North Korea Today No. 170

Research Institute for North Korean Society

North Korea Today 170th 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.”

Police Officer Dismissed for Racketeering Families Trying to Escape
Dismissal of a Police Officer for Misconduct toward an Honorable Solider
A Squid Fishing Ship Is Missing: Families Are Worried
Becoming the Leader of Neighborhood Unit is a Half-witted Person’s Job
People Can Make 50 won by Selling Clovers Collected All Day
Pillars of a Coal Pit of Geomduk Mine Collapsed and 13 Miners Were Trapped

Police Officer Dismissed for Racketeering Families Trying to Escape
A police officer of the 2nd area of Obong Rodongja (workers)-gu (오봉노동자구 2구역) police station in Eunduk County, North Hamgyong Province was dismissed for wrongdoing on June 26, 2008. As food prices have been skyrocketing with the food shortage crisis in North Korea, many North Koreans have chosen to cross the river into China to escape this dire situation. The dismissed police officer used this opportunity to take bribes from people who were attempting to cross. An investigation team discovered that the 2nd area of Obong Rodongja-gu (under this police officer’s jurisdiction) had the largest number of missing people reported. This officer would visit the houses of missing people to steal goods and cash.

This officer had taken bribes in various ways. First, he asked residents to loan him cash with the excuse a friend of his needed some. Sometimes, he implicitly demanded a bribe from people by suggesting contributions or gifts for upcoming birthdays of senior officers. At other times, the officer lured people by promising to look after their affairs if anything happened in the future. If refused, he threatened them by saying not to blame him for not helping if they needed his help later. As such, he was able to threaten residents.

In addition, the police officer was infamous for misbehaviors was hated due to his insolent actions. He acted high-handily based upon his power and position. People who heard of the news of his dismissal responded that "a person who deserves the punishment was punished" and welcomed the authorities' decision. One the other hand, others expressed their concerns, "Everyone has a dark side. A new officer will not make any difference. Crows in the world are all black; what if a new officer turns out to be a worse tyrannized than the predecessor?"

Dismissal of a Police Officer for Misconduct toward an Honorable Solider
There was a police officer in a market management office in Sariwon, North Hwanghae Province who used to hurl streams of abuse to and eject people who were doing business in restricted areas. One day, he urged a man who looked about 50 years old to leave as usual. The officer who could not stand the sluggish behavior of the man shouted at him. "Are you deaf or blind? Didn’t you hear me? People who were sitting next to you left swiftly. Why are you so slow? What is your intention? Do you intend to continue your market activity here?" In addition, the officer began to kick him. As a long-time control officer, he became accustomed to using physical force and it became a habit. A while after being kicked, the man politely mentioned that "even though I violated the rules, isn't it rude to kick a person like this?" In response, the officer hysterically said, "You are a breaking the rules and you don’t have the right to respond!" and started to beat him again.

Even people on the street who were watching the scene began to strongly criticize the officer for his misconduct. A merchant voiced his anger, "Do you know who this man is? He is an honorable soldier who had served as a staff official until a few years ago. He left the army due to a leg injury. What kind of person are you? How dare you treat the person who had served for the country at the risk of his own life like this? Because the State provides nothing, he is coming to a market to sell vegetables that he himself grew to survive. Even though you cannot help him, how can you possibly beat him like this?" In fact, this former honorable soldier was able to only barely make ends meet and only with the help of some female local traders' at the market.As the officer and residents were fighting with each other, the chief official who was in charge of North Hwanghae Province railroad inspection came on to the scene. The chief officer who saw officer's outrageous behavior showed him his certificate and firmly criticized him for his violent words and deeds. Finally, the police officer was reported to the municipal police station and was eventually dismissed.

A Squid Fishing Ship Is Missing: Families Are Worried
A Squid fishing ship that belongs to Rohchang(로창) Fisheries Enterprise in Cheongam District (청암구역), Chungjin City, North Hamgyong Province left port on June 29, 2008 and has not yet returned. The families of the fishermen have been waiting for any news and have been desperately worried. In the absence of weather effects—typhoons and big waves, many conjectures about the missing were offered; mechanical problems of the ship, arrest by the Russians in the Russian waters, etc. The families were concerned as neither official announcement nor efforts to find them have been made. As days go by, there is little hope for the survival of the fishermen and the families are becoming more desperate. A senior fisherman insinuated that the ship might have intentionally entered the Russian waters, and he said, "It has happened in the past. Ships intentionally go to the Russian waters and often get caught. During hard times, people are willing to do so for survival. If arrested, you have to provide 1-2 months of free labor. Even though you are not paid, they still provide you food. In addition, they also reward you with fish for earlier work when released. Therefore, there are people who would enter the Russian waters on purpose."

Becoming the Leader of Neighborhood Unit is a Half-witted Person’s Job
Because of the bad reputation of being the head of Neighborhood Unit or the leader of Primary Unit of Democratic Women’s Union, people do not want to take on these roles in some districts. In former days, the leaders of a Neighborhood Unit or of Primary Unit of Democratic Women’s Union were highly respected positions for any ordinary resident, so only able and passionate people were selected for these positions. However, currently no resident wants this job and says, “A half-witted and silly person can do this work.” The main duties of leaders of a Neighborhood Unit or Democratic Women’s Union are to collect funds for construction projects, collect items for contributions, and visit every house from early in the morning to late night to ask residents to participate in the mobilization of year round events. With the food shortage, everyone is now busy with trying to procure food that it is natural for the residents being asked for social mobilizations or contributions get annoyed. When the leaders visit a household that cannot contribute money or items, people can hear swear words and severe reproaches the resident. Qualified people refuse the position by saying, “Who wants to do this job?” Considering this situation, it happens that several districts have not mobilized women during the period of agricultural mobilization. Because they do not have a head of a Neighborhood Unit, it is impossible to mobilize or organize women systemically.

People Can Make 50 won by Selling Clovers Collected All Day
As the food shortage becomes worse, residents of Baesa-ri, Sinuiju, North Pyongan Province, have fed themselves and their family by picking wild greens on the mountains and fields. They collect the greens to make thin gruel and sell them at the market, so they are eager to go to the mountain to pick the greens. Even if a person can collect 5kg of clovers a day, the person can make at most 50won by selling them. Because a person can barely buy 20-30g of corn with this earned money, at least three members of each household need to pick the greens to feed a family with corn and green gruel. Men and women of all ages of Baeksa-ri, Sinuiju go to the mountain to pick any possible medical herbs such as Chinese bellflower, Codonopsis lancelet, wild mushroom, Solomon’s seals, etc. Because these herbs are more expensive than other greens, people are competing to pick these herbs.

Pillars of a Coal of Geomduk Mine Collapsed and 13 Miners Were Trapped
On June 24, supporting pillars(dongbal;동발) [1] of a coal pit where the 3rd mine platoon of Geomduk mine of Dancheon City, South Hamgyong Province was working collapsed and blocked about 30 meters trapping 13 miners. Geomduk Mining Union Enterprise devoted all its efforts and strength to rescuing these laborers and succeeded two days after the accident. However, three miners died, nine mineworkers are receiving treatment at the hospital, and one is being treated at his home because he was only slightly injured. There have been big casualties because of mining accidents, but most miners want to work even at the dangerous coal pits. Miners say that working in the pit is the only way to feed their family in these hard time and they do not mind putting their lives in danger.

[1] Supporting pillars of a coal pit. These pillars are called ‘dongbal’ and are placed to prevent the pit from collapsing.

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