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North Korea Today No.125

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


North Korea Today
125th Edition May 2008


1-2 Deaths Everyday on Farms in Gumchun County North Hwanghae Province
Farmers, "We Need Food to Work"
Concerns about Human Casualties Greatest at Detention Centers
Important Cities and Businesses Using the Government Funds to Provide Food
Woman Lost Her Baby While Trying to Earn Money for Food
Gilju Elementary Children, Suffering From Tuberculosis On Top of Malnutrition
“Even a Simple Report to the Outside World of the Total Number of Children at Orphanages Throughout the Nation Might Draw Some Aids …”
Nutritious Corn Powder Is Rationed To the Employees of the Sinuiju Medical School
The Students Living at the Dormitory of the University of Education of North Pyongan Province Barely Sustain Themselves with Corn Porridge
40% of Students of Jogunsil University at Wonsan Are Dealers of Second-hand Goods

1-2 Deaths Everyday on Farms in Gumchun County North Hwanghae Province

With the food crisis worsening on farms in Gumchun County in North Hwanghae Province, the number of people who are dying of starvation is increasing. According to one official, "People are not dying everywhere, but there are one or two deaths arising on farms everyday." Shin Hyung-jong(38) of Namjung-ri(village) said that he traveled to his parent's home to find some food to eat, but he returned to find his wife on the floor unconscious and his child dead of starvation. In the three of four days that he was gone, his wife and young child, who had until then tried to sustain themselves with watery porridge, had given in to their hunger and died. Despite the death of his child, Shin Hyun-jong made a thin gruel of the few bits of maize rice he received and fed his wife in an attempt to revive her. His wife cried endlessly for a few days because of the guilt and sadness she felt at the loss of her child.

At the Chejong Farm(채종농장) at Singang-ri, young children are also dying of starvation. Park Jung-ok (34) used to make gruel out of rice plant roots, but after running out of food, she went in search of something to eat and went to her relatives' homes with her four year old child. In her weakened state and with her young child who could not even walk well, Park Jung-ok fainted. After a long time, she was discovered by people who were passing by on the road, but by then, her child had already stopped breathing.

Farmers, "We Need Food to Work"

The expression that 'Yonbaek field(연백벌) could feed the entire republic for a year' is already a distant memory. On farms in North Hwanghae Province this year, the people's sentiment that they feel like dying can be commonly heard. With food supplies unavailable, farmers are not reporting to work and instead, are doing other activities in search of food. Kim Hwae-jung (45) of Jangog-ri, Yonan County of South Hwanghae province traveled the long distance to Musan, North Hamgyong Province to ask her relatives for assistance. Fortunately, she was able to get some money from her relatives who work in the markets, and she used the money to buy some maize.

Han Hae-joo (37), a farmer from Bakchun County in North Pyongan Province, was upset that there is no food ration. She said of the present conditions, "Last year, we only received two months of rations. It was not enough and we saved and saved it, but we ate all of the food by March of this year. Fortunately, it is spring and we have been able to sustain ourselves by going to the mountains and eating any available grass and herbs."

The demands of the people are quite evident in all the regions of the country. The main demand is to provide rations as quickly as possible. Farmers say that without any rations, they are unable to report to work.

Concerns about Human Casualties Greatest at Detention Centers

Currently, the places with the greatest potential for human casualties are the detention centers that are spread all throughout the country. Although people are told that will receive 200g of rations, there are many places that do not have any food to distribute and the number of deaths is mounting. If family members do not come to see the people in the detention centers, they have no recourse but to starve. However, with family members also concerned about their own welfare and busy trying to survive, oftentimes, they have no time to take care of their brothers or children who are in prison. As the number of prisoners suffering from malnutrition and disease increases, there is a corresponding increase in the number of prisoners who are dying.

Important Cities and Businesses Using the Government Funds to Provide Food

Complaints from the people are increasing nationwide due to the food shortage, the government has sought extra fund to purchase food to handle a number of issues that may cause social unrest. Focusing on critical cities and core businesses, a one month supply of food rations has been initially distributed. Compared to the number of cities that are demanding or are in need of rations, since the amount of food was limited. One government official said, "We are unable to even think about providing rations to Kkotjebi's (homeless children), orphanages, or elderly people's homes, and even farms were excluded from this distribution of food. Only important cities and businesses are receiving rations this time. We can only hope that farms which have run out of food can endure by themselves until the harvesting season for potatoes arrives."

