North Korea Today No. 116

Research Institute for North Korean Society

North Korea Today
116th 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 Rationing Stopped in Some Districts in Pyongyang since Last March
Some districts in Pyongyang have decided to stop food rationing since last March because of the worsening food problem. There is a rumor in Pyongyang that more people will die from starvation and diseases throughout the country before the grass grows in May. Meanwhile it is hard to find food even in Pyongsung market.

Farm Workers Can’t Work Because Of Lack of Food in the Breadbasket Regions
As we enter March, more and more farm worker households in South Hwanghae Province are making ends meet by eating gruel instead of rice because of the acute lack of food. Strangely enough, the rice prices in this traditional bread basket region are higher than those in North Hwanghae Province, prompting even the rice merchants to exclaim, “This is something we have never seen before in the republic.” In most farm areas in South Hwanghae Province, including Baechun, Yeonahn, and Ahnak Counties, the households were given only 40kg of rice in November. A new year has come and new season has turned since then, but so far there is no news of additional food distribution.

The task of planning for the farming season has been negatively impacted since the workers who had not been given food have stopped reporting to work. The managers of each farm collective have recognized the seriousness of the situation and reported to their superiors. The issue was taken up and discussed in the Provincial Party Meeting for South Hwanghae Province this past February. The Party Secretary has ordered the city and country party secretaries to strengthen ideological training for the farm workers while instructing the police to determine the farm workers who are not coming to work and compel them using all legal tools to return to work. They emphasized that everyone will really starve to death next year if the farm workers don’t do work during the crucial seeding season, so get them back to work using all necessary means.

Inspections of Farm Collectives in Uiju County in North Pyongan Province Due To Falsified Reports of Food Production Amounts
Because of problems with falsified food production reports in Uiju County in North Pyongan Province, inspections of local farm collectives by the military prosecutors’ office have begun. The Daemun-ri Farm Collective had reported that it had attained the production goal, but the actual amount that came into the Grain Policy Division(Local Food Administration Unit;양정사업소) of the local army was a far cry from the reported amount. Ultimately, this discrepancy resulted in prosecutors combing through the production numbers of every single working group in the farm collective and discovered that, even in one working group, there existed tons of discrepancy between the reported and delivered food production amount. The army decided to expand its inspection efforts, assuming that this is not an isolated incident. In response, one official said, “How are you going to solve this problem with inspections? It’s not a problem that has been around for one or two years. It’s an old problem throughout the republic.”

Chunma County in North Pyongan Province Also Has Serious Food Shortages
Chunma County in North Pyongan Province also has food shortages in March. Even the ordinary laborers, not to mention the farm workers, are barely surviving on corn gruel. Ahn Hyung-chul (46) has been spending all his time in the house over the winter because he lacked the energy to go out with little food to eat. His thirteen-year old son is so weak that it is questionable whether he can attend the first day of new school year on April 1st. His wife went to her older brother’s house all the way in Jongju County to see if she could obtain at least a few kg of corn but collapsed with a tearful disappointment upon arrival when she realized how difficult her brother’s household was as well.

Rice Prices in Jongju County in North Pyongan Province Hit 1,700 Won Per kg.
As of 3/13, the average rice price across the nation was 1,400-1,600 won per kg. But the prices are higher in certain counties located in areas outside the provincial seats. The rice price in Jongju County in North Pyongan Province hit 1,700 won per kg, which is 100 won higher than in Sinuiju. The prices for rice currently rival those back in September and October of last year when they peaked. The price of rice in Sinuiju last October 5th was 1,600 won, which is the same price as today. The price of rice in Pyongyang last October 5th was 1,500 won, the same price today. The price for corn oil also jumped noticeably. What used to be traded at 4,000-5,000 won last October is now sold at 6,000-7,000 won.

Pyongyang Government Officials Say, “2008 Will Be an Arduous Year”
Reportedly, some of mid-and low-level officials did not receive food rations for this March. An official said that “this year is going to be a difficult time even for mid- and low-level officials,” which demonstrates that North Korea’s chronic food shortages have worsened and affect food rations even for government officials, not to mention ordinary people. This last February people have received 40 percent of the normal ration. In March, however, the food ration has completely stopped except for central districts of Pyongyang. A professor who lives in a central district in Pyongyang mentioned that the food ration for March has dropped down to only 20 per cent of the normal ration. In addition, an official said that a rumor that the rice price is likely to rise from 1,500-1600won to 3,000 has been circulating among residents. The official continued to say that “when I asked people what made them believe the rice price increase is going to take place, they said it is because the food supply for government officials has been cut and the local trade has been banned. Overall, things are getting worse. People expressed their concerns about survival.” Residents seemed to be in fear of how much the rice price is going to soar; he described the gloomy mood of the public these days.

