GoodFriends: Research Institute For North Korean Society

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North Korea Today No. 114

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

North Korea Today
114th Edition March 2008

Food Shortage Lowers The Attendance Of A Munitions Factory in Eunduk County
It Has Been a While Since Rice Has Run Out in Ryongchun County
Jaeryoung County Has a Long Face At the Food Shortage
15 People Publicly Executed In Onsung County
“The Punishment Was Too Harsh.”
This Execution Was Designed To Stop People From Crossing Illegally
Increase in Sentence For Criminals Crossing The River To China
No Age Limit For Trading If Women Bear Many Children
“Newly-Wed Couples, Don’t Have Kids!”
The Only Thing Unprotected Children Learn Is Face-Reading
Kanggye City’s Measure To Assign Work In Companies To Women Under 40
Super-Rabbits Die Due To An Epidemic
Murder in Gooseung Factory
Notorious Machunryung Hill for Frequent Car Accidents
Increasing Widows in Samhae-dong Chungjin
6 Days of Drifting in the Sea


Food Shortage Lowers The Attendance Of A Munitions Factory in Eunduk County
From the beginning of this year, the attendance of a munitions factory in Eunduk County 은덕군, North Hamkyung Province함경북도, has remarkably decreased. Managers of the factory and officers from the Labor Department even visited their houses to bring them back to work. But all they got was their answers that they could not go to work because they don’t have anything to eat. The managers of the factory rushed to request food distribution to the munitions bureau군수총국, but the munitions bureau just replied by directing them to cajole and persuade the workers to work. A majority of workers in this factory are managing to live with corn porridge. This situation even caused theft within the factory. Last February 1st, even welding machines, transformers, copper wires have been stolen from the factory. These days, the trend among workers is stealing any equipment available to sell at the risk of being punished. Meanwhile, the factory security warned that thieves will be sent to a ‘Re-education center’ 교화소.

It Has Been a While Since Rice Has Run Out in Ryongchun County
It has been a while rice has run out in Ryongchun County룡천군. There is no food allocated to farmers at this time because even food for the military has not yet been allocated. The residents at Ryongchun County prayed to the moon on the first full moon day정월대보름. One woman expressed her humble wish that all things will turn easy like the round moon. She said, “I have no choice but to pray to the moon because I don’t know how to make our living. But, I felt at ease seeing such a bright moon. Even our children did not sleep and opened the window and looked at the moon. All our neighbors went out and prayed to the moon.”

Jaeryoung County Has a Long Face At the Food Shortage
Jaeryoung County재령군 in South Hwanghae Province황해남도 has sent 1,800 MT of military food to the rear base of the forth corps headquarters제4군단후방부 from last February 5th – 9th. Food shortages caused by last year’s flood and the huge contribution to the military this time have made the food distribution situation worse for the residents in this county.

15 People Publicly Executed In Onsung County
This past February 20th, 13 women and 2 men were publicly executed on a bridge located in Joowon-gu주원구, Onsung County온성군 in North Hamgyung Province황해북도. The authorities had previously advised members of all public institutions기관, public enterprises기업소, and neighborhood units인민반 to attend the execution. On the day of the execution, attendance was checked to make sure that no one was absent. The people who were executed were accused of planning to cross over to China to receive economic help in collusion with their relatives living in China. Others were accused of helping people to cross or of providing coyote services to those who wanted to cross over.

“The Punishment Was Too Harsh.”
Onsung County residents were deeply shocked over the public executions. Some residents cried as they witnessed the women being killed. One woman said, “I hope they don’t kill women but reeducate them so that they have a chance to be reunited with their husbands and children again.” Others opined, “There will be many others who will be dying of starvation this year anyway. If they start killing off people like this, how many will be left alive in the end?” There was a collective agreement that “this execution was too severe. Their only crime was doing whatever they could to survive.” They also agreed that “this execution was a matter of bad luck for those who got killed. They were made into examples. There are others who have done far more who weren’t touched. They were killed unjustly because we have laws that change so often. Some women who were killed seemed to have difficulty closing their eyes in peace because of the injustice that they must have felt.” Many felt heartbroken as if this execution happened to a member of their family.