Another official in Pyongsung echoed these remarks. He lamented, "In the case of big cities and factories, there is the possibility of riots, and that is why the government is releasing funds. Last year, rice that was reserved for military and emergency use was distributed, allowing people to get through the hardest times. However, all of the rice reserved for military uses has been consumed this year, and that is why the government is releasing funds. However, even with the distribution of these funds, it is only enough for one month of food supplies because there is no foreign aid that is coming in. Once these funds are all used, there will be nothing more to distribute. After May, there will be nothing more to distribute. We have already stopped thinking about the farms, and if those people want to live, they will have to find ways to survive."

Woman Lost Her Baby While Trying to Earn Money for Food

A woman who just got married and gave birth to a child one month ago faced a tragedy while she was away from home for trading. Choi Sung-mi (28) in Sinuiju has been selling plastic bags for a living. Even if the Party prohibited importing plastic bags under the pretense of protecting the environment, those bags are still smuggled into this country because of a huge domestic demand. By obtaining plastic bags from some lady she knows, Mrs. Choi hangs around every corner of markets to sell them. After she gave birth to the child, she decided to take a rest at home. However, her husband did not manage to get a job due to the recent stricter censorship on trades in Sinuiju and there was not enough food at home due to the recent price increase in food. She just could not take a rest at home. Although her husband tried to stop her, she went out to markets for trading. On the day of tragedy, she was busy selling those bags to sellers at the market while piggybacking her baby who is too young to even hold his head up. Because she hung around all day long without having lunch, she was quite exhausted. The day was especially hectic for her because an unusually good number of people were asking for the plastic bags. When she was getting money from an apple seller, she felt something was wrong with her baby on her back. After she put him down, she was freightened to find out he was dead. She was gone half-crazy when her baby did not respond to her anymore. Every seller at the tragic scene was crying with her, too. It is so sad because just one day trip to the market, which is not from greed for money, but from the desperate need for food, brought this kind of tragedy. Everybody on the scene grieved together with her, but nobody was willing to give her some help. Even though they are eager to give something to her, all they could do was just crying with her because they are in desperate need as well as she is.

Gilju Elementary Children, Suffering From Tuberculosis On Top of Malnutrition

The Elementary Institute in Gilju, North Hamgyong Province, is where the children, without parents, abandoned by the parents or roaming the country as Kkotjebis, are supposed to be taken care. The Institute, having been sustained with the aids from the overseas Koreans thus far, is aching from the pain of food shortage. Especially many under ten years of age receiving inadequate level of nutrition are suffering from malnutrition. Many children are chronically ill with no known diseases and close to death with tuberculosis without proper treatments. The children at the Institute normally take classes in the morning and are assigned work in the afternoon. These days they are assigned to agricultural chores. The work assignment is hard even for the hungry adults, not to mention the hungry children. More hungry children are returning to the life of Kkotjebi’s, trying to escape the imposed restrictions at the Institute as well.

“Even a Simple Report to the Outside World of the Total Number of Children at Orphanages Throughout the Nation Might Draw Some Aids …”

Any parents raising little children would have broken hearts if they witness their innocent children starve to death. Horrified by the sights of migrating Kkotjebis(homeless children) from North Hamgyung, South Pyongan and Kangwon Provinces, Mr. Han Duk-kyung (52) living in Gowon County, North Hamgyung Province, requests to the Central Party the following. “Please inform the United Nations of the total number of orphanages throughout the provinces. Even a simple report of the total number of orphans would be enough as eligibility requirements for receiving aids.”

Admitting that the government, barely able to provide foods for major cities, universities, hospitals and other facilities, might not have any room to spare to make provisions for Kkotjebis and orphanages, Mr. Han claimed that the government should ask for help from the United Nations if not able to meet the demands.

