GoodFriends: Research Institute For North Korean Society

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North Korea Today No. 165

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


North Korea Today 165th 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.”


Nationwide Mourning on July 8th to Commemorate the Anniversary of Passing of Kim Il-Song
Women’s Democratic Union to Spearhead the Realization of Great Leader’s Dying Wishes
Do Only the Children of The Rich Get To Visit Pyongyang?
People Finishing Up Weeding Quickly
Difficulties in Securing Fertilizer
Though Squid Fishing is Plentiful, Fishermen Are Still Worrying
College Students in Ceramics Department Make a Living Selling Ceramics
Students Are Sardonic About the Musty Meals
An Accident of a Kangsun Steel Works United Enterprise’s Vehicle Working on Road Repair


Nationwide Mourning on July 8th to Commemorate the Anniversary of Passing of Kim Il-Song
On July 8th, in commemoration of the 14th anniversary of Kim Il-Song’s death, memorial events cherishing the memory of the Great Leader were held throughout the nation. Each city, county, military organization, industrial units, collective farms, Democratic Women’s Union cells, and schools laid flowers at the foot of Kim Il-Song’s statues as part of official memorial events. Following instructions to present only white flowers at this year’s events, there were instances of organizers coloring the flower baskets white in order to comply.

Women’s Democratic Union to Spearhead the Realization of Great Leader’s Dying Wishes
During the regular meeting hour of the Women’s Democratic Union in Poongsuh County (풍서군), Ryanggang Province, a lecture was given titled, “Let us the Women’s Democratic Union spearhead the realization of the Great Leader’s dying wishes.” The lecture basically exhorted women of the Women’s Democratic Union to “realize that we are half of the labor force in North Korea and that we should do everything we can to mobilize a labor force to engage in farming so that the Great Leader’s dying wish of seeing a North Korea where the people are prosperous and full.”

The provincial party of the Jagang Province also recently passed a resolution urging members of the Women’s Democratic Union to participate in the farm labor mobilization effort. It contained an emotional appeal to the members of the Women’s Democratic Union to not extend their hands to the nation but instead to roll up their sleeves to contribute to solving the problem, especially since there is no fertilizer and spotty rains this year.

Do Only the Children of The Rich Get To Visit Pyongyang?
In Pyongyang, young students to college students all reaffirmed their oaths of royalty in commemoration of Kim Il-Song’s passing. Outstanding students from other parts of the country also came up to Pyongyang to participate in the oath reaffirmation ceremonies, but he cost of such visits became a point of contention for some.

There were regions where parents were required to pay 500,000 won per child to attend the Pyongyang ceremonies, eliciting complaints such as, “if only the children of the rich can go to Pyongyang, children of ordinary parents like us will never get to go. It doesn’t matter how well you do as a student; it’s how rich your house is that’s important.” Such complaints were lodged with the provincial complaint bureau and led to the firing of several officials who had organized the 500,000 won per child trip to Pyongyang.

People Finishing Up Weeding Quickly
This is high time for everyone to participate in weeding efforts in farms. Those with money pay 1,000~2,000 a day to be excused from the work, especially during these hot days. Managers of factories and offices, responsible officials of Women’s Democratic Union, and workers in administrative offices are busy pocketing money from those who pay to be excused from weeding work. Those who can’t afford to pay have to show to weed, but they tend to work quickly and shoddily to fulfill their daily quota and then go home. They only do the weeding work only on the visible areas and do a shoddy job on other areas.

Farms are bringing up this issue as a problem but it’s not getting better. The office workers go out to the field to oversee those weeding but they are not welcome because they are seen as “only telling others what to do rather than doing the work themselves.” Those unscrupulous managers of administrative offices or factories organize weeding teams for farms and get money or food from the farms, which they divide among themselves. Ko Young-hwa (38 years old) says, “Who would want to do their best in such an environment? We are doing this because they are forcing us to.” No matter how the officials are exhorting the workers to weed well, the tendency to hurry up and do shoddy job is not going away anytime soon.