A woman from Onsung Town온성읍 said, “This execution has the effect of actually making people more upset. They weren’t in a good place to begin with in the first place because everyone lacked food. Now with the executions, they are more than upset. They are angry.” A man in his forties who watched the executions stated angrily, “have the people who ordered the executions and those who carried out the executions even been hungry? Just because they misuse their official positions to live well, they don’t realize just how much people are suffering. Have they thought about how desperate those people must have been that they attempted the crossings?” He concluded that those who ordered and carried out the executions were greater criminals than those who were killed.

This Execution Was Designed To Stop People From Crossing Illegally
One official said that the recent executions by shooting was planned to prevent the increasing illegal crossings. “We see people moving more busily these days. Even those who seemed well off are running around trying to survive. What people are reporting to us these days is all about how someone ran away after an argument because they had nothing to eat, how someone is planning to go to China, who demanded 20,000 won for someone to use a phone to call his relatives in China, and other things like this. And we hear of several people disappearing every day, with relatives supposedly visiting family here before crossing over. We even hear of students in graduating classes disappearing every day. This is why we carried out the executions. We wanted people to have the right frame of mind on this issue.”

Increase in Sentence For Criminals Crossing The River To China
Since March 1st, 2007, the sentence has been increased for criminals who are caught while crossing the river to defect to China or are caught and returned to North Korea while living in China. Before changing the sentence, if the crimes were not related to South Korea, the prison term was at most 3 years, but now it is 5 to 7 years.

No Age Limit For Trading If Women Bear Many Children
Because the birth rate is falling, the North Korean authority has consistently used a fecundity policy. For last 15 years there was no food distribution and the living standards of most residents have worsened, so the birth rate has continuously fallen. Thus, the government has annually issued a measure about “Increasing fecundity of women.” This year, they also announced a policy increasing birth rates, “Special treatments for women giving birth to three children.” The special treatment policy for women specifically includes, “providing women bearing many children with a prime unit of a constructing apartment, exempting them from any non-tax payments to the Democratic Women’s Union 녀맹, Neighborhood Unit and schools, giving free food and groceries at public distribution stores, and using family nursing home facilities once a year.” Besides these benefits, they can receive a priority service on the train. One of the remarkable benefits is that women bearing many children can have a privilege of trading in the market without regardless of their ages. Officially announcing the special treatments for fecundity, the government has continuously issued an order and held lectures to cover this issue.

“Newly-Wed Couples, Don’t Have Kids!”
Contrary to the North Korean authority’s recommendation, newly-wed couples are often told by the elderly not to have children. Those who have children say that it is unfair to children themselves to be born during this difficult time, because parents cannot play the role as parents to their children. Being parents, they continue to say, is same as being criminals, because they often find themselves in a position where they have to force their children to do things beyond their capacity or even unethical, unless they are wealthy enough to afford their own family. Parents from poor households ask their school-age children, especially in fall, to cut rice ears; to steal corn from neighboring farms; to collect firewood from nearby hills; to remove weeds in the individual patches of land소토지밭; to take care of younger siblings; and to do all the errands. These parents are too poor to buy a pair of shoes even during a severe winter season when their kid’s feet are swollen and numb with cold. These impoverished parents are becoming so sick and tired of their poverty-stricken lives that they don’t even feel sorry for their children anymore. Due to such painful experiences, these parents expressed their willingness to dissuade people from giving birth to children.

The Only Thing Unprotected Children Learn Is Face-Reading
The only skill unprotected children learn is to read others’ faces. Face-reading눈치 is indeed the first thing to learn for children who are left alone after their parents leave hometown or the country to make money due to strained circumstances. In fact, children who are left with their relatives, including a grandmother, an uncle, or an aunt, are more likely to be forced to learn face-reading. As these kids often find themselves as a “burden” to their relatives, they tend to become more cautious and conscious about their behavior or words. For such reasons, children learn to read others’ faces so that they do not irritate their temporary guardians or hurt their feelings.

Some of these children become Kkotjebi(homeless children)꽃제비 by giving up their “face-reading” lives under their relatives’ protection. Eventually, they learn to steal things and live their lives by selling those stolen items to sellers in the markets at low prices. Sometimes they just pick up food on the ground near street restaurants and eat it. For these children, survival is their primary goal for everyday.

