GoodFriends: Research Institute For North Korean Society

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North Korea Today No. 132

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


North Korea Today 132nd Edition May 2008

“Research Institute for North Korean Society of Good Friends, in order to bring news of the food crisis in North Korea more accurately and quickly, will increase its e-newsletter frequency to more than one issue per week. As such, the release dates might shift. Thank you for your understanding and attention to this looming crisis. We at Good Friends hope to be a bridge between the North Korean people and the world.”

Residents of Mooksong-ri, Kaepoong County to the City People’s Council Cry out: “Please Release Some Food”
“Party Officials Too Eager To Hide all the Problems”
“Farming Is Said To Be the Utmost Foundation of All Businesses”
“Pretending There Are No Complaints”
“Don’t Treat Chosun (Korea) as a Beggar”
“Continuing Inspections in Sinuiju Cause the Traders to Turn Their Backs”
Women Contributions Vital to Building Powerful Nation
“Don’t Accept Divorce Application Unless There Are Special Circumstances”
“Impressive Is the Freedom to Enjoy Music”


Residents of Mooksong-ri, Kaepoong County to the City People’s Council Cry out: “Please Release Some Food”
Residents of Mooksong-ri(묵송리), Kaepoong County(개풍군) of Kaesong Special City(개성직할시) made a request to the City People’s Council in the name of all the residents that “The state find a means to release some food.” Mooksong-ri, surrounded by mountains, has little farm land but a few tiny plots scattered widely. Most of these plots lie on the slopes, difficult to cultivate, and the crop is reduced each year due to lack of fertilizer. Since early spring this year, most of the families have run out of food. Unlike the other parts of the country, this area has bald mountains and mountains of rock, and consequently has little edible grass that people could collect. Food supply has totally run out and many families cannot even afford to have porridge of grass, and consequently there are one or two persons per household that are too weak to move around. Children, of course, have been kept away from school.

Kim Jung-hwan (52) says, “Even a relatively healthy person cannot work on the fields without eating and this year’s crop is going to be a mess. In this way, neither can we handle any farm work nor can we even maintain tiny plots. The residents therefore submitted request for food aid with a hope that the Ri(리;village) Party Office forward the request to the City People’s Council. As the Ri Party Office understands the situation of food crisis very well, it forwarded the request to the City People’s Council.”

“Party Officials Too Eager To Hide all the Problems”
Jung Young-ho (57) at Pyongsung criticized the party officials bluntly, saying, “Party officials’ main goal is to please and glorify the Beloved Leader and to hide all the problems from him. Consequently, no progress or solution to the problems can be expected to come out.” He continued, “They ascribe the causes of the problems to natural disasters or economic sanctions by the United States. They try to evoke hatred and hostility. They are focused on expanding expenditures on the military. When on earth would the lives of people are going to improve?”

“Farming Is Said To Be the Utmost Foundation of All Businesses”
A resident lamented, “It’s said that farming is the utmost foundation of all businesses for a long time. Our Chairman, however, too busy to govern the country, does not seem to care much about it. For instance, he never misses any anniversary ceremonies or political assemblies, but he seldom appears before any business assemblies such as agricultural assembly. People say that our Leader frequently visits military units, but that his visit to the factories and the farms is much less frequent. Even the farms and the factories he visits are normally those that operate without any problems. Consequently his understanding about people’s lives is not so deep that no solution comes out.” He thus cautiously expressed the sentiments of farmers.

“Pretending There Are No Complaints”
Even high ranking party officials at Pyongyang have something to complain about. One such official said, “Those of us who could afford food are definitely affected this year due to food shortage. There is restriction on the usage of electricity and water. We cannot take baths as needed. It is true that we are living in a different world from those who starve to death, but we find that life gets tougher and complaints are increasing.” High ranking officials also agree that due to bad government policies the food crisis is getting worse. Only “because I cannot afford to lose my job, I must keep my mouth shut. Who would dare to make recommendations when a word said in wrong way may destroy generations of families?” (He) confessed thus the difficulty of forming public opinions.

