GoodFriends: Research Institute For North Korean Society

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North Korea Today No. 113

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

North Korea Today
113th Edition February 2008
This Is the Year When Even the Landlord’s Wife Has to Go Begging
Inspection on the Food Situation among the Farm Collective Households
My Wish Is to Eat White Rice before Dying
Fire at a State Farm in Mangyungdae Destroyed Vegetable Seeds
In Hwanghae Region, Even Industrial Electricity Supply Is Irregular
Sariwon Station Suffers from Kkotjebi
Scarcity of Sweet Potatoes in Shingye County
A Leading Secretary of Shingye County Sentenced to Re-education for Engaging in Corrupt Activities
A Vehicle Accident Carrying Songee (Korean Pine) Mushrooms belonged to the Province Trades Bureau of Hamheung
Onsung County Decides to Make a Wall of Wooden Planks with Nail
'Ice' Produced and Sold by Teens
People’s Safety Agency Distributed the Second Directive on ‘Ice’ Investigation
'Ice' Investigation Police Officers Got Their Guns Taken Away and Beaten
Teacher Receiving Money from Students as Graduation Present Was Punished
Wanted Soldiers Who Killed a Man in a Holdup

This Is the Year When Even the Landlord’s Wife Has to Go Begging
With the beginning of the New Year, no new hope is on the horizon. Instead, it’s getting tougher to live. The year 2004 was labeled as the “year when even the landlord’s wife goes to the hills.” The year 2005 was nicknamed as the “year when even a millionaire goes peddling행방.” This year, it’s “when even the landlord’s wife has to go begging.” That’s how heightened the sense of urgency is among the farm workers. There are many households who are already bereft of any food and they are saying that it will be tough for them to last through the spring. Of course, even among the farm workers, there are the foreman반장, team leader분조장, bookkeeper 부기, and chief engineer기사장 who could afford to eat white rice this past holiday. However, ordinary farm workers are having a tough time finding something to eat. Many of these ordinary farm households spent the last lunar New Years traversing the barren fields, with the children in tow, looking for fallen ears of grains to make into runny porridge. This sense of urgency over food is also striking the hearts of lower level officials and prosecutors and judges. There are those among them who say without hesitation that this year 2008 will be worse than the Arduous March years 고난의행군 . This is why this year was nicknamed as the year in which the wife of a prosperous household must go around begging for food to feed her family.

Inspection on the Food Situation among the Farm Collective Households
The North Korean authorities are undertaking a nation-wide inspection on the food shortage situation of the farm collective households in order to come up with a national contingency plan. One inspector, even while engaged in the inspections, was pessimistic about the proposed national contingency plan. His point was that, while the intention was good, the results will be a foregone conclusion. “There is no emergency food to give out to the people. Therefore, only the regional officials will be caught between a rock and a hard place when the central government inevitably orders the regional officials to come up with the necessary food.”

My Wish Is to Eat White Rice before Dying
The elderly in small rural villages are saying that their dream is to eat a bowl of white rice쌀밥, no matter how small, before they die. The elderly, because of their weak teeth, usually subsist on corn noodles or porridge. One elderly person in Baechun배천, Hwanghae Province황해도 said that, although he cannot ask his children outright because of guilt, his dreams would come true if he could eat even a single grain of white rice before he died. Unfortunately, even this small dream is unlikely to come true. Although South Hwanghae Province황해남도 is considered the bread basket of North Korea, there hasn’t been any public distribution of food of any kind. Even the food prices are the same as everywhere else. Currently in early February, rice is 1,300 won per 1 kg in Baechun배천, Ryongyeon룡연, and Oongjin County옹진군of South Hwanghae Province. Corn has gone up to 720 won per kg.

Considering the situation, a household who gets to eat every meal, whatever that meal might consist of, is considered well off. Households that eat corn-rice옥수수밥 with salted radish염장무 and a miso soup (fermented soy bean soup)된장국made with Korean cabbage and radish leaves dried in the fall are all considered well off. If the middle class is this bad, then people say that there is no saying how much worse the lower class is faring. Since everyone knows of the current hardships, the elderly man cannot possibly speak of his dream out loud.

