GoodFriends: Research Institute For North Korean Society

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North Korea Today No. 190

RESEARCH INSTITUTE FOR NORTH KOREAN SOCIETY
No. 190 August 2008
A Fire Accident at a Chemical Factory in Chungdan County
The Elderly Resort to Marketing Resale of Farm Produce
The Old Ask, “Should we die because we cannot Work?”
Soldiers Trying To Steal Are Weaker Than an Old Man
Having a Rest Day is a Big Celebration Event
Mrs. Kim’s Unlucky Encounter with a Security Guard
People’s Life Relying on Illegal Medical Services & Folk Remedies

A Fire Accident at a Chemical Factory in Chungdan County
Last July 15, around 8 o’clock in the evening, a fire broke out at a chemical factory in Chungdan County, South Hwanghae Province. After the methyl alcohol used to produce paint had been secured for the day, a security guard stole some of it and spilled it on the ground. The factory’s manager who did not know about the dropped chemical on the ground smoked, threw away the cigarette butt on the ground, and accidentally started the fire. The flames were so intense that nobody could even think of putting it out and all they could do was watch. The fire engines were called, but the fire station did not have enough fuel to operate the engines, so the fire trucks did not arrive on time. Because the chemical was highly flammable, it completely burned down the 2-story factory. The fire spread so rapidly that it burned the accounting office of the factory, the hall of the primary party, and the fire destroyed all the party documents. The police officers inspected the cause of fire and immediately immediately arrested the security guard who had tried to steal the methyl alcohol.

The Elderly Resort to Marketing Resale of Farm Produce
Lee, Jeong-sook (68) who lives in Mangyungdae, Pyongyang said, “Recently food shortage has worsened, so I have been a big burden on my son and daughter-in-law. I have not received any retirement pension, just a little amount of money, so old people like me, who do not have any incomes, are worried about their children’s moods. The traditional virtue of respecting old people and taking care of parents has disappeared. Because I am getting old and my physical condition is getting worse, I need to take medicine more often, but I cannot ask my children for help whenever I need. I am selling summer vegetables such as napa, cucumber, garlic that farmers have grown on their patches of land”.

Like Mrs. Lee, it is easy to observe anywhere in Pyongyang many old people who buy summer vegetables at nearing farms to re-sell them on a street stalls around a market or in front of apartment complex. Because they did not receive any official permit for the trade, police often inspect them. Some families receive public criticism because they did not take care of old people properly and the old people violated the regulation of trading. Some old people do not care about the inspections and continue the trades because they think, “Without selling these vegetables, we will get ill-treatment from our children.”

The Old Ask, “Should we die because we cannot Work?”
After harvesting new barley, Maejeong-ri, Bakcheon County, North Pyongan Province, distributed 3 kg of it per person according to the family size of a household. However, they did not give it to old people because they did not work. Thus, some old people complained about the decision, “Well, should we die because we cannot work?” This complaint was finally reported to the directive officers of the Central Party, so Chief of the Management Committee of the Li got fired and Secretary of the Li Party received punishment of the Party.


Soldiers Trying To Steal Are Weaker Than an Old Man
In Keumgang County, Kangwon province, starving soldiers often broke into peoples’
homes to steal rabbits and chicken and sometimes forced open a lock of a vacant house to steal food. Thus, when residents living around military bases go out, they put their chickens in a cage and hide food and rice in the ceiling of their room or bury them in urns underground. No matter how carefully they hide them, they worