GoodFriends: Research Institute For North Korean Society

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North Korea Today No. 111

Research Institute for North Korean Society
http://www.goodfriends.or.kr/eng

North Korea Today
111th Edition February 2008

Stronger Oversight of Managers of Local Farm Collectives in South Pyongan Province
Children in Welfare Institutions Survive on Powdered Corn Cob Porridge
“Let’s Enhance Our Education with Full Confidence in Our Victory”
Personal Ghost Companies No Longer Allowed
Railroad Transportation Instructed to Solve Problems
National Defense Committee to Inspect Railroads
Well-off Hamheung 5.18 Enterprise
Electronic Goods Not Selling Due to Lack of Electricity
Car Batteries and Candles Substituted for Electricty
Inspection of Retired Teachers’ Extracurricular Tutoring
Extracurricular Tutoring goes Against Principle of Educational Equality.
Border Patrol Soldiers Allowed Party Membership When Catching a Runaway (Defector)
‘Ice’ Smugglers Now Responsibilty of Province Police Station
Seasonal Life Story of Ordinary House Wives
Ignorance is Not Bliss about Relatives’ News
Family Abusers are Suspected ‘Ice’ Addicts
Trading the ‘No.1 Picture’ Inside Army Camps


Stronger Oversight of Managers of Local Farm Collectives in South Pyongan Province
On December 5th of last year, the provincial party office of South Pyongan Province 평안남도 directed the local city party offices to strengthen oversight of the managers of farm collectives농촌간부, especially in light of the Moonduk County문덕군 ideological sedition case종파사건. They were instructed to target the division party secretaries리당비서 and chiefs of management committees관리위원장 who appear to be better off than their fellow farm workers, especially those with wives who appear to be housewives that do not need to work in the fields or spend time engaging in market activities. They were also told to fire or hold accountable any division party officials리당간부 or workers일꾼 who did not produce or add efficiency and value, since those workers are useless to the business. In farming divisions농촌 리, it is common for party officials and chiefs of management committees to siphon off several tons of corn and other grain for their own personal use. North Korean authorities have been warned that these cases will now be treated as an ideological sedition matter if these people are caught. These directives point to a trend in the strengthening oversight of local farm collectives and the tightening of party discipline.

Children in Welfare Institutions Survive on Powdered Corn Cob Porridge
Children in welfare institutions구제소 in Yangduk County양덕군 in South Pyongan Province survive daily on porridge with powered corn cob옥수수묵지가루. Many lack strength from eating only these runny porridges that lack any solid chunks of food. Many are escaping the welfare institutions, even though the children do not have any other particular place to go during these coldest months of the winter. The institution in Yangduk County previously housed 38 children as of last December, but now only houses 23 children as of January, a drop of 15 children. The children who have escaped, live a life of Kkotjebi꽃제비(homeless children). The situation is the same for the Welfare Institution in Chungjin City청진시 in North Hamgyung Province함경북도. Chungjin City used to house around 120 children in the beginning of January but now only has 88 children in February. Children say that they prefer starving and begging while being free on the streets instead of starving while living captive “in a strait-jacketed life” inside of the institution. In Hoeryung City회령시, in commemoration of the Day of Mother Kim Jung-Sook김정숙탄생일, officials handed out winter clothing, shoes, gloves, and hats to Kkotjebis and children in welfare institutions. The children were happy but some of them immediately bartered clothing for food because of their hunger.

“Let’s Enhance Our Education with Full Confidence in Our Victory”
Last December 23rd, in Chungjin in North Hamgyung Province, doctorate and masters degree holders and excellent professors in universities, proven school teachers in junior and senior high schools, and doctors from the public health sector gathered together to attend a 4 hour lecture. The lecturer came from Pyongyang평양 and delivered the following message: “With just a little patience, everyone here will live well soon. Until now, we have allowed people to abuse the National Trade “Wak” 국가무역와크 (a type of trade permit) to engage in uncontrolled trade and do whatever they want, some even setting up ghost companies. But now all these people who thought they were above reproach because of their money are being investigated and prosecuted according to the law, which I think serves them right. If you wait just a bit longer, our nation will live well. Let’s all have full confidence in our eventual victory and do our best to enhance education.” Reporters from Rodong Shinmun노동신문 and the Korean Central News Agency중앙통신사 were sent to other major cities by the Propaganda and Agitation Department of the KoreaWorkers Party 당중앙선전선동부to deliver similar lectures.

