GoodFriends: Research Institute For North Korean Society

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North Korea Today No. 112

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

North Korea Today
112th Edition February 2008

Retreating Eyes, Advancing Cheekbones
How Many Farm Workers Will Survive This Year?
Wives Battle to Keep the Families Alive in Farms
People Pay Back 1.7 Times of What They Borrowed from the Government
Foreign Exchange Earnings by Sub-military Corporations Reduced
Parents Use Their Own Children in Drug Sales
Construction of Additional Mental Hospitals Due to a Higher Number of Drug-Related Mental Health Patients
Revision to Punishment for “Ice” Related Crimes
Seven Crime Precepts of Anti-Socialism
Strict Punishment for Receiving Money from Children in South Korea
Distilling Alcohol from Food Prohibited
North Hamgyung Province Distributes Long-Grain Rice to Celebrate 2.16 Holiday
Kkotjebi Sent to Welfare Institutions with No Exceptions
Kkotjebis Beg Even If They Have Parents
Luck after Being Hit by a Wealthy Company’s Car
Fighter Jet Crashes in Taetan County Airfield
Train Derailment in Jungju Station in North Pyongan Province
Woodcutters Charged with Slaughtering Cattle Sentenced to Re-education
Electricity Short Causes Explosion


Retreating Eyes, Advancing Cheekbones
The soldiers in Kangwon Province강원도 coined a phrase that’s catching on in the country. Since they have so little to eat, they often refer to themselves as having the stomach of a coyote, “with retreating eyes and advancing cheekbones.” Some citizens hold those soldiers returning from duty in Kangwon province in extremely high regard, since many soldiers there are commonly discharged in the middle of their tour due to malnutrition from the acute lack of food. Although they supposedly receive food in the fall, it gets so pilfered throughout the process – from being stolen on the train to the high officials taking their cuts – that the frontline soldiers are lucky if they get corn-rice mixed with powered corn cob묵지가루, 1-2 radishes, and salty soup. Driven by their hunger, soldiers frequently steal out of their base and filch crops and grains from neighboring farms and private plots, leading to a bad relationship with the locals. Some locals buy the soldiers food and drinks out of sympathy for the young soldiers being so far away from home, but most of them try to stay away from the soldiers because many have been victimized by the soldiers’ food-hunting forays.

How Many Farm Workers Will Survive This Year?
Food has run out already in some collective farms in North Hamgyung Province함경북도. A three-member family unit received 500kg of foodstuffs for the year, if they did really well. However, after paying back for the corn borrowed during the summer and contributing their share of pork to the People’s Army 인민군대 among other contributions, some families paid 530kg worth of foodstuff, which is more than what they received. Therefore, some families are starting to borrow corn again starting in January just to survive.

North Korean authorities say that 20% of the families have run out of food currently. They predict that 40% of households will be out of food by the end of March. Because of a rumor that food will be even scarcer in the coming months, it has become even more difficult to borrow food. The farm workers who are out of food now are surviving daily by eating the leftovers they gleaned from the harvested fields. One old man confided that he is only waiting to die, saying that “I feel guilty to my family for living into my 70’s.” Other farm workers also agree that it’s more difficult to live day by day instead of dying and being done with it. They don’t think that better days are coming anytime soon. They say with a collective voice that the promise of a better life has become a sad joke, an outdated mantra from yester years. “How many farm workers will survive this year?” they ask plaintively. The female farm workers all say, “We must survive this year but we don’t know how to keep our husbands and children alive.”

Wives Battle to Keep the Families Alive in Farms
The wives in the farm are shedding bloody tears trying to keep their families alive. Last year, the wives did everything to put their husbands’ welfare ahead of theirs on the thought that a family cannot hold together without the head of the household and that children should not grow up without a father. However, the lack of food often took a toll of the nerves of the family members, resulting in a lot of fights with the wives often beaten by the husbands. Even this winter, it’s common to see women without even a pair of cotton-filled shoes roaming out in the barren fields looking for leftover grains to glean and carry it back to their children. Things are so bad that they can’t even eat a bowl of rice on the lunar New Year, the biggest holiday of the year. Many women cried when they couldn’t afford to feed their families this past lunar New Year. They are only hoping that their husband’s or children’s birthdays won’t come up soon since they can’t afford to celebrate it in any way. “Even during the Arduous March고난의 행군 we didn’t suffer across the board like this,” one woman cried.