In terms of the quality of life, children living with their own parents are not much different from those unprotected kids. Children from poor households do not want to go to school because of the heavy non-tax burden; they are often told to bring cash, a rabbit leather, liquor, or cigarettes as part of non-tax payments. When children tell their parents about the payments, they are rather being scolded by their parents. What is worse, if they go to school without making these payments, teachers speak critically of them or even hit them. As a result, children say that they would rather not to go to school. These poor kids try to read teachers’ faces in school while they read their parents’ faces at home. Wherever they go, they become a main target that adults vent their anger on. This is the situation where many children from impoverished households are now.

Kanggye City’s Measure To Assign Work In Companies To Women Under 40
Since last March 1st, Kanggye City강계시of Jagang Province자강도 has decided that women under 40 years old should be given a post in companies with no exception. Kanggye City has set an age limit which only allows women over 40 to trade in the market. Members of Kanggye City Party and staff of the Market Management Office have resolved to restrict women traders and instead encourage women to work at companies as a nationwide example to all people. Therefore, the City Labor Department로동부 and police stations보안서 will manage women under 40 and issue a labor certificate for them. If any woman does not follow this policy, the authority will even report the list to their husbands’ companies to strongly pressure these women to serve their duty by working in a company.

Super-Rabbits Die Due To An Epidemic
In Pyongsung평성 of South Pyongyang Province평안남도, an epidemic that began on February 6th killed off the super-rabbits that they were raising as an alternative food source. The epidemic was caused by bad handling of the musk of the super-rabbits and resulted in the deaths of all the rabbits by February 14th. This group of super-rabbits was originally bought by collecting money from all the neighboring farm collectives. The rabbit handlers are now too ashamed to go back to the members of the farm collectives to ask for more money to buy replacement rabbits.

Murder in Gooseung Factory
Last February15th around 10pm, there was a murder case in Gooseung Factory구성공장, North Pyongan Province평안북도. A factory worker found Mr. Lee clubbed to death using an iron bat. Mr. Lee was a provision directive officer공급지도원 in charge of provision of rear services as well as food supply. At the time of the attack, an account book and several hundred thousand won in the victim’s bag were stolen. Currently an investigation unit has been working on ferreting out the murderer.

Notorious Machunryung Hill for Frequent Car Accidents
Machunryung Hill마천령고개 in Hamgyung Province is notorious for frequent car accidents caused by bad road conditions. Entering the hill is more difficult in heavy summer rain and winter snow. Last February, a container truck of Pyongyang Daesung Trade Company평양대성총국 had an accident while mounting up the hill. The truck was completely destroyed, the driver and 6 passengers out of 8 were dead and two were seriously injured. The residents made one voice for the road improvement with national investment, not just to patch up carelessly through mass mobilization. Meanwhile last February 23rd the train to Kumgol금골 in Danchun City단천시 South Hamkyung Province함경남도 was turned over. One train officer standing at the railway platform and 13 passengers were dead, and about 15 persons were injured. When the Railway Authority철도성 reported this to the central party in the 'No.1 Report’1호보고 , the treatment medicines were delivered immediately for the injured people.

Increasing Widows in Samhae-dong Chungjin
Samhae-dong삼해동 in Chongam District청암구역 in Chungjin City is rather well known as a “widow area” 과부동 because of a high widow population. Every year fishermen in that area go to sea struggling with high waves. Sometimes they cannot make it back so their wives become widows. Last August, there were many ships that could not come back because they were swiped by typhoons. Among those, there was a case where all men in a family boarding the same boat were lost in the sea. It is dangerous in winter as well. Under winter weather, ships easily capsize in big waves and many crews drown. Sometimes dead bodies are hauled up in fishing nets.

6 Days of Drifting in the Sea

Last February 18th, crews at the Fisheries Enterprise수산사업소 in Hongwon County홍원군 in South Hamgkyung Province encountered an unlucky accident in the sea while catching fish. For a while, the captain and 12 crews were unable to go out for fishing because of lack of diesel oil for the boat. By collecting money for oil from each, they could at last set sail. However, the boat drifted for 6 days, because the exhaust system broke down in the middle of the sea. Finally on the night of 24th they were saved by guards of a naval squadron.

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