North Korea Today No. 133

Research Institute for North Korean Society

North Korea Today 133rd 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.”

Goosung Textile Factory Provides a Worker 4-5 kgs of Corn for April
Onsung Deaf School, Half Bowl of Porridge per Each Meal
People Starving, Yet No Governmental Measures
In Pyongyang, Food Provision at 70% in May
Food Grain Prices Plummeting After Rumors of Foreign Aid
A Military Unit Stationed In South Hwanghae Province Offers Military Rice to Students
Education for Unexcused Absence from Work
Corn Farming Harmed by a Harsh Frost in North Hamkyong Province
Bird Flu Prevention Started In Each RegionCabinet's Instruction for Coping with Economic Sanctions and Pressure

Goosung Textile Factory Provides a Worker 4-5 kgs of Corn for April
The food situation is growing worse in the Goosung Textile Factory in North Pyongan Province. The food supply, in some cases, has even been discontinued. In April, each worker at the factory was provided with only 4-5 kgs of corn (grown directly from the factory-run fields). The factory is tasked with producing a specific amount of military uniforms as directed by the Bureau of Military Supplies Planning (군수계획국) in the National Planning Committee (국가계획위원회) However, the factories often are not able to follow the directives as planned because the Clothes Department(피복총국) of Support Bureau(후방총국) in the Ministry of the People’s Armed Forces(무력부) has not provided the necessary textiles to make those uniforms. As soon as those materials arrive at the factory, the workers will be able to produce the uniforms, and the factory is supposed to be able to distribute food to its workers. However, without the raw materials, the factory cannot operate, and the workers cannot work to receive their food allotment. Consequently, it is hard to finish the uniform manufacturing plan set by the National Planning Committee and the high officials of the factory are being blamed for creating a delay in the plan as set forth by the Armed Force Party (군당). However, it is impossible to bring workers to a factory where there are no raw materials to produce the uniforms, and where no food is being given to the workers. These factory workers are more focused on looking elsewhere for jobs to make a living than wasting their time at an non-functioning factory.

Onsung Deaf School, Half Bowl of Porridge per Each Meal
Sambong Deaf School in Onsung, North Hamkyong provides one meal a day consisting of a half bowl of porridge or noodles. The students are being forced, out of starvation, to beg for food on the streets where some even resort to robbing food from others. This rumor is quite well known in the area and people who happen to be passing by the school try to hide food from the students in fear of being robbed. Some students go to local markets to steal food and some have already been arrested by the police. The school is trying to stop students from leaving the school grounds, but they manage to climb over the fence in search of food. Even female students are climbing fences to leave the school to search for food. Some students are caught by the police and arrested while stealing food at markets. However, because of their staunch resistance to being arrested, even the police look the other way and are not willing to stop them from stealing food.

People Starving, Yet No Governmental Measures
It has been officially confirmed that farmers are dying of starvation in the grain growing areas of South and North Hwanghae Province. The Party even sent soldiers to help the farmers in these areas. Farmers from this area have sent dead or unhealthy pigs to the army for its food supplies because they did not have enough feed for the pigs which are supposed to be used for breeding. Residents of Hwanghae Province complain about their food situation a lot, especially the elderly. In Chungdan County, South Hwanghae Province, an elderly man said, “When will the Arduous March end? People are crying over starvation. Nonetheless, the Party has no solutions, yet. How can this be possible?” Over this remark, the Party started investigating him, but stopped when they considered that that he was over 80 years old and suffered from Alzheimer. Instead, the Party strongly scolded his son for his father remarks, and prohibited his father from leaving his home.

In Pyongyang, Food Provision at 70% in May
In May some districts of Pyongyang had their food distribution discontinued and later resumed at 70% of the usual amount. The city encouraged people to seek alternative food sources and explained that the food shortage was nationwide. Among 2 million residents in Pyongyang, there are few who are trading or are qualified to trade. There are few who can go outside the city and forage for herbs to eat. There is not much work available in the city, but yet they can’t leave the city to search for alternative food sources because they are always being summoned for labor. Even if they work, it is hard to actually get paid for their work, and when they do it is never enough to buy food due to the increase in food prices. The average wage is about 2,000 won, but this is nearly not enough to buy oil, salt, soy sauce, or to pay utilities or their children’s tuition. In the city, it is not like other areas where people are trading for food or getting herbs from the mountains. Therefore, they are forced to rely on the national food distribution, which has not been reliable.