Personal Ghost Companies No Longer Allowed
North Korean authorities once again reiterated their intention to prohibit individuals from creating ghost companies. Since last year, there have been several cases of exporters무역거래자 being investigated and even executed publicly. Up until now, organizations기관 and public enterprises기업소 allowed individuals to use their name to set up companies in return for investments and payment. This occurred in many places around the country between wealthy individuals, organizations, and public enterprises. However, the authorities previously turned a blind eye to people engaging in a totally unrelated business, such as restaurants, service centers, bus operations and fishing boat businesses, etc., from the public enterprise in which they were officially registered. But last year, the authorities began to crack down on these activities and even executed several people, instead of just taking away their licenses and seizing their property, as was the accepted norm up to that point.

Some exporters say that they do not understand the sudden crackdown on these practices that officials had previously allowed for so long. One said, “The government allows individuals to build up their business using the National Trade “Wak” without saying anything and then they bring down the blade without warning. They cannot stand to see individuals do well and they seize their property or kill them as a result. This shows the true nature of North Korea’s laws. Without the people who were executed in this latest crackdown, most of the North Korean people would have starved to death by now.”

Railroad Transportation Instructed to Solve Problems
North Korea’s Rail Authority철도성 is busy these days answering Chairman Kim Jong-Il’s김정일국방위원장 call to solve the nation’s railroad problems. The Authority said that they lack engine cars in order to improve the situation. When passenger cars come into a station, train operators have to take an engine off of freight cars in order to lead the passenger cars out of the station. In order to solve the railroad problems, the Rail Authority needs more engine cars and freight cars, in addition to a steady supply of electricity. Also, to prevent derailing, the wooden beam supports for tracks need to be upgraded. One official of North Korea’s Rail Authority sighs, saying, “They want us to solve the problem but we don’t have the wood, electricity, or freight cars. We don’t have any tools to solve the problem.”

National Defense Committee to Inspect Railroads

The National Defense Committee국방위원회 has begun to inspect railroads. Recently, the Committee sent inspectors to the railroad authority office철도국 in Chungjin, North Hamgyung Province. They were told to inspect whether local offices were doing well in meeting Kim Jong-Il’s directive to stabilize the nation’s railroad problems. They will be making sure railroad operations are running normally, repairs are being done on time to both passenger and freight cars, materials are not being stolen by managers and laborers, and workers are coming to work on time. They will especially watch that managers do not siphon off coal while loading it onto the trains. Because of the rumor that inspection teams will go to local railroad stations, stations are working through the day without turning on their fireplaces or stoves, making the workers shiver through the day. At the same time, Kim Jong-Il supposedly reiterated his wishes for the railroad operation to improve dramatically this year.

Well-off Hamheung 5.18 Enterprise
Hamheung city함흥시, South Hamgyung Province함경남도 has a city construction enterprise도시건설사업소 called 5.18. This enterprise is one of the companies that provides laborers with the highest standards of welfare. This enterprise currently delmolishes one story houses in Hamheung and constructs 6-7 story apartments. The 5.18 enterprise secures its construction laborers enough food for a month and two meals a day, lunch and dinner. Furthermore, the enterprise will guarantee the workers a salary and a food ration by selling 3 stories of each apartment unit when the construction is completed. The salary is 3,000 won per month, and the enterprise continuously secures the salary and food supply for its laborers. Usually, officials or rich people live in the 1st story to the 4th story and laborers or poor people will use the 5th to the 7th stories. Because most companies cannot give their workers food and salary, 5.18 enterprise workers’ have the highest level of living standards in Hamheung. Therefore, other residents envy the workers for being so well off.

Electronic Goods Not Selling Due to Lack of Electricity
Retailers are upset because electronic goods are not selling due to a lack of electricity nationwide. One foreign goods retailer in Pohang District포항구역 Chungjin City said that he has sold hardly any electronic goods between last October and this February because there is no electricity. Salesmen have not been able to meet their quotas for the last several months. No change is predicted for February as the electricity situation has not improved.