Mr. Choi Hae-ryong (53) in Soonchun, South Pyongan Province, says “There are too many Kkotjebis. I have been to Sinuiju on a food acquisition trip a few days ago. No one paid any attention to a boy appearing under ten of age carrying a boy about three of age on his back at the customs parking lot. When I asked a worker there about the boys, he told me that people are so used to the boys’ faces that they were not breaking anyone’s heart. Their numbers are increasing everyday and it has become an ordinary sight. Children living in a home might be able to eat a meal a day, I thought, but these kids might end up starving to death. These are the most pitiful cases. They are so innocent. The government should provide for the nurseries and orphanages so that at least those Kkotjebis under school age could be saved. As a parent who raised children myself, I cannot consider these things none of my business.” He appealed for more helps for the Kkotjebis.

A party official of Pyongsung specified the items needed in his appeal for aids. “All the nurseries and orphanages in the cities and counties should extend the facilities. The Kkotjebis under school age can be saved by supplying food, clothing, shoes, stationery items and medicines systematically. If nation-wide provision is not possible, a place can be assigned in each province. The items to be included in the provision should be selected in such a manner that parents would care for their own children. They should include food items such as powdered milk for the babies, milk bottles, weaning food, rice, flour, cooking oil and snacks, clothing such as underwear, spares for change. Also needed are socks and shoes, medicines including ointments, antibiotics, medicine for digestion and multi-vitamins. Additionally, they need cooking utensils, cement for building repairs, various tiles, stools for children, vinyl flooring(레자), and their needs are wide in kind.”

He declared “If we could save the young Kkotjebis chronically suffering from hunger and diseases and close to death, we would reduce the number of starving deaths greatly. It would be so grateful.”

Nutritious Corn Powder Is Rationed To the Employees of the Sinuiju Medical School

Nutritious corn powder was rationed to the employees at the Sinuiju Medical School. The school provided 13 kgs for 100 wons on average even though it depended on the size of the family. University authorities announced that it was provided by the World Food Organization. The employees could smile after a long while, saying that they could bake the breads, for either eating at home or selling them at the market. Instead of complaining about rationing of nutritious corn powder in place of corn and rice, the response was, “How precious a grain of rice is! How precious this nutritious powder is! Even a meal would be grateful and this powder has nutrition in it.” At the moment, the nutritious corn powder is sold for 1,200 wons per kilogram. Chang Eun-sook (age 42) says, “How helpful more nutritious corn powder would be to the poorest residents! We are paying 100 Won per kilogram as transportation cost. A month’s worth of ration of nutritious corn powder would greatly help save the residents of all the cities, counties and divisions. I appeal for more aid in nutritious corn powder if rice is not available.”

The Students Living at the Dormitory of the University of Education of North Pyongan Province Barely Sustain Themselves with Corn Porridge

The students living at the dormitory of the University of Education of North Pyongan Province are fed corn porridge three times a day. While those students with money occasionally go out and buy meals, those without money barely sustain themselves with corn porridge. There are more students from rural areas than from the City of Sinuiju. No students want to go to rural areas after graduation and consequently most of the students from the rural areas return to their home town. What this says is that those students who can afford occasional meals outside the University are limited to those from the cities. Those students from rural areas say that even the corn porridge they are fed at the dormitory is better than what would be fed at home. Those students from Sakjoo, Dongchang, Byukdong, Unsan and Daesan of North Pyongan Province say that their families at home already ran out of foods and even a meal of corn porridge a day is difficult to get.

40% of Students of Jogunsil University at Wonsan Are Dealers of Second-hand Goods

Jogunsil Engineering University(조군실공업대학교) at Wonsan, Kangwon Province feeds its students with a meal of 100g ground corncob(옥수수묵지가루밥) and salted cabbage. As the food shortage got worse, all the side dishes disappeared but the salt-water soup. Many students tried to escape the starvation by skipping the classes and got involved in dealing with the second-hand goods. The students are allowed, illegally, to skip classes by paying some money to professors and provide some supplies to the University. Rumor has it that some students make a monthly payment of 30,000 wons and some provide a pack of cigarette whenever the student skips a class. The University authorities warned the students of severe punishments several times in the past, and, in fact, this last February 7, seven students were kicked out of the University. This does not seem to have any effects and the number of student dealers of second-hand goods tends to increase. According to the University authorities, about 40% of all the students are estimated to deal with the second-hand goods.


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