People Pay Back 1.7 Times of What They Borrowed From the Government
Last May, many farm workers were too hungry to go out and work during the rice planting season. They could barely drag their bodies. Therefore, the authorities lent ears of corn (the ‘No.2 Rice’2호미) for them to eat and recover their strength so that they could plant the rice. The terms were that the borrowing households – receiving from 50~80kg each - would pay back 1.7 times the amount of food they borrowed when the harvest season rolled around in the fall. Those households that borrowed the corn ears all paid back the authorities without fail according to the terms.

Foreign Exchange Earnings by Sub-military Corporations Reduced
Foreign exchange earnings by military-related corporations are due to be reduced. This past December 23rd, a directive was issued to decree that military-related export companies and those export companies not officially designated as such by the central government will be reorganized immediately across the board. The Central Party cabinet officials, meeting on February 1st, sent down directives to all the provincial institutions that stated, “All military units should eliminate military-related foreign currency generating export companies and reduce the number of entities in order to strengthen the strong export companies. Also, regional party institutions should be put forward the military units of each region.” The justification of the new directive is: “Until now, under the auspices of the military-first policy선군정치, various military units have been setting up export companies and engaging in business without proper authorization and oversight from the central government, resulting in great waste of national resources and negatively impacting national property.” This is the first time that the central government has spoken out in favor of the party over the military ever since the Arduous March times when the military-first policy was first emphasized. One official opined, “I think the policy has dual purpose. It wants to assuage the rising tide of outrage by the people at the corruption endemic in the military. It also wants to check the rising power of the military. Many officials are wondering at the timing of the policy announcement but they all agree that it’s about time.” However, he cautioned that it remains to be seen how the policy will be implemented since it will affect the self-viability of the military.

Parents Use Their Own Children in Drug Sales
A recent case investigating illegal drug sales has exposed the involvement of several teenagers. Four 6th grade students of a junior high school in Jurye-dong주례동 in Pyungsung City평성시 were arrested for the sale of illicit drugs. The teenagers are currently undergoing further investigation. Two of those arrested said that they sold the drugs because their parents asked them to do so. This confession caused a considerable stir within the North Korean society. Parents who produce drugs illegally are using their own children to sell the drugs in order to avoid inspection. Further investigation has revealed that they sold their drugs, costing 2,000-2500 won per pill, to their regular clients—mostly drug addicts. The case is still under investigation. Due to a high rate of sales in addition to the investigators’ discovery of various types of products in the homes of the parents, severe punishments are likely to be imposed on these parents.

Construction of Additional Mental Hospitals Due to a Higher Number of Drug-Related Mental Health Patients
North Korean authorities have made a decision to construct additional mental hospitals in certain parts of the country, due to an increase in the number of patients with ‘Ice’얼음(빙두) (a kind of amphetamine) related illnesses. Hamheung City함흥시 in South Hamgyung Province함경남도, is a city with one of the largest populations of drug addicts and has faced difficulty due to the lack of facilities for mental health patients. In response, the City has decided to expand the 49th Mental Hospital 49호정신병원 on Jomak Mountain조막산 in Gowon County고원군 by building two additional wards. Because the increase in ‘Ice’ addicts has exceeded the capacity of the existing facilities, Chungjin in North Hamheung Province also met with the Health Department of Provincial People’s Assembly 도인민위원회보건부 in order to assess the situation. As a result of the meeting, authorities developed a plan to construct a separate mental ward near a farm village in the 3rd unit of Oryu-ri오류리 3반 in Hoeryung City회령시.