However, people who live downtown or people who are high officials in the Party have no concerns regarding food shortages. Moreover, there are people who are profiting from the food shortage by going back and forth abroad and engaging in illegal trading. These people are able to increase their wealth in the face of starvation for their countrymen. Kim Hye-kyoung (45) criticizes the current phenomena: “These people who are profiting can even buy health supplements because they obviously don’t have problem meeting their basic needs. Young pretty girls are seeking to date these people to make their living. Thus, it causes domestic disputes. The agriculture in this nation is deteriorating every year, and the families are being corrupted in this way. People are starting doubt how long this society will sustain.”

Food Grain Prices Plummeting After Rumors of Foreign Aid
Party officials have asked people to watch their mouths, as many residents are exchanging wild rumors and speculative stories. One speculates that if North Korea gives up their nuclear weapons, much assistance and aid including food will be provided from the U.S., South Korea and the rest of the international community. The general public now believe that the food given by the Public Distribution System was provided by the aid received from the international community and South Korea. During these desperate times, the news about any food import from South Korea, China and other foreign countries spread out very quickly. These rumors have sparked quick reaction - the price of rice fell right after news that foreign aid would be given.

A Military Unit Stationed In South Hwanghae Province Offers Military Rice to Students
While 4th ~ 6th grade students in middle school are mobilized to farm nation wide, some in specific regions are starving because the food supply has stopped. Students were told to bring 3kg of corn each for their meals at Haeju in South Hwanghae Province. Though students were able to provide the corn, many through very difficult ways, the food ran out within 6 days and students were left to go hungry.
In reaction to this crisis, the City Food Administration Unit(시양정사업소) supplied 20 tons of whole corn urgently to students, which was originally reserved for the military. After getting the news that young students were starving, 4th corps headquarters agreed to turn over the 20 tons of corn that was originally assigned to them. Residents praised this news as an example of how relations have improved between the military and civilians. Parents of the students expressed their deep gratitude for the gift of food.

Education for Unexcused Absence from Work
As the number of residents who cannot attend work drastically increased because of the food shortage, the Party emphasized the need for more ideology education. The Party stressed that “We should educate people ideologically which will make them do their duties faithfully, reprimanding those who were absent and abandoned their sacred duties as civilians. Not showing up for work because of the grim realities of life is inexcusable.”

In addition, the Party also mentioned the need for people to “…watch their words and actions.” “Comments like ‘everything related to residents’ lives were negatively affected by the current flood and natural damages’ should be made very carefully.” The Party reemphasized this by warning “…those who speak and behave inappropriately in public, with any political intent, will be investigated whether they realize what they are doing or not.”

Corn Farming Harmed by a Harsh Frost in North Hamkyong Province
This past May 12th, northern regions experienced a heavy frost as a result of unseasonably low temperatures. In some rural areas such as Eunduk County, Saebyul County and Hoeryung City, young corn plants were frozen and lost, seriously crippling this years’ harvest.

At Pungsan-ri Farm in Hoeryung City, corn planted on 15 Jungbo (36.8 acre) of land, were frozen and lost, so farmers had to replant new corn. In some cornfields, they plowed up corns and sowed soybeans instead. In Eunduk County, the frost fell on over 50 Jungbo (122.5 acre) of cornfields, causing farmers to give up this year’s corn crops and plant soybeans instead. Anguish and pain was evident on resident’s faces as they realized that the corn harvest was lost, one of their main staples of food.

Bird Flu Prevention Started In Each Region
The Health and Epidemic Prevention Stations(위생방역소) in each county began to make rounds of villages by disinfecting and vaccinating chickens and geese for the prevention of the bird flu virus. They requested that individual farmers who raise poultry to “report in a timely manner when they observe their livestock refusing to eat, suffering from diarrhea, leading to a large number of deaths.”

Meanwhile, the sale of live poultry has been prohibited in the markets. In addition, the party has recalled all live poultry sales and given fines of 1000won per head, as infections of the virus has been widely reported.

Cabinet’s Instruction for Coping with Economic Sanctions and Pressure
In early May, the Cabinet of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea announced the following instructions to cope with imperialist and their followers this year:

1. All workplace, enterprises, and collective farms should assist in irrigation projects, making this an all civic group’s movement.
1) People should use charcoals in kitchens and in under floor heating systems(온돌) effectively by preserving them and keeping them dry from the rain.
2) People should try their best to collect humus soils by mobilizing everyone around them and using all of their resources and powers.

2. Everyone, including the party, military, and civilians should unite and focus on farming. A physical and spiritual movement must be initiated, including all men and women, young and old, contributing in every possible way.

3. The project for supporting farming should be strengthened.
1) Agricultural implements required in farming should be produced actively.
2) All people should participate in collecting manures actively and sending them to farms in rural areas, which are used as alternatives to fertilizers.

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