GoodFriends: Research Institute For North Korean Society

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North Korea Today No. 164

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


North Korea Today 164th Edition July 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.”


Three times a day, Workers in Kangsun Iron Works United Enterprise Eat Grass Porridge
Machine Manufacturing Factory gave only six-day ration of corn from last year to present
The Urangchun Power Plant, the laborers urgently need food
Soldiers at OO Training Camp receive 300 grams of Ration a Day
Food Situation is Grim at the Necessaries of Life Factory in Pyongyang
Cadets at Kanggun Military Academy Punished for Stealing Food
Downward adjustment of military food rationings to 500g per day at Yeomju County in North Pyongan Province
Workers’ Petition Successful in Releasing Factory Officers Who Were Caught While Attempting to Give Rations to the Workers
[Opinion]“We are Pleading for Humanitarian Aid” A Voice from the Religious Community


Three times a day, Workers in Kangsun Iron Works United Enterprise Eat Grass Porridge
Kangsun Iron Works Untied Enterprise (강선제강연합기업소) in Kangsuh County, South Pyongan Province, has completely stopped food distribution from November last year to June. Three times a day, the workers eat only grass porridge. Most of their holidays are spent picking grass and they do private farming in small area(소토지 농사) in the early morning before they go to work.. However, these days, they got grass poisoning and thus, even eating grass porridge gets tough for them. They are losing their energy and often can’t afford to go work which hinders factory production. The factory decided to provide corn noodle lunch, but there are hardly any noodles in the bowl. The price for lunch is deducted from their wages. The situation of workers staying at the dormitory(합숙소) is not much different. For breakfast they eat cooked grounded corncob (옥수수묵지가루밥) and for lunch and dinner, a bowl of corn noodle soup with a few strands of noodles. Meanwhile, a farm raising silkworms located near the factory suffers a great deal as the factory laborers pick mulberry leaves. The farm even requested the factory to instruct its works not to pick mulberry leaves.

Machine Manufacturing Factory gave only six-day ration of corn from last year to present
Machine Manufacturing Factory(공작기계공장) in Heecheon, Jagang Province, has in fact stopped food distribution from November of last year, except the six-day ration of corn which was distributed in May this year. As the number of workers reporting to work decrease gradually, the factory uses the head of the factory and patrol teams to pressure the workers to come to work. The Party Secretary and head of the factory are emphasizing the motto, “self help is the only way to live” and encourages the laborers that “they have to become the forerunners of exercising this motto. They should not become cowards when faced with hardship.” The laborers work with constant hunger and illness, and more than 100 of them had fallen down, became immobile, or passed out this year. Most laborers very reluctantly go to work because of political pressure, but they cannot focus on their job. They just sit and wait for the closing time. Despite this dire situation, the ration has not resumed.

The Urangchun Power Plant, the laborers urgently need food
The laborers working in the construction of Urangchun power plant (어랑천발전소) in North Hamgyong are desperately in need of food. Food is running short and the construction materials are not supplied in time, and thus the construction in fact has stopped. At this rate, no one knows when it is going to be completed. Therefore, on June 25th, the Province called a general meeting to come up with some solutions. At this meeting it was decided that all cities and counties in North Hamgyong Province should guarantee food supply for the construction workers. The cities and counties are to provide a month’s food supply at the end of previous month. The meeting also directed to set up an appropriate system to ensure the timely supply of construction materials to build the plant.

Soldiers at OO Training Camp receive 300 grams of Ration a Day
As the food shortage problem gets worsened, the soldiers of OO Military Training Camp in Kangsuh County (강서군) and Daedong County (대동군) in South Pyongan Province are receiving only two meals a day since the beginning of June. Previously the standard amount was 700 grams, but now they receive only 300 grams. Because the ration to the family was cut off, many officers sent their wives and children to their in-law’s house. The enlisted soldiers complain that they are so hungry they cannot sleep. Soldiers who have some money use a messenger to ask their family to send some money. Whereas soldiers without such resources resort to stealing from the village or robbing the passersby, using violence and threat.

Those soldiers who cannot endure the hardship any more brave desertion. According to those who had deserted (the army), “We’re getting sick of military life because the food situation is extremely bad and the levels of labor and training are too high.” This issue has been reported to the Ministry of the People’s Armed Forces (인민무력부). So, the Dae-Ryul Division(대렬국) of the Ministry set out to catch those deserters and put them through a very strict education program. The Ministry of the People’s Armed Forces issued an order to the military recruitment department and schools, instruction them “to get rid of the anti-socialist ideology by raising the levels of consciousness and determination regarding the military service among the middle school students.”

Food Situation is Grim at the Necessaries of Life Factory in Pyongyang
The food situation is very grim at the necessaries of life factory (생필공장) in Seungho District which is under the supervision of the Support Bureau of the Ministry of the People’s Armed Forces (인민무력부). This factory mainly produces gasoline drums. Since last October till this year, the total ration, delivered in two shifts, amounted to only 40 kilograms. Most of the factory workers live on eating grass porridge, and even the active duty soldiers guarding the factory are eating only two meals a day. The level of complain among the lethargic workers is very high because the munitions factory security agent summons the workers to workplace if they don’t show up at work.