Revision to Punishment for “Ice” Related Crimes
In response to Chairman Kim Jong-Il’s recent and repeated calls for effective restraint on ‘Ice,’ authorities have revised existing rules on ‘Ice’ related crimes. People who are charged in ‘Ice’ related crimes are punished as follows: First, those who sell or trade more than 3 kg of ‘Ice’ are executed by firing squad. Second, those who deal more than 2 kg and under 3 kg of ‘Ice’ are sent to a Labor Education Center (LEC) for life무기노동교화형. Third, those who sell 1 kg of ‘Ice’ are sent to LEC노동교화형 for 10-12 years. And fourth, those who sell less that 1 kg of ‘Ice’ are sent to LEC for 5-10 years. A key feature of the recent revision specifies punishment based on the quantity of ‘Ice’ a suspect sells. Since then, North Korean authorities have called for legal affair units to follow the revised rules and to tighten controls specifically over middle to high ranking officers, due to an increase in the involvement of high-ranking officers’ in ‘Ice’ related crimes. Some take part in ‘Ice’ sales while others are addicted to ‘Ice,’ which causes low job performance.

Seven Crime Precepts of Anti-Socialism
Since February 2008, lectures on the Seven Crime Precepts of Anti-Socialism have been provided during normal and document-based study classes정규화학습시간 for the members of Democratic Women’s Union녀맹원 in national border areas. The Seven Anti-Socialism crimes are: 1) Human trafficking 2) The abscondence of family members to South Korea 3) Individuals receiving money transferred from China, South Korea, and Japan 4) Receiving commissions by connecting families in the North and South through China (by using mobile phones) 5) Drug sales or trading with Chinese drug dealers 6) Unemployment and 7) Unregistered lodging무단숙박. Authorities have called for prompt and forceful action against any of the aforementioned anti-socialist activities as these activities are considered the primary way to leak national information.

Strict Punishment for Receiving Money from Children in South Korea
The Central Government has issued an order through the meeting of the Neighborhood Unit인민반 in the national border areas that no resident should receive any money from children who live China or South Korea. If authorities discover that anyone receives money from their children in China, they will be sent to the Training Centers단련대 or sentenced to Re-education교화형, depending on the seriousness of the crime. If residents receive money from South Korea, the punishment will become stricter and could result in the maximum penalty.

Distilling Alcohol from Food Prohibited
The North Korean authorities annually inspect the brewing and selling of alcohol. At the beginning of last February, the authorities issued a nationwide order prohibiting the distillation of alcohol from food. They warned that people who brew alcohol for money will be caught and the offenders will be exiled or sentenced to 6 months in the Labor Training Centers (Nodongdalnyundae)노동단련대, based on the seriousness of their crime. Generally, people distill liquor from corn to sell for money. The government has emphasized that people must not waste valuable food to brew alcohol. Some locations have already started the inspecting for distilling, but most locations will not start inspections until after the Lunar New Year. Police officers보안원 in charge of each district will seize those households who distill alcohol from corn for money. In locations where the inspections occur, police officers generally search households that make alcohol professionally and confiscate the devices.

North Hamgyung Province Distributes Long-Grain Rice to Celebrate 2.16 Holiday
To celebrate Chairman Kim Jong-Il’s birthday on 2/16, North Hamgyung Province officials distributed long-grain rice안남미 to the households of laborers’ who are currently working. Adults seemed to be glad for the small amount distributed, even though they were not completely satisfied. However, the children were extremely delighted and welcomed the distribution. One resident stated that his child was happier than he was and the child has persistently asked him to cook the rice. Although the distribution could not be a big assistance, the resident continually stated that the food distribution in honor of a major holiday is still gracious when considering the pleasure it brings to the children.