Car Batteries and Candles Substituted for Electricty
As it has become harder for residents to obtain electricity, they are now looking for substitutes such as 12V rechargeable batteris produced by China, car batteries, and candles. Usually, rich residents use car batteries. When oridinary laborers go to work, they bring flashlights or small rechargeables with them and recharge with industrial electricity from their companies and then take their recharged items back home. Staff at companies and workers at relatively good companies usually have 5 recharchable batteries and sometimes more than 10 batteries in their offices. Since it is rare for even companies to use electricity, many people cannot obtain industrial electricity. The poor buy candles for light. Soonchun City순천시, South Pyongan Province, has not had electricity since last year October. On last January 1st, residents had only 5 hours of electricity for New Year’s Day and that was the only electricity supply. We easily hear the lamentable complaints of suffering at any company, such as, “When we go home at night, we do not have any light at home or any food, so we feel too uneasy to endure this suffering. We cannot survive anymore.”

Inspection of Retired Teachers’ Extracurricular Tutoring

As a nationwide inspection of extracurricular tutoring과외 is conintued, the tutoring activities of retired teachers receiving a pension are also under scrutiny. Of the retired teachers, some gather and teach a few children of officials or the rich and receive 10,000 to 20,000 won to maintain their living. Each local police station지역보안서 has stationed police officers주재보안원 to investigate teachers who tutor students in their homes, issue the teachers with fines, and severly criticize them for the tutoring. A retired teacher complained that while even teachers in service work as extracurricular tutors to feed their families, the retired teachers’ extracurricular tutoring could not possibly be a big problem. But then he restrained his word. The teacher stated that the authority’s inspections did not start suddenly or unexpectedly, and he will continue the tutoring if he is not caught. He cynically stated that as people sacrifice their lives to feed their families and themselves, “I should kill myself if I complain about this situation and give up the job.”

Extracurricular Tutoring goes Against Principle of Educational Equality
The North Korean authorities have maintained a very strong stance about the inspection of extracurricular tutoring. An official stated that the inspection is based on the rule, “In North Korea, no individual should receive any special treatment and everyone should learn on the foundation of educational equality.” It is true that the highest quality of educational services, facilities, and teachers are concentrated in Pyongyang and many children of officials study there, so extracurricular tutoring is likewise allowed in the city. Many officials also look for highly qualifed teachers to tutor their children, no matter how much they have to pay. The authorities in North Korea do not inspect extracurricular tutoring in Pyongyang because they seem to believe that the city has a generally high quality of educational services and even if some students pay for tutoring, they do not show any difference in their academic performance. On the other hand, other cities heavily inspect for tutoring because teachers seem to provide instruction only to a few students in order to make money from tutoring. The teachers only help the students who pay for tutoring because if they taught properly to their entire class, they would not have any students needing to pay for the service. Because of this situation, the North Korean authorities have emphasized again that teachers should teach all of their students fairly and in an environment without bias.

Border Patrol Soldiers Allowed Party Membership When Catching a Runaway (Defector)
From this year, any Border Patrol국경수비대 soldiers can enter the Party after they catch a defector crossing the river to China. In a lecture from high ranking officiers군관 for officers사관군인, they instructed that the soldiers should use any strategy to lure and catch those who want to flee or be smuggled, without any exception. Then the officers informed the soldiers that they will be able to appear as Party members to their parents after they finish their military service and return home, adding that this would be a very glorious recognition for the family. The content of this lecture was also published in a magazine for the Border Patrols.

‘Ice’ Smugglers Now Responsibilty of Province Police Station

North Hamgyung Province함경북도 has decided to handle those convicted of carrying more than 100g of ‘Ice’ 빙두(얼음) (a kind of amphetamine) directly on the province police level and no longer on the city or county level. If any suspects are caught selling more than 100g of ‘Ice’ to other dealers or addicts by City or County Police Stations보안서 in a national border area, the suspects are tranfered to a Province Police Station도보안서. This change is based on the recognition that city and county police stations tend to release suspects too easily due to close connections in the charge areas.

Seasonal Life Story of Ordinary House Wives
Male workers must go to work even without salary or rationing for fear of being punished in a Re-education Center단련대 if they do not. This does not change, even in a busy farming season. After all, it is not the role of the husband to feed the family but that of the housewife가두여성. In the early morning, together with their children, mothers travel to their personal plots on hillsides far from the villages. The children prefer plot-farming over attending school because of the many school requirements that they cannot afford. During farming, the lunch menu, at best, consists of a small amount of corn-rice옥수수밥 balls with soybean-paste된장or Korean Cabbage Gimchi배추김치. After a long day of arduous farming mothers come down the hill at dusk. At home, women prepare dinner for their families using extremely valuable long-grain rice안남미 or barley corn 보리쌀in dark kitchens without any electricity, relying only on candlelight. After eating dinner, which is hardly enough to satisfy her appetite, a completely exhausted mother must take care of her overdue laundry and cleaning.