Cadets at Kanggun Military Academy Punished for Stealing Food
In the evening of June 21, after long suffering from hunger, cadets of 12th military engineering division(제12공병대대) at Kanggun Military Academy (강건군관학교) in Soonahn District in Pyongyang resorted to stealing from the seed storage and were arrested. A total of 16 cadets including 5 seniors raided the seed storage at Osan farm. They stole 50 kg of corn and 200 kg of rice and took them to the kitchen at the academy. The authorities at the academy learned about it and expelled all 16 cadets next day. They were reassigned back to their previous military base.

Downward adjustment of military food rationings to 500g per day at Yeomju County in North Pyongan Province
On June 10th, a meeting was convened for all support staff that are under the corps stationed at Yom County (염주군) in North Pyongan Province Province. At the meeting it was determined that the amount of military food rationing be adjusted from 700g to 500g per day uniformly because with the remaining food supply it would be difficult to make it last until September

Workers’ Petition Successful in Releasing Factory Officers Who Were Caught While Attempting to Give Rations to the Workers
A few days ago workers successfully petitioned for the release of some factory officials in Kyongsung County, North Hamgyong Province. These officials were caught while attempting to give some ration to the workers from the proceeds of sale of old and rusty machines. The operation of Kyongsung Machinery Factory has been in trouble because of lack of raw materials and electricity. The last ration to the workers was four months ago. The factory manager and the chief engineer decided to sell some of the old, rusty, unusable machineries as old scrap metal and use the money to purchase some food items. An export company at Chungjin city bought it and paid with two tons of wheat flour. It seemed the food rationing problem might be resolved smoothly. However, an Anti-Socialist Conscience Investigation Patrol suddenly appeared and confiscated the wheat flour which was returned to Grain Policy Division. The factory officers were transferred to the Police Station on charge of unauthorized sale of the machines. It was a bolt out of the blue for workers, who expected to get some food, even though it may be a very small amount.

Lee Sun-chang (47) expressed strong anger, saying “They should’ve even sold the factory building to solve the starvation, and yet they forbid selling useless machines. It’s like they want us to die.” He also said, “They boisterously advertised this year as an election year and the 60th year of the establishment of the Party and the Republic, but for me it’s the most painful year rather than the year of celebration.”

In general the workers shared Mr. Lee’s opinion. As a consequence some of them decided to step out and explain the situation. They went to see the Secretary of the Party and told him that “The only reason the manager and the chief engineer sold the machines was to solve the food problem of the workers. The machines had been left to rust and not been used for several years. We can testify the fact.” They suggested he (the Secretary) should personally inspect the scrap metal field. They appealed actively that the manger and the chief engineer do not deserve such charges. Responding to the appeal the Secretary of the Party did an inspection on the actual spot with technicians and delivered the inspection result to the Police Station. The manager and the chief engineer finally were released from the Police Station and did not receive any punishment as criminals, other than a relatively light penalty from the Party. After the release, the manager and the chief engineer visited the workers one by one in order to thank them for the generous treatment they received. Workers also showed their respect to the manager and the chief engineer who took political risks for them.

[Opinion]“We are Pleading for Humanitarian Aid” A Voice from the Religious Community
We must save those who are dying from starvation whoever they are. That is the spirit of humanitarianism. Now is the time to provide food aid to North Korea on humanitarian ground. We must provide an emergency relief of over 200,000 MT of food within 2 to 3 months in order to avoid the crisis of mass famine. We urge the South Korean government to provide an immediate food aid at least the amount that was sent last year. If that is not feasible, we have to send at least one half of the amount to save as many people as we can. Even though the North Korean government denounces us rather than asking for help, we should understand that their denouncement is in fact crying out of hunger. We should extend a helping hand with a big heart, with the humanitarian conscience, with the love for our neighbor, and with the love of brotherhood.

The North Korean government should not sit around and wait for the food that will be delivered from the United States. They should accept any food unconditionally, and make efforts to deliver the food to those who are vulnerable as a first priority. Only then people can hold on to their hope without giving up by eating porridges to sustain their lives until fresh grains become available. Human lives are more important than anything else. Let us save the lives of fellow North Korean people on the verge of famine. Then, those fellow North Koreans on the verge of death will be happy more than anyone else. That way a climate of reconciliation and unification will form through mutual sympathy and gratitude. Moreover, our descendents will be proud of our action of extending the helping hands instead of ignoring the suffering of fellow Koreans. Our fellow Koreans in the North can rise miraculously if we open our mind and unite our efforts. Let us all join together in creating the miracle. We must make efforts to be with them.

Excerpts from 「Plea of People in the Religious Community Who Are Pleading for Humanitarian Aid to North Korea」

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