Kkotjebi Sent to Welfare Institutions with No Exceptions
At the end of last January, officials of Gowon County 고원군, South Hamgyung Province 함경남도 met with the Secretary in charge of the County Party군당책임비서 in regards to the Kkotjebi (homeless children)꽃제비. At the meeting, they discussed the solutions for the increasing number of Kkotjebi in the county’s public places, such as in railroad stations, the station concourses, and at markets. Gowon County is an intersecting spot where South Hamgyung Province, South Pyongan Province 평안남도, and Kangwon province강원도 are all adjacent to each other, and as a result, this county has a remarkable amount of Kkotjebi. If a city or a county has many Kkotjebi, it is assumed that the secretary in charge of the city party or county party poorly performs his duties. With this information, the secretary in charge of the Gowon county party issued an order after the meeting, stating that Kkotjebi should be apprehended as soon as they are found and sent to Welfare Institutions구제소, starting in February. After obtaining the Kkotjebis’s hometown, the authorities will send the children to the Welfare Institutions in the appropriate districts, making no exceptions. Based on this order, first police officers of Gowon County will catch Kkotjebi and send them to Welfare Institutions after which they will then attempt to find the children’s parents, or send them an orphanage if they do not have parents. At the same time, the Youth Union청년동맹 at Gowon County will select outstanding members of companies and enterprises to organize a committee that will investigate delinquent teenagers. They will generally examine teenagers’ clothing styles and their appearances and investigate suspicious and unwholesome teenagers.

Kkotjebis Beg Even If They Have Parents
The more we travel to the agricultural villages, the more we find that many children beg even though they have parents, because the parents do not secure food for their children. Children usually beg at the market or steal food to feed themselves. Since children under 10 years old do not have the ability to steal, they beg and eat soiled food that has fallen on the ground. Children who are slightly older pick the pockets market goers by using a certain type of tongs. When caught by adults, the children are usually beaten until they were covered in a mass of bleeding flesh. Some Kkotjebi beg at every house. They loaf around from door to door and beg for leftovers. Most landlords coldly expel the children and do not even want them in their yards. On rare occasions, a few kind households will feel pity for these children and give them scorched rice or a handful of cold rice. But by and large, these children are generally treated with contempt.

Luck after Being Hit by a Wealthy Company’s Car
On February 7th around 11am, a car accident occurred in Younjin-ri연진리 Chungjin City, North Hamgyung Province. Daesung Trade Company대성총국 in Pyongyang hit a farmer in Sagu-ri farm collective and the farmer died at the scene. Daesung Trade Company has offered 1,500,000 won to the survivors as consolation and has promised to provide them with a TV, VCR and a refrigerator from their headquarters in Pyongyang. After hearing the news, the residents in Yonjin-ri and Sagu-ri have said, “If you die in a car accident, it’s better to be killed by a rich company’s car.” Compensation is large enough to help the survivors. There are many residents who are still following the actual resolution results, doubting whether the company will keep their promise.

Fighter Jet Crashes in Taetan County Airfield
On January 18th, a fighter jet exploded in Taetan County태탄군 airfield in South Hwanghae Province황해남도. While landing after a training session, the jet crashed into a tractor in the airfield due to a problem with the rudder. As a result of the accident, the pilot was injured and the jet and tractor were both damaged.

Train Derailment in Jungju Station in North Pyongan Province
On the morning of January 27th , a train derailed near Jungju station정주역 in North Pyongan Province. The train, loaded with cement, derailed just before arriving at Jungju station. Four train cars out of ten rolled over and two cement workers were killed. Soldiers in Jungju County정주군 cleared the accident.

Woodcutters Charged with Slaughtering Cattle Sentenced to Re-education
In late-January, it was discovered that woodcutters from the Forest Public Enterprise 림산사업소 in Daekwan-town대관읍 Daekwan County대관군 North Pyongan Province slaughtered and ate a steer that grazed in a nearby farm to a mountain where they traveled to cut timber. Charged with slaughtering and eating a farm-owned steer, the leader and his four partners were sentenced to 8 and 5 years of re-education respectively. During the time of the Arduous March, many of the criminals that were charged with slaughtering and eating cattle were openly executed. Compared to that time, the punishment is much lighter than before. However, some residents say that the lives of cattle are still more highly valued than those of humans.

Electricity Short Causes Explosion
On February 5th, an explosion occurred in a family house in Baekma town백마읍 Baekma County백마군 North Pyongan Province. The resident, Mr. Jo sells gasoline as a specialist. Electricity short caused a fire to start near five drums of gasoline and led to the explosion of the whole house. Three family members including Mr. Jo, along with two soldiers were killed in the accident. Only the son of Mr. Jo, who attends school as a guard, luckily avoided the accident. The only property that was not lost in the tragedy was a photo of Chairman Kim Jong-Il.

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