At the same time, women members of Neighborhood Units인민반 also must participate in rural farming campaigns during farming seasons. From mid-May, the women must participate in all kinds of public farming, such as rice planting, weeding, rice reaping in the autumn along with moving rice-sheats. Last autumn, farms announced that they will no longer use a laborforce of mobilized housewives. Mobilized housewives hide ears of rice in their pockets in their spare time. Eventhough the farms search their pockets thoroughly before the housewives leave for home, many women bring the rice home with them. Some women even dredge a few ears of rice in their headtowel to use as chicken feed. When housewives work as part of farming mobilization농촌동원, old members of family tend to personal plots on the hill in place of the housewives. Even during the idle winter season of farming, a woman’s works does not decrease, due to continuing projects with Neighborhood Units and the Democratic Women’s Union 녀맹. The Democratic Women’s Union holds a lecture meeting every Thursday. Anyone absent from these meetings will face a Fight for Ideology사상투쟁 and as a result, housewives attend Thursday meetings even with fatigue. There are many women who lament that they cannot eat fully even though they work every day without vacation from early morning to midnight. In spite of lamenting their every day lives that have no hope, housewives move their exhausted bodies again to feed their families and themselves the next morning.

Ignorance is Not Bliss about Relatives’ News
For ordinary North Korean residents, the chance to hear about their siblings and reletives who live far away is rare because of huge travelling costs caused by inconvenient road systems. Due to frequent electricity failures, traveling is difficult and takes more than 3 to 4 days, in addition to meal preparation for the travel time. Road travel can incur fees of at least 9,000 won per person and 1,000-2,000 won per bag. Visits are also difficult because familes must consider food shortages. Their relatives may look happy to see you, but they might think, “how can I afford enough for for everyone?” As living conditions get worse, there is little contact among relatives. Missing his parents and brothers, a forty year old man’s eyes were inflamed with fresh tears. “Who does not miss their parents and brothers? It is the hard living conditions that keep us from helping and contacting each other. For more than a decade, I’ve cried only in my heart, lamenting the given situation and missing them.”

Family Abusers are Suspected ‘Ice’ Addicts
In an effort to strengthen restrictions on ‘Ice’, the North Korean government has ordered that investigations on suspects with frequent family quarrels and large debt be given first priority. After observing groups of ‘Ice’ addicts in confinement, the Neurology Research Center신경환자연구소 of the 49th Mental Hospital 49호정신병원 located in Euijoo County 의주군 North Pyongan Province평안북도 found that ‘Ice’ addicts share common characteristics like family violence and debt problems. Based on the research, ‘Ice’ that is produced according national standards does not cause any symptoms of neurological damage. On the contrary, many long-term addicts who use privately made “Ice” display symptoms of neurological damage. The Research Center reports that these types of addicts are easily angered, abuse their families, and display symptoms of paranoia. In addition, most of them borrow large amounts of money to buy ‘Ice’ and suffer from debt problems as a result. Following the research results, the party has distributed guidance with priority consideration given to households rumored to have frequent family disputes and large amounts of debt. Tapping devices will be installed in those households in order that they may be monitored. If any information is found regarding ‘Ice’, suspects will be arrested immediately. A staff member complained, “Now no family quarrel will be allowed following these stupid instructions. Isn’t it pathetic to look at stupid research results and to try to catch suspects with such absurd clues?”

Trading the ‘No.1 Picture’ Inside Army Camps
Photos taken with Chairman Kim Jong-Il, so called ‘No.1 Pictures’ 1호사진, are traded at prices around 25,000 -30,000 won per photo. Recently inside the People’s Army인민군, several Political Directive Officers정치지도원 sold their pictures to other soldiers that were taken with Chairman Kim Jong-Il when he visited their company, as having a picture taken with the chairman will bring good chances of a promotion. In reality however, it is very hard to distinguish each figure in a group picture except in special cases. Some people often buy the photo to hang on the wall, lying that it was taken in their military term when Chairman Kim Jong-Il visited their camp.

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