GoodFriends: Research Institute For North Korean Society

.

North Korea Today No.126

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

Korea Today126th Edition May 2008
Where North Koreans Stand: Family Members Are All Dying of Hunger
People Are Driven to Despair and Suicide
“I Should Die First Before Seeing My Kids Die of Hunger”
Regret, Too Late, for Starving Father’s Suicide
Murder-Suicide Due To Hopelessness in Providing For Two Children
Severe Cooking Problem In Addition To Food Shortage
Now Young Men Are Willing To Become Ice Cream Street Vendors.
Hard To Find Meaningless Jobs
A Unanimous Voice of Southern Sinuiju Residents, “We Are Nothing But Men of Mean”
Troubled Tap Water at Mangyongdae District in Pyongyang
Outcry of Residents from Intensified Ideology Education
No Solution over the Increase of Homeless
[Opinion] The South Korean Government Should Resume Food Support Right Away
“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.”
Where North Koreans Stand: Family Members Are All Dying of Hunger
The combination of malnutrition and various kinds of diseases create heart-breaking tragedies: it not only leads to every day’s deaths but it also expands to the death of an entire family. The cases of family deaths by hunger are readily increasing. In early May, all the members of a household in the Dongheung mountain district (동흥산구역) in Hamheung City, South Hamgyung Province, died of diarrhea. After a period of being underfed, the family members filled themselves with grass soup and polluted water; this caused intestinal problems. Initially, young children suffered from diarrhea, which accompanied dehydration. As the dehydration became severe, young kids eventually died. And next day, the father was dead following his children. Shortly after, the mother who grieved over her family’s deaths, could not overcome it and died as well.

Meanwhile, families of workers at a munitions factory in Nampo City are also at risk of family deaths. Examinations of families who were sent to emergency rooms, according to doctors, reveals that they were all suffering from serious undernourishment and most of them die shortly thereafter. Lee Hee-seung, a 53-year old doctor who witnessed three family members who were dying together said that” it is no use to give them medicines, no matter how good medicines are, when people are underfed. It might be better to die together so that they won’t be lonely; this is how I console myself,” she deeply sighed.

Doctors mentioned that most cases of family death are caused by long-term starvation and there is no concrete way to prevent it. People who are relatively well-off still have some emergency food. Yet, the poor have run out of food and have already been starved for about 2-3 months; most of them lack energy. Song Chang-guk, a 47-year old male resident who held a funeral for a family who lived in the same unit said, “As the overall situation is getting worse and people’s lives are becoming miserable, we cannot even afford planks to make coffins. As a result, bodies are now wrapped with plastic sheets and are then buried.”

People Are Driven to Despair and Suicide
A series of suicide cases continues to take place across the country. There are people who are trying so hard to survive by reminding themselves of having gone through the last ten-year hardship. On the other hand, however, the endless food crisis drives more people into despair. Those who are poor and vulnerable already, face starvation and are becoming the first group of victims of the food shortages; these desperate people beginning to lose their lives.

“I Should Die First Before Seeing My Kids Die of Hunger”
Kim Sang-hee, a 35-year old female resident of Anju City in South Pyongan Province, recently committed suicide due to her struggle in surviving. Because of the age restrictions on market activities, she had lost her means of living. As a result, she had to sustain her life as well as her children’s, only with diluted grass soup. What is worse, she ran around to obtain food to save her kids who were being famished to death but could not find any. When she found that there was no way to feed her children, she eventually killed herself by eating poison material. Reportedly, Kim used to say that “I cannot watch my poor kids die of hunger.”

Regret, Too Late, for Starving Father’s Suicide
Park Geum-chul (69) in Sungchun County, North Pyongan Province committed suicide in early May. He did his utmost in raising his only son. After getting married, his son started his own household. Father and son have quarreled often on matters of caring for the father. Early this year, he ran out of food and his wife died. He asked his son several times to let him move in with his son’s family. He barely survived on meals of porridge of grass roots. A few days before his suicide, he saw his son buy half a bottle of soy oil. His craving for the cooking oil made him ask his son to spare some, but his son refused. An argument started. He got so angry as to declare his son to be worse than a dog and that even a dog would not have treated his father this bad, and went back home. At home, he cried over the sorrows of losing his wife, the treatment by his son and his starvation. He ended up killing himself by hanging. Upon hearing about the death of his father, his son wept bitterly pounding on the floor. He said his situation reflected the old saying “Charity comes from the granary.” And he could not help it because he could not let his children starve. He continued that the death of his mother broke his heart and he had his heart broken whenever he heard his father complaining about his hunger. He kept hitting his head against the wall and said, “I should have provided even a little to my father. I hate myself.” His head wound required an emergency treatment, but he recovered soon. He looked dazed and blank. Those at the funeral were in tears and said all these divorces, suicides and other deaths were due to the severe food shortage.