Difficulties in Securing Fertilizer
The arrival of fertilizer imported from China on June 25 temporarily eased the demand of the local farms in the border areas. However, the imported fertilizer was so low in quantity that the authorities required each worker in the factories and public enterprises to prepare at least 30 kg of farmyard manure consisting of dried human excrement. This pressing situation has driven many area farms to announce a policy of purchasing farmland manure of dried human excrement for eighty thousand won per metric ton. There are many farms that have already spent a fortune in acquiring farmyard manure of dried human excrement. There is a fierce fight for securing fertilizer in these times when the supply is so low.

Though Squid Fishing is Plentiful, Fishermen Are Still Worrying
It is prime time for fishing squid on the fishing grounds of the east coast of Korea, like Hamheung, South Hamgyong Province. Because fishermen can catch a lot of squid, the urgent food shortage from the Spring famine can be alleviated by a little bit. Meanwhile most residents have barely managed to survive by eating thin gruel, but now they can make some money by catching cuttlefish and drying them to produce dried seafood.

However, there is an unusually large amount of squid caught this year and the price has decreased, thereby decreasing the profits. The price of squid which was 800won per kg last year went down to 600won in this year, and yet the price of food has increased several times, so people who used to eat grass gruel now barely eat corn gruel. Although fishermen have unfavorable conditions such as increased diesel price, most of them are trying to catch squid by saying, “Let’s catch a little more and feed our family while we are able.”

College Students in Ceramics Department Make a Living Selling Ceramics
Some students of College of Ceramics in Kyongsung County of North Hamgyong Province make a living selling the ceramics they make. The students make a monthly payment of forty thousand won to teachers and college administrators for bribes. Students spend time at home instead of attending classes and produce ceramics in modern styles or imitate antiques. Unfortunately, even students are driven to these types of activities in an effort to secure food for daily survival.

Miss Chang, Jung-hee (20) said that a meal offered at the college is a bowl of cooked powdered corn and salty soup of cabbage. Constant hunger distracts her from her studies and makes her determined to find a way to earn money on her own. The poor living condition at the dorm, especially with basic meals, provides a good reason. Insufficient water supply of running water makes washing face and clothes difficult. It so happens that some students steal clothing and other items necessary. Some affluent parents send their children more than hundred thousand won in spending money. Other students from poor families either have to quit school or pay bribes to figure out ways to earn money on their own. There are always some students quitting school to earn money, but there are many more this year than in previous years.

On June 17, there was an incident where some students of this college produced an imitation to an antique ceramic item from Koryo Dynasty (고려시대) and tried to sell it as genuine at Musan County of the border area. They were arrested by the county police of Kyongsung. This incident led to arrests of those teachers and college administrators who were paid bribes. They were released from their jobs and their families were sent to area farms as farm workers.

Students Are Sardonic About the Musty Meals
There is a driving school for the Ministry of the People’s Armed Forces in Hongwon County, South Hamgyong Province. This school provides students with gruel of whole corn and rice bran for breakfast and lunch, and serves corn noodles for dinner. However, the whole corn is too old to eat and has a bitter taste with moldy and musty smell.

Some students complain about the stale meals, yet the officially responded with only, “When we received the corn from the upper department, it’s already had fungus, so we couldn’t do anything about that. You’d better complain about the meal to those upper departments.” When the students heard this response, they became only sardonic without saying either yes or no. Some of the rich students cannot even imagine eating the awful meals at the refectory and instead they eat their meals outside of the school. They leave a resident rice and corn which they bought at the market and ask the person to cook for them. However, poor students cannot help eating the smelly corn gruel because they do not have any choice. They begrudgingly eat it to sustain themselves.

An Accident of a Kangsun Steel Works United Enterprise’s Vehicle Working on Road Repair
On June 19, there was an accident of a vehicle working on road repairs for the Kangsun Steel Works United Enterprise of Kangsuh County, South Pyongan Province. Because the car was overthrown, three people were killed and six people were injured. The passengers were workers of Yonghae Company. As the vehicle was traveling up a hill, it rolled over the edge because of the driver’s reckless driving. The injured were sent to the steel mill hospital and received treatment.

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