“Don’t Treat Chosun (Korea) as a Beggar”
An old couple in the City of Musan, North Hamkyong Province, lives in a small hut at the foot of a mountain. One day while working on their patch of field, a thief stole most of their assets: half a sack of corn, dried greens, a rabbit and a few pieces of clothing. This old couple went to the city party headquarters and reported the theft weeping bitterly. The city party officials requested an investigation to the security office. The security officers replied they would start the investigation. A little later, a Chinese-Korean who was visiting a family there heard about the incident and felt sorry about the old couple. The visitor took out his wallet and handed the old couple some money. At that moment, a security officer came over and asked the visitor for his passport. He then shouted in anger, “Are you treating Koreans as beggars? Go back to your home tomorrow.” Fearful of potential troubles to his host family, the visitor apologized to the security officer repeatedly, but it was of no use. People heard of the incident and made comments, “The visitor tried to do something as good as saving a life. What a nonsense it is! We don’t know if we have to cry or laugh.”

A party official made an observation on the incident and said, “The visitor’s behavior was inappropriate. In a situation like this, the visitor should have offered some money to the security officer first, praising his services. And then the visitor should have made the offer of the money to the old couple. The visitor ended up hurting the sense of pride of the Party. The security officer’s reaction was a very sensitive one, but there was no blaming the security officer. Just consider it as a difference in culture.”

“Continuing Inspections in Sinuiju Cause the Traders to Turn Their Backs”
The inspections in Sinuiju, originally scheduled for one hundred days, are being extended with no end in sight. It is unknown when it will end due to the policy that every single crime should be investigated. Insiders at Sinuiju expect it to last until the end of the year. These sharply tightening, lengthy inspections cause the traders in Sinuiju, the Chinese, the smugglers and those in possession of cell phones, who are potential legal suspects, to move to other places such as Pyongyang, Pyongsung, Haeju, Nampo and Wonsan. The traders from the other cities avoid Sinuiju fearful of the continuing inspections and investigations. When they cannot avoid the city, they try to get out as quickly as possible and as soon as they finish their business in the city. Han Sang-duk (52), a trader at two cities of Soonchun and Sinuiju says, “I hate to step into Sinuiju because of the tightening inspections.” He also said that compared to the past he himself had certainly reduced the number of visits to Sinuiju.

Women Contributions Vital to Building Powerful Nation
Under the banner, “Let women devote their patriotic souls to building Powerful Nation!” women got busier. Women work anything and anywhere to feed their families: marketing, farming patches of paddies, keeping houses (for others) and doing sundry trifling jobs. Man of the house used to support their families when Public Distribution System worked, but that is now an old story. Women have worked very hard to make their families survive for more than 10 years after Public Distribution System stopped working. Women’s contribution is vital for the family to survive last ten years without starvation. Women’s contribution y has been playing an important role not only in taking care of household affairs but also in implementing various social projects, including cleaning towns, repairing roads, and rehabilitating towns damaged by floods. They do physical labor without any hesitation, which are difficult jobs even for men. Lee Keum-young (52), who has been a member of Democratic Women’s Union (DWM) for a long time, said “It is no exaggeration to say that recently 80% of all the households in North Korea are supported by women. Without women’s support, the nation would be barely sustainable. Last year the housewives registered in DWM did the construction project of digging up the soil at the bottom of Bo-Tong River in Pyongyang city and finished it successfully. There are many examples including a case of road expansion to Southern Sinuiju last March. It was also the work of housewives.” Concerning women’s active participation in social projects, Rye Min-goo (43) states “That is because they are easier to be mobilized than men because they work without pay. Anyway women toil hard.”

“Don’t Accept Divorce Application Unless There Are Special Circumstances”
The growing severity of the food shortage has affected people: people become less generous and the families with domestic problems increase. Nowadays, majority of divorce applications are filed by women. The dire situation of life has caused spouses to blame each other, violently quarrel, beat each other, or frequent drunken spree. This year, in Pyongsung, the drastic increase in divorce rate has been reported to the Central Party. As a result, the Democratic Women’s Union (DWU) has announced that “Divorce applications should not be accepted unless there are special circumstances.” The DWU has also advocated the strengthening of family ties. In addition, the Central Party has announced that divorced husbands will be sent to a Labor Training Center(단련대) in order to prevent chaotic and poisonous effects on society from divorce. Many of those who file for a divorce take care of the Higher Court officials before they stand in court. They usually pay around a bribery of 100,000 to 150,000 Won to the officials to prevent from being sent to the discipline center. Residents lament, “We just want to separate because we are not meant for each other. We live a world where we can’t even divorce without money.”

“Impressive Is the Freedom to Enjoy Music”
People who had experiences living abroad tend to have more things to say. Han Seok-joo (49) said, “I got sick and tired of my life here after I have been to my relative’s. I was most impressed with the fact that people listened to the radio and the songs in a taxi and talked freely. But it is extremely deplorable that exchanging overseas news is strictly forbidden in North Korea. ”

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