Murder-Suicide Due To Hopelessness in Providing For Two Children
Choi Myung-hee (32) in Onsung County, North Hamgyong Province has been barely surviving with her two children, aged 8 and 4. Her husband is serving a fifteen-year sentence in jail. He was convicted four years ago on a felony for helping those border-crossers from South Hamgyung Province who intended to eventually defect to South Korea. Her husband was arrested three days after the birth of their second child and she had to immediately begin providing for her family right away without proper care in child birth. She borrowed money and got involved in peddling some things or helped someone in farming to make a meager living. This year, however, the prices of grains rose sharply and she could not make even a penny for many a day. Without any money, she had to roam around the mountains and the fields to gather up some grass roots for cooking porridge, and this caused damage to her health. She has been suffering from many diseases due to malnutrition in addition to the inadequate care after her child birth. She could not move around physically and consequently could not even afford a meal of porridge of grass roots. Some good neighbors provided some help, but they ran out of food themselves. She felt she had no hope. She fed her two children with poison and then she drank it also. She left a will that said she felt guilty about taking the children and bitter about her husband.

Severe Cooking Problem In Addition To Food Shortage
The food shortage is not the only problem that residents suffer. Cooking has become a problem as well because of a shortage of fuel. Poor households are using dried grass for cooking instead of expensive firewood or coal. Heat from the burning grass is so weak, it takes more time to steam corn for making porridge for just one meal. Moreover, there is a shortage of tap water. To compensate, people are forced to draw water from the river. The collective shortages of food, water, electricity and the cooking problems are making the lives of North Koreans very difficult. With these hardships, the various taxes imposed on the residents become a larger burden. If we take some imposed goods for granted such as rice for the loving country and military, comforts, goods for celebrating holidays, the payment for electricity, water and land has begun to be imposed again. Though these burdens are called ‘voluntary’, they are basically considered ‘mandatory’. Residents make cynical remarks that “The authority says that it has nothing to envy. But a country in the same situation as that of North Korea does not exist.

Now Young Men Are Willing To Become Ice Cream Street Vendors
To survive, men are changing because of hunger. Men are willing to accept any ‘loss of face’ by becoming street vendors, considered a very demeaning occupation. Once a train leaves Chunjin station for Pyongyang, sales wars begin in flag stations as vendors desperately attempt to sell their items to passengers in order to earn enough money for their meals each day. The stations are crowded not only with children and women vending, but also with new young men vendors. This was noticeable by the beginning of the New Year. Saleswoman asks customers loudly whether they want to buy some food or ice creams(까까오;빙과류). Train security guards and train guides attempt to regulate the sales activities, but it is beyond their control. Sometimes when guards and guiders catch and throw out ice cream vendors, it causes quarrels. The safety guards try not to confront young male vendors in order to avoid quarrels. Because these confident male vendors are different from the other vendors who are easily awed into obedience, some safety guards implicitly allow them to sell the items in a specific zone in return for bribes.

Choi Hyeun-tae(28),who sells ice cream in Chungjin station, said that he had no choice but to become a street vendor in order to support his parents and younger brothers and sisters. Believing he would lose face to his friends and future wife if he engaged in street vending, Choi changed his mind as he was running out of food. According to Choi, “most households at Punggok-dong in Ranam district sustain their lives by eating porridge. As food prices skyrocketed between February and May, the residents have had difficulties to maintain daily lives. Many households eat porridge made of the ground corncob(옥수수묵지가루) and many Kkotjebis (homeless children) are easily found on the streets. Every morning, homeless children beg for food at each house, including my own. Recently, their numbers seem to be increasing. As long as I know, 60% of Pungok dong residents rely only on porridge. They have to sell anything to drink porridge water. There is no more shame in selling ice cream.” Choi says now the goal is to buy one or two sacks of corn through selling ice cream.

Hard To Find Meaningless Jobs
In downtown Sinuiju, penniless people wait for shoppers who come back home and help shoppers carry their shopping bags with their hand carriers and sacks. They can usually earn 500won up to 1000won per trip. They can earn 3000won a day and even up to 5000won if they meet a generous person or during a celebration season. Mainly middle school female students and women over 50 take the job. Men are hesitant to take part because customers do not trust men due to the frequent robberies by men bag carriers. The jobs have become rare after restrictions were placed on shopping times since farming mobilization began. Yet, there are always crowds of people waiting for the customers because they do not have other jobs to earn money.