Fire at a State Farm in Mangyungdae Destroyed Vegetable Seeds
Various kinds of vegetable seeds for planting this year have been destroyed by fire at a state farm in Manyungdae district만경대구역, Pyongyang 평양 on February 3, 2008. Investigations revealed that the fire was caused by an electrical short circuit. In addition to vegetable seeds, the fire ravaged rice and corn seeds, which were developed for an experiment by a seed research center 종자연구기관 in the National Institute of Agricultural Science농업과학원. The rice and corn seeds burned by the February 3 fire were about to be planted for experimental cultivation at the state farm, after several years of arduous research. Besides the seeds, the fire killed 180 out of 250 chickens at a henhouse. Due to a great deal of fire damage, the farm managers are afraid of possible blame and punishment for the fire. The police station보안서 and party of the district will clarify where the responsibility lies as soon as the investigations are over.

In Hwanghae Region, Even Industrial Electricity Supply Is Irregular
Counties of South Hwanghae Province, such as Oongjin County and Ryongyeon County, have ruthless difficulties with electricity supply. Like other places, these counties do not provide any electricity to ordinary households. Furthermore, companies and enterprises can use industrial electricity for only 3-5 hours a day, but even this supply is irregular. Because the electricity is not supplied during the fixed time but delivered at random hours, laborers of the companies cannot work effectively. Thus, companies cannot manufacture even basic food products that are necessary for residents.

Sariwon Station Suffers from Kkotjebi
The waiting room대합실 at the Sariwon station사리원역 in North Hwanghae Province 황해북도 is packed with Kkotjebis(homeless children)꽃제비, which causes a great deal of inconvenience to travelers. Usually, more Kkotjebis come to the station at night. They scatter to take a spot in the room and sleep there by covering themselves with pieces of plastic bags or clothes. Due to the high number of Kkotjebi, it is even hard for travelers to find a seat in the waiting room. What is worse, Kkotjebis wield their power over travelers; when travelers find a seat next to Kkotjebi they are often kicked out by Kkotjebis. Even police officers find it difficult to control Kkotjebis because there are just so many of them.

Scarcity of Sweet Potatoes in Shingye County
Shingye County신계군 in North Hwanghae Province has been famous for sweet potatoes고구마 since in the old days. Yet its fame is fading away due to the food shortage. An increasing rate of sweet potato theft by soldiers at a neighboring military base has significantly affected the harvest. As a result, farmers of Shingye County no longer plant sweet potatoes. Residents said that it was not long ago when they did sweet potato farming, but now it is hard to find a sweet potato farm in the county.

A Leading Secretary of Shingye County Sentenced to Re-education for Engaging in Corrupt Activities
A leading secretary책임비서 of Shingye County was recently sentenced to Re-education교화형 as his/her corrupt activities were uncovered. Last summer, the government provided relief goods to Shingye County due to the great flood damage. It is revealed that the secretary secretly hoarded some of these relief goods for himself/herself.

A Vehicle Accident Carrying Songee (Korean Pine) Mushrooms belonged to the Province Trades Bureau of Hamheung
Last February 9th, a container truck which belonged to the Province Trades Bureau 도무역국of Hamheung City, South Hamgyung Province함경남도, tumbled down a valley. The vehicle loading about 4 MT of pickled Songee송이(Korean pine) mushrooms with salt was heading for Rajin City라진시. At the Machunryung Hill마천령고개, the vehicle had a flat time while going downhill, lost its balance and fell flat on the gorge. The vehicle was completely destroyed and wrecked like a crumpled paper, and the mushrooms were scattered around on the valley. All of the three passengers in the truck were killed on the spot.

Besides this accident there was another vehicle accident on the same day. A bus heading for Ryongyeon County to Taetan County태탄군, South Hwanghae Province, tumbled down at Gokchangryung곡착령 Hill. In this accident 7 people were killed and 8 people injured.

Onsung County Decides to Make a Wall of Wooden Planks with Nail
Onsung County in North Hamkyung Province decided to make wooden planks with nail못판 in order to block people from crossing the Tumen River두만강. The size of each board would be 50cm on all sides. Each household belonging to the Democratic Women’s Union 녀맹 or Neighborhood Unit인민반 have been notified as such. Every two Neighborhood Unit households must produce a wooden plank; if they can’t, they have to pay 1,000 won in cash. The households who can’t afford this, especially those with only the elderly, are complaining that they can’t possibly make such a board now that they don’t even have enough money to eat. Others complain that they can’t make a wooden plank when there are no materials around. Still others say that the authorities should craft some more fundamental policies rather than trying to prevent people from crossing the river to escape. All in all, people view this latest effort as a policy to bother people rather than trying to stop the escapees on a more fundamental level. One resident said, “I don’t know who thought up such a policy but they must be trying to henpeck us all to death.” Whenever the Onsung County온성군 residents get together, they express their anxiety with a sigh: “They want us to give and give when there is nothing coming back to us. We don’t know how we are to live in the future.”

