North Korea Today No. 162

Research Institute for North Korean Society

North Korea Today 162nd 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.”

130 Military Officers Suffering from Tuberculosis in Buryong County
Government Requests Vigilance Concerning Hand-Foot-Mouth Disease and the Bird-Flu
Child from Gilju Childcare Centre Dies of Hand-Foot-Mouth Disease
Childcare Centre Children on Farm in Taetan Country Suffers Severe Malnutrition
"Even in my dreams, there is no food”
North and South Pyongan Province Taking Steps to Prevent Spread of Bird Flu

North and South Pyongan Province Taking Steps to Prevent Spread of Bird Flu
Health authorities from North and South Pyongan Province are currently taking steps to prevent the spread of bird flu throughout the region. Doctors and clinicians from regional health centers are going house to house and are conducting surveys to get more information on the actual state of the current situation. These medical workers are checking to see if households raise birds such as chickens, ducks, and geese, and if they do, they are trying to find out detailed information about how many birds are being raised, if the birds have exhibited strange symptoms, and what types of diseases have been contracted. Also, these officals are concerned about whether any family members, especially children, have contracted high fevers, and check to see if any family members have recently traveled. Upon completion of the survey, the household is given an official stamp of approval if no suspicious conditions have been found.

Government Requests Vigilance Concerning Hand-Foot-Mouth Disease and the Bird-Flu
The Ministry of Health issued directives throughout the country that urged vigilance from the citizenry in detecting any cases of Hand-Foot-Mouth Disease (HFMD) and the bird-flu. In response to this directive, Neighborhood Units throughout the country are educating the public on the symptoms and the causes of these diseases and are teaching the citizenry about the preventive measures against them. However, no specific mention was made about where cases of these diseases have been reported and how many casualities have taken place.

Child from Gilju Childcare Centre Dies of Hand-Foot-Mouth Disease
On June 23rd, two children from Gilju길주, North Hamgyung Province, aged 4 and 5 were diagnosed with a high fever. The examination that was done at the time initially concluded that the children suffered from a case of the cold. An injection and medication was administered in the evening, but these did little to reduce the fever, and the children soon showed signs of shortness of breath. The physicians in charge then wondered about the Hand-Foot-Mouth Disease (HFMD) that is presently spreading. At 10 AM the following day, June 24th, the two children lost consciousness and did not recover. Upon the death of these two children, workers at the clinic for the Prevention of Epidemics searched for more details at the nursery but did not make any public announcements. Insiders, however, report that these two children died of HFMD and that proper measures needed to be taken. The Gilju Childcare Centre where the two children were living tried to separate the children from each other and took special measures to contain the diseases. Cases of children dying at this nursery have been constant as three children died of acute colitis in March and one child died of polio in April 2008.

Childcare Centre Children on Farm in Taetan Country Suffers Severe Malnutrition
Children are suffering from severe cases of malnutrition in childcare centres and kindergartens run by farms in Taetan County태탄군, South Hwanghae Province. The sight of these emaciated children is heartrending, and two children in a local kindergarten even lost their eyesight due to malnutrition. At this particular kindergarten, there was also a case of an adult guard who suddenly started to vomit because of malnutrition and died. With cases like these, it is not hard to imagine the severity of the conditions the children are suffering from when even adults are dying from malnutrition and starvation. Even though these children are cared for at home, they spend most of their time sitting idly or lying down because of their lack of physical strength. As a last resort, the dairy sections of the farms provide the children with goat’s milk.

“Even in my dreams, there is no food”
All the students and teachers in Taetan County seem to have lost hope and say that the school is very quiet. Teachers give their students classroom assignments such as reading and other activities, but soon retire to another place to lie down because they are suffering from constant hunger. When recess begins, the teachers leave the classroom. The students barely make any trips to the restrooms and do not run around on the field. Both the children and the teachers sleep on their desks because they feel so hungry. Jung Chul, a 12 year old student, says that he does not have the physical strength for anything other than sleep. He says that he needs to maintain himself with minimal body movements because his hunger makes him feel like he will faint at any moment. He went on to say, “During sleep, I enjoy dreaming about eating. But in the middle of my dream, no food appears, and when it does, somebody takes it away from my mouth. This situation makes me very sad.”

130 Military Officers Suffering from Tuberculosis in Buryong County
At the 9th Corps Army Hospital located at the district of Sukmak-ri석막리, Buryong County부령군, North Hamgyung Province, there are currently 130 soldiers who have been hospitalized for tuberculosis. 17 soldiers from the same unit were even hospitalized together because they were diagnosed with tuberculosis at the same time. According to the hospitalized soldiers, “Under these current conditions, training and physical labor are too much for us because we are suffering from malnutrition. When we go to see the doctor for our chronic coughing and fevers, we’re simply told that we have nothing more than normal colds.” Some soldiers were even reprimanded by their doctors and accused that they had faked their illness to avoid training and physical work. Only after these soldiers had suffered several more days of high fever, and even vomited blood, was a thorough evaluation completed. Those diagnosed with tuberculosis were sent to the army hospital. Once solidier commented, “There was no ventilation facility available at the site where we dynamited rocks, and consequently, we breathed in the harmful dust. The gas masks available were of no help and when we spit, the dust from the rocks came out of our mouths. It was so hard to breathe. Our work requires us to rotate throughout the day, and those who are physically weak collapse and get sick."

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