A Unanimous Voice of Southern Sinuiju Residents, “We Are Nothing But Men of Mean”
Southern Sinuiju residents scorn themselves that they are nothing but men of mean.
Though they do not live far from Sinuiju, their living conditions are so poor, the supply of electricity as well as tap water are in trouble. Southern Sinuiju does not have access to water though it is prevalent in Sinuiju. Following the teachings to build 50,000 households left by the late Great Leader Kim Ii-Sung, brick apartments for 30,000 households has been constructed in the last 20 years, but do not have water pipes. Because Southern Sinuiju is a hilly area, electrical power is needed to draw water up to the region. And so, it is natural to lack water where electricity is not available. In relation to the close proximity of Sinuiju, the residents of Southern Sinuiju have a growing sense of isolation as electricity and water have not been continuously provided in addition to the food crisis.

Troubled Tap Water at Mangyongdae District in Pyongyang
There has been an increasing outbreak of water borne epidemics as the quality of the tap water supply has deteriorated due to the continuing electrical shortage. A doctor in Pyongyang says” It is unknown how many water borne epidemics occur each year because of the water. Though medicine is important, prevention should be the main focus. It is not predictable for certain accidents while people draw up their own water from wells that they dig out at their risk with no preventive treatment of water hygiene. Pyongyang is not a safe area anymore. 20 villages are directed to use water from a pumping station, which was designed to provide water for only for 6 villages in the Mangyongdae area, located on Kwangbok Street in Gumsung-dong district. In addition to the severely limited water supply which operates less than once a month, water pollution is serious as preserved water is stored in homes. The trouble is more serious at high rise apartments. People are distressed from the water shortage and pollution lamenting that “there is no ultimate solution; in spite of taking precautions by drinking only boiled water, the number of malnourished patients and diarrhea patients have been increasing due to the polluted water problem. Residents in the high rise apartment buildings in Gumsung-dong fight for water everyday. Han Suk-ho (43) said “As you know, there are many buildings that have more than 25 or 30 stories in this district. People who live on the upper levels are desperate for water. High level officers who already know about the water issue do not live here.” One officer said “In order to fully supply tap water to this district, 4 water pipes are needed. However, only 2 water pipes were built because of a shortage of construction materials. Moreover, Gumsung 1-dong, 2-dong, and 3-dong are located on the remote corner. The water comes from Kwangbok Street so it is difficult for water to be delivered to the houses in that area. So far water has been tapped once or less a month. Not only in Mangyongdae area but also in every city where water is not supplied properly because of the lack of supply facilities; the shortage in resources is a cause of the poor status of the water pipes when the facility was constructed.

Outcry of Residents from Intensified Ideology Education
Ideology education has been intensified even at the current food crisis. Residents’ state that they are going out of there minds because of the ideological education that is taking place from the moment you wake up to the time when you fall asleep. This is a reality all over the nation. The Anti-Socialist Conscience Investigation patrol operates year round stressing that” As the only remained socialist nation in the earth, ideology is vital. If it changes, socialism will perish. There are increasing outcries from the suffocating investigation that is taking place at every organization, work place, household, and even the Democratic Women’s Union.

Go Gum-ie(38) in Nampo said “North Koreans laughed loudly when South Korean Im Su-kyung, who participated in the 1989 Pyongyang Youth and Student Festival, said in a press interview that South Koreans draw North Koreans in red with hickory horns because of the false propaganda continuously heard after elementary school days. But, now we are listening to those kinds of false propagandas.” North Korean authorities emphasize the following points throughout the meetings and lectures, “American and South Korean puppet armies cannot compete with ours in military power, so they attempt to make our democratic republic break down internally by taking advantage of the poor economic condition. They especially manipulate all kinds of smugglings, circulate illegal films and broadcast anti-North Korea propagandas though Radio Free Chosun, aiming to collapse our ideology. To make the people to listen to the advertisements, they are selling small-size semiconductor radios at a low price on a large scale. Economically they are going to penetrate Dandong district, which is adjacent to the national border area, under the name of legal or illegal aid though North Korea aid organizations. Raise your tensions and be awakened to win the psychological warfare and overcome the collapse of our strategy.”