'Ice' Produced and Sold by Teens
In Hamheung city함흥시 of South Hamgyung Province, the Anti-Socialist Conscience Investigation Patrol비사회주의그루빠 검열조 caught ‘Ice'얼음(빙두) (a kind of amphetamine) - producing and selling teens. The teens are 6th grade students in Sapo middle school사포중학교 in Hamheung , and has made ‘Ice’ under their parents’ cooperation. Even the patrol cannot repress their astonishment. Because the teenagers were too young to be punished as legal criminals, they were simply disciplined. Instead, the teacher in charge of them was fired and sent to the farm as a farmer. Meanwhile, an administrative staff in Hamhung College of Chemical Industry 함흥화학공업대학 were also caught during the investigation, who produced and sold ‘Ice’ to an ‘Ice’ smuggler in Sinuiju신의주 for the last three years.

People’s Safety Agency Distributed the Second Directive on ‘Ice’ Investigation
People’s Safety Agency인민보안성issued a directive on ‘Ice’ censorship to Police Stations in Hamheung City and Heungnam City 흥남시. It directs each station to investigate and arrest ‘Ice’ producers and smugglers again within this first quarter that were not detected in the Investigation of the Anti-Socialist Activities. The Safety Agency insist to investigate and deter a crime properly and to eradicate ‘Ice’ smuggling around the national boarder area. In addition, the agency ordered to enhance ‘Ice’ prevention education in various ways by holding explanation lectures and meetings. The agency asserted that fact that “the ‘Ice’ crime blurs the lens on our life and destroys the mental conditions like poison” should be specially pointed out during the residents’ education.

'Ice' Investigation Police Officers Got Their Guns Taken Away and Beaten
Last February 8th, some Police Officers보안원 had their guns taken away and were beaten during an ‘Ice’ investigation in Sunam District수남지역 of Chungjin City청진시 in North Hamgyung Province. Around at 10pm, three Police Officers in charge of the ‘Ice’ investigation searched two young men’s bodies on Sunam Bridge수남다리. They found about 50g of ‘Ice’ in the body search. Then suddenly the young men attacked the Police Officers and a violent fight broke out in the middle of the night. Despite the fact that the Public Officers outnumbered, they got beaten and robbed of their guns. The young men seemed to have superior fighting skills. They threw the guns into the river and ran away. As the news spread out to the residents that fully-armed Police Officers failed to arrest the criminals and even got their guns robbed and beaten, they became a mockery and were called ‘pitiful fools’.

Teacher Receiving Money from Students as Graduation Present Was Punished
A teacher of Sunam middle school수남중학교 in Sunam District of Chungjin City was punished on charge of getting money from the students in commemoration of their graduation. Following the lead of the representative of the parents’ committee, students collected 15,000 won each and gave a color television and a bicycle to their teacher as presents. when this was reported to the City Party시당,the teacher was called in by the Organization and Guidance Department of City Party시당조직부 and had to write a letter of self-criticism for a week and received a 6-month party punishment. The teacher refunded the presents and gave back 15,000 won to the parents of the students. About this case, one teacher said “it is normal that teachers get great help when their students graduate. The teacher seems to have bad luck”.

Wanted Soldiers Who Killed a Man in a Holdup
Last February 5th, a midnight holdup occurred on a road around a middle school of Tongcheon-town통천읍, Tongcheon County 통천군, Kangwon Province강원도. When Mr. Lee, a laborer of the fisheries cooperative수산협동, was going home, three soldiers beat him and robbed his bicycle and 350 won which was all he had in his pockets. The robbing soldiers dumped the victim on the school’s flower garden and ran away. Mr. Lee was found the next morning around 8 o’clock. He barely described police officers investigating the accident that three soldiers beat and robbed him and died before he was moved to a hospital. The autopsy found that his skull was broken and he died because of the burst of his pancreas. Doctors said that it was a miracle for him to survive until the next morning. The police station started an immediate investigation and issued an order of execution by shooting with no exception if they are arrested.
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