North Korea Today No. 167

Research Institute for North Korean Society

North Korea Today 167th 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.”

Students of Kim Il-Song University Cannot Afford to Eat Even a Spoon of Oil
Kkotjebis Suddenly Crowded at the Shinsungchun Station from the End of June
116-Task Unit Bus Passing Through Gilju Causes an Accident
A Bold Schoolgirl Retorts, “You walk here, sir, because you had food to eat, didn’t you?”
Students at the School for Onsung County Party Says, “With all this farming, instead of studying, it feels more like a reform school”

Students of Kim Il-Song University Cannot Afford to Eat Even a Spoon of Oil
It was recently discovered that the students of Kim Il-Song University, the most renowned education center in North Korea are suffering from deteriorating food conditions. They used to be provided with unglutinous rice and a serving of tofu. Other than Kwangsan University in Chungjin, Kim Il-Song University is the only university that had tofu in their meals. For lunch, they used to be given fish rice cake sandwiches that were each made of 160g of wheat flour, a considerably large quantity. These days, however, they are provided with long grain rice(안남미) mixed with wheat by product and seaweed soup instead of unglutinous rice for breakfast and dinner. Tofu is nowhere to be found. For lunch, the students eat a slice of bread and drink a cup of bean water. These are still considerably high quality meals compared to the meals provided by other universities, but it is evident that the quality has deteriorated compared to the past. Students in the dormitory say that they cannot afford to eat even a spoon of oil and they are too hungry to concentrate on studying. Some students from wealthy families receive 100~300 thousands won from their parents, while the rest of the students are complaining about being unable to concentrate on their studies. The university authorities are worried that students are becoming negligent of their studies due to the food crisis.

One education official who deplores the students’ slackened state of mind says, “These students are expected to be the pillars of the state after graduation, but their mindsets are not much different from those of the students in regular universities. All they want is to graduate as quickly as possible and get nice jobs or land a comfortable government post and make lots of money. Children of the wealthy spend their university years drinking, and smoking, gambling and dating but eventually end up in high positions. While students from poor families are constantly worrying about how they will make money or find jobs after graduation. It’s getting more and more difficult to find students who try to be a pillar of their society, defending our socialist ideals and following the path of revolution.”

Kkotjebis Suddenly Crowded at the Shinsungchun Station from the End of June
Towards the end of June, number of Kkotjebis (homeless children) suddenly increased at the Shinsungchun Station, South Pyongan Province. On June 28, a special train was scheduled to pass through the Sungchun and Shinyang counties. The police departments in these two counties took extra measures to control the Kkotjebis populate. This led to many of the Kkotjebis migrating to the Shinsungchun Station. When found by a police officer, Kkotjebis were either locked in a coal warehouse in front of the station or chased out of the area. So many Kkotjebis chose to flee the area on their own. Because of the poor condition of many state welfare institutions, Kkotjebis run away from them as fast as officials push them in saying it is easier for them to survive in the streets as Kkotjebis. For this reason, even though Kkotjebis are caught every day, the number of the Kkotjebis is not dwindling, which has led the authorities to resort to simply chasing the Kkotjebis away instead of locking them in Welfare Institutions. Every station suffers from the growing number of Kkotjebis. Although citizens are concerned about the increase in thefts and fights, at the same time they sympathize with the Kkotjebis saying the ever growing food crisis is to blame for forcing them into that lifestyle. The police officials in Shinsungchun continually keep busy trying to control and drive out Kkotjebis to other regions.

116-Task Unit Bus Passing Through Gilju Causes an Accident
At 2PM, July 1, a 116-task unit bus(116 기동대버스) running between Gimchaek and Chungjin fell over a precipice while passing through Gilju. Five people were dead on the spot and thirteen were injured. The wounded were immediately transferred to a hospital in Chungjin. The bus driver, who was not physically wounded, suffered from shock and after shaking uncontrollably and foaming at the mouth let out a scream and lost consciousness. Hospital officials said that they are not sure when he will recover his consciousness.

A Bold Schoolgirl Retorts, “You walk here, sir, because you had food to eat, didn’t you?”
Because of severe food crisis, the attendance rate of students in Dongsin County in Jagang Province have dropped significantly. In an effort to raise student attendance, the county education department implemented a policy that determines the salary of school teachers from the number of students that attend their class. So the primary motivation of teachers has become increasing student attendance rather than teaching the students that are able to make it. The students who are absent most often stay home to take care of the house and fields or wander about on hills and river banks to gather food.

Son Mi-hwa (43) said that it has been a while since she was able to send her 14-year-old daughter to school. Due to this new policy, they have had visits from not only her daughter’s teacher but the chief of Police as well. “My daughter isn’t afraid to speak sharply to anyone. She made the Police officer or her teacher understand her position. She said ‘Do you know why I cannot go to school even though I want to? I am too hungry. You were obviously able to walk here because you had food to eat that gave you the energy to walk. I am so weak from hunger that I don’t have enough energy to go to school.’

After listening to her words, the adults are silent. ‘I would jump at the chance to go back to school. You are wealthy so you can probably send your children to schools and universities. We also want to go to school. I am not staying home because I do not want to study. Give us rice. Then, we will go to school to study.’”
The mother is proud of her daughter’s ability to stand up for her situation but feels regret that because of her own incompetence as a parent, her daughter cannot go to school.

Students at the School for Onsung County Party Says, “With all this farming, instead of studying, it feels more like a reform school”
Many murmurs of discontent rumble from the mouths of new students at the School for Onsung County Workers Party in Namyang. Since the start of their school year in April, rather than studying, the students have been ordered to assist with farming from dawn to late night. In return for their manual labor all they are given for meals is a bowl of bloated noodles three times a day. These skimpy meals are not enough to satisfy anyone’s hunger after working a full day at the farming. All the students are complaining, “We are here to learn, but all we have done so far is farming. We feel like we are in a reform school.” As a result, many students have dropped out of school stating sickness and various other reasons to return home. Currently less than half of the original number of students remains.

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