North Korea Today No. 151

Research Institute for North Korean Society

North Korea Today 151st Edition June 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.”

Fig 1. Famine Area Increase

South Hwanghae - Jangpung, Bongchun, Baechu, Gaepung, Yonan, Haeju, Sinwon, Ongjin, Byuksung, Yongyon Jangyon, Anak
North Hwanghae - Goksan, Singye, Pyungsan, Gumchun, Sariwon, Hwangju, Suheung, Sooan
South Pyongan - Yangduk, Sinyang, Moonduk, Gangsuh
North Pyongan - Uiju, Siniju, Ryongchun
South Hamgyung - Gowon, Hamheung, Hamju, Sinpo, Bukchung
North Hamgyung - Musan, Heoryung, Onsung, Eunduk
Gangwon - Pyunggang, Tongchun

A Nation-wide Ban on All Long-distance Calls Due To Information Leak Problem
Contraband Corn Increases in Sinuiju
“I Don’t Have Any Energy for Weeding Work.”
Soldiers at OOth Military Training Division in Gangsuh County Complain About Food Sortage
Wedding Ceremonies Shortened Due To Food Shortage

A Nation-wide Ban on All Long-distance Calls Due To Information Leak Problem
Beginning June 15, with the exception of Pyongyang city, all long-distance calls from homes are banned throughout the nation. The only place long-distance calls are allowed is at the post office. However, the destination of the call, frequency, and call duration are recorded for all long-distance calls made at the post office, and it is assumed that the calls are likely to be wiretapped. The reason for this crackdown on long-distance calls by the authorities is due to the problem of information leak to the outside world. The Party claims that despite the controls imposed on the migration of people during the all-out farming mobilization period, news of the famine and severe starvation of the people are being leaked to the outside world rapidly through long-distance calls. The authorities are acutely concerned about the reality of domestic problems being known to the outside in such detail. Moreover, they are cracking down on information transmission in fear of potential commotion in case of the news of starvation is being spread to other domestic regions. The ban on long-distance calls is a part of this effort to stop the spread of information. As the crackdown becomes more strict people are reluctant to talk and share any news, saying nobody can be trusted except for their own siblings.

Contraband Corn Increases in Sinuiju
The amount of contraband corn coming into Sinuiju has increased drastically. The corn comes in at $380 per ton and it is used for distribution to workers at special public enterprises located in South and North Hamgyong Provinces. The plan is to import 500 MT each month. Numerous trucks can be seen waiting for loading of the food in Sinuiju.

“I Don’t Have Any Energy for Weeding Work.”
The Democratic Women’s Union in South Hamgyong Province is mobilizing housewives for weeding work in the field. However, many women are saying they cannot participate any more. They are saying that although they go out to the cornfield to do the weeding work every morning, it is very difficult to do the work because they have not eaten enough to have the energy.

Soldiers at OOth Military Training Division in Gangsuh County Complain About Food Sortage
Soldiers of tank squad and machine gun squad at OOth training division stationed at Gangsuh County in South Pyongan Province are supposed to receive 750g of food everyday. However, they are not getting the ration due to food shortages. The soldiers are collecting mugworts, lettuce, dandelions, various wild vegetable and grass from the mountains to mix them with corn to make gruel. As a result, many of the soldiers, including officers soon to be discharged, are suffering from mal-nutrition. They all complain that they can no longer perform military service with this lack of food and nutrition. Now the food shortage problem is greatly affecting even the soldiers.

Wedding Ceremonies Shortened Due To Food Shortage
The wedding ceremony is one of the happiest and most celebrated events in one’s life. Nevertheless, under current circumstances in North Korea the wedding ceremony has become a big burden and something to worry about for young people and their families. The opening remarks, greetings of the families, gifts, and wedding reception are all required for a wedding. No matter how hard you try to save money it costs at least several hundred thousand wons. It is very rare to see families who have the money saved for a wedding. While there are many families simply skipping the wedding ceremony due to food shortages, many other families have managed to have wedding ceremonies with borrowed money for the sake of formality. However, often the opening remarks and greetings of the families are combined together and the exchange of gifts is removed from the ceremony. Families who cannot afford to prepare drinks for the wedding ceremony substitute it with water or colored beverage filled in Chinese or North Korean wine bottles. Other types of food needed for a wedding ceremony such as fruits, candies, snacks, and seafood are rented for a few days from merchants or fake food is used.

Mr. Kang Hwa-sun (58 years old), who recently held a wedding ceremony for his child says, “How can I describe the bitter feelings of the groom and the bride and their families? It is rather fortunate that we were able to have a ceremony just for the sake of formality in this kind of miserable situation. Whom can they blame? They may blame their destiny of being born in a poor family or they can blame their parents. All that is left after the wedding is a debt for our family. I don’t know when we would be able to pay off the debt. I am in a better position compared to those who live on grass gruel. However, I cannot sleep at night whenever I think about the debt”.

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