Female Merchants in Haeju City Fight with Market Managers
In Haeju City in South Hwanghae Province, the age restriction for market activities has created an unending source for small and large conflicts among the female merchants. Complaining that such restrictions will force them to die since it’s cutting off the only source of income for them in the absence of food distribution, these women are taking their complaints to the market managers. This past February 5th, nine women who were denied entrance into the market because of the age restrictions policy set up shop in one corner of the market nonetheless. The manager who spotted them gently chided them to pack up and go. But the women ignored the manager, leading to a loud shouting match that escalated to bodily altercations. The police came and arrested all those involved. The police interrogated the women to find out who the ring leader was, but no one opened their mouths. On the fourth day, under torture, a woman named Ri Chun-hee (38) confessed that she was the ring leader. The police let the other women go, except for Ri, whose crimes were considered grave. But when her young son came to the lockup and cried out for his mom, the eyes of those watching turned red.

As of March, Haeju City, like other cities, has not received food distribution. In such a situation, women had been barely surviving by trading in the markets. But when the age restriction was imposed, they immediately fell to the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder. Haeju City, realizing the dire situation of these women, is turning a blind eye to these women trading in the markets even if they violate the age restrictions. But, as one city official pointed out, this is not an official redress policy and there will continue to be some forms of conflicts because of the age restrictions.

In Urgent Need of Securing Salt
North Korea is in urgent need of salt as the authority has failed to import even half of the planned quantity of salt from China since last year. The Fair Price Bureau (가격국) of the National Trade Agency(무역성) originally planned to purchase 1,000 MT of rock-salt, costing 42 dollars per MT from China, but it has been delayed. This is because China has maintained its position not to provide salt with the deferred payment. As the plan to import salt has been stumbling, the North Korean authority has decided to use the party funds for the payment.

Everyone Heads for Sinuiju to Get Fertilizers and Plastic Sheets
As the farming season started, all units are getting busy to have fertilizers and plastic sheets in preparation for farming. North Korea recently agreed on importing 3,000 MT of fertilizers with a 45-days deferred payment plan with a trade company in Dandong, China. Due to the fertilizer situation, the North Korean authority has decided to make payment with the party funds. As of March, 1,000 MT of fertilizers have been delivered through Sinuiju. Yet, the rest of 2,000 MT still need to be sent. People who try to obtain plastic sheets also continuously head for Sinuiju. With chronic food shortages, people are under enormous pressure that they would die of hunger next year if they ever miss this critical farming season. For this reason, all units are extremely competitive to have an additional piece of plastic sheet and one extra kilogram of fertilizer.

Chungjin City Concerned about Penalties for Lifting the Market Age Restrictions
Chungjin City has lifted the market age restrictions and has allowed all women to trade in markets regardless of their age until March 12th. This past March 3rd, the management offices of the local markets in Chungjin City moved Display Stands(매대) away from the markets, including Soonam district and Shinam district, in order to turn all the young women who are in conflict with the market age restrictions out of markets. In response to the management offices’ action, female local traders made a vigorous collective protest against the market age restriction policy on March 4th, claiming that if authorities continue to block market activities of young women, heads of households would refuse to go to work. As Chungjin City has not received any response on emergency measures to deal with the situation from the central party after its report, the Chungjin city officials decided to allow all women to trade in the local markets in the city. Although Law enforcement units of the municipal party authorized the decision to lift the market age restrictions out of necessity, they are concerned about the penalties which they may receive as they did it without the central party’s approval.

Confistication of Soybeans from Chungjin City Markets
While Chungjin City lifted the market age restrictions, it still maintains its restrictions on items to be sold. The City has banned selling soybeans in markets and has monitored the trade activities since March 10, 2008. Whenever police officers find soybeans to be sold in markets they confisticate soybeans without an exception. Seized soybeans are sent to the Grain Policy Division(Local Food Administration Unit). In response to the question about the reason for confiscating soybeans, “At present, soybeans produced in North Korea are being transferred to South Korea through the trade with China. This is an effort to protect our people from the enemy’s scheme to starve us out by taking soybeans from North Korea at this difficult time of food shortages.” In fact, an order to plant a large volume of soybeans and to eat at least 50 kg of soybeans per person for supplementing nutrition was issued last year. Authorities mentioned that any individual must not buy or sell soybeans in markets as South Korea is interrupting the supply of soybeans by importing soybeans, which were produced for our North Korean people.
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