From the moment eyes open, they are forced to have education of political ideology and to visit the building for class education(계급교양관) by illustrating arrest cases such as an arrested person who was given an espionage task by the South Korea National Intelligence Service after being persuaded by the agency while taking private trips(사사려행), and arrested defectors who were bought off by the agency, sent back to the nation, but were caught inside North Korea. They stress the confidentiality because they think documents of trivial facts of people’s lives can be used to criticize socialism policy and will ultimately be leaked. Revealing other cracked down cases such as the illegal cell phone hand over, cell phone usage, memory card containing photos hid inside dried squid that was caught at border customs, they emphasize at every lecture, that “though we have a hard time now, soon the gate of the great nation will be opened. So we have to defend socialism by strengthening our ideological struggle.”

No Solution over the Increase of Homeless
Compared to last year, the number of Kkotjebi (homeless children) has increased dramatically this year. Kkotjebis are heading mostly to major transportation cities in each province, such as Chungjin in the North Hamgyong, Hamheung and Known in the South Hamgyong, Pyongsung in the South Pyongan, or Haeju in the South Hwanghae Province, where they are easily seen hanging around. These cities are seeing an overwhelming increase of Kkotjebis, more than any other cities. Hoeryong, Pyongyang and several other cities are seeing a relatively small number of Kkotjebis, but this is not because they really have small number, but because their intense patrolling makes the Kkotjebis hard to expose to the public. In each county, from 30 to 50 Kkotjebis form and act as one group. These groups steal food in the markets, or beg by visiting every household. There is not one single area that does not have Kkotjebis. Nonetheless, it seems that the Party cannot afford to take care of the orphanages or homeless people.

The Party is barely managing this problem by organizing 9.27 Anti Socialist Inspection Team (9.27 그루빠). Young Kkotjebis are sent to orphanages(애육원) or childcare centers(육아원) and adults are sent to where they originally came from. However, even these tasks are not being performed well, because of the recent overwhelming increase of the homeless. Even 9.27 Anti Socialist Inspection Tem are taking them up every day, there are still more homeless people spilling out. Some are even sent to Welfare Institution(구제소), where it is useless because they quickly run out. Naturally, Welfare Institutions, orphanages and childcare centers are feeling much more pressure than before. They can’t manage all the enrollees including newcomers based on their limited food resources. The relevant Neighborhood Unit(인민반) even appeased them by promising that it will give them more money, but they do not believe it because it is obvious that the Neighborhood Unit cannot take care of homeless people while they can’t even feed ordinary residents. Mr. Huh Chung-hyun (48) in Kowon, South Hamgyong would rather not think about this issue. What should we do for something that even the government cannot take care of? There are too many who are starving and I even cannot feed my children well. How can we help those homeless?” His opinion expressed that there are not many things that can be done for the homeless when the government cannot even care for them.


[Opinion] The South Korean Government Should Resume Food Support Right Away

It is so frustrating to see North Korea today. People who don’t have anything to eat are starving to death by only eating weed porridge and the number of homeless people overcrowd each city. The suicide rate has gone up, but it is hard to get cascades. It seems very similar to situations of the Arduous March(고난의행군) 10 years ago.

Why are we not hearing the cries of the North Korean people? Why are we turning our back as if they are not our people? Is this really the step that we wanted to take to improve the relationship between the North and South? Is this really of help to the policy for improving the life of North Korean people? Rather, we are driving them into death.

It is not too late. The South Korean government should resume food support to the North Korean people as soon as possible. Until potatoes are harvested, the starving rate will continue to increase and so, this is the right time to support food aid. It is better to talk directly to the North Korean regime rather than giving food indirectly through international organizations, following the recent American 500,000 ton food supply.

Waiting for the North Korean regime to respect us is not a way to keep our pride. Saving our North Korean people with humanitarianism is the way to reinforce our sense of justice and pride, and even to improve the relationship of both governments. Additionally, by helping the North Korean people, we can win the support from the North Korean people and this popular feeling could put pressure on its regime to de-nuclearize. This strategy would definitely fit the South Korean government’s goal in the relationship with North Korea.
Good Friends: Center for Peace, Human Rights and Refugees
If you need further information, please contact
Good Friends (Korea)
E-mail:intnetwork@jungto.org
Tel: 82-2-587-8996
Fax:82-2-587-8998

Good Friends USA (Washington, DC)
E-mail:goodfriendsusa@yahoo.co.kr,
Tel: 1-202-824-0788/1-301-455-9196(D)

No comments:

There was an error in this gadget