to the city people’s hospital시인민병원, the doctor did not even touch him any possibility of survival. Eventually, the electrician died 3 hours after the car accident. His wife who was on a business trip to Hyesan혜산of Ryanggang Province량강도returned immediately after the death notice. Running to the police station 보안서 to question her husband’s meaningless death, she cried out “bury the director by my husband’s grave, I will kill the criminal.” The police station, initially doing nothing about the accident, reluctantly had to put the substation director and the accompanying police officer into an interrogation facility as the wife continued to cry for punishment. However, until now, there has been no specific punishment for them. So far, town people are strongly pushing for legal punishment of them raging “All police officers are bugs벌거지milking people’s oil. The dead electrician was a qualified individual and was excellent at electrical engineering disciplined through a systematic education of the Department of Electric Power Supply. All the persons who knew him lamented the death of a talented man.

Old Men in Pyongyang Going to the Subway Hall to Survive Severe Cold Weather
Like North Hamgyung Province, Pyongyang city평양시 is in a bad situation because of the water heating service온수난방 shortage caused by lack of electricity. When it is extremely cold, some old people go to the underground railway with something to eat and a blanket to put around them because the underground is much warmer than their home. These elderly people stay in the underground railway all day long and go back to their home around 6 or 7 pm. Police officers in charge of keeping order or security guards검열원 of subway stations let them return to their homes when they are found. Even though the elderly people pretend to go home when they are ordered to, they come back one after another after police officers and security guards are gone. Some aged people beg them not to order them to go home because of no heating system at home. As the number of the old people in the underground has increased, the subway patrol단속원have begun to report them and the names of their children and work places to the party committee당위원회. The intention of such actions is to shame the sons and daughters for not taking care of their parents and to take them back to home immediately. The old people go to the underground railway only because their houses are too cold, but unfortunately, their sons and daughters have been labeled as undutiful people불효자 and sometimes called to account by the Secretary of the Party당비서.

[1] Jihajok지하족; They are labor shoes and made of fabrics. North Korean Soldiers usually wear them during the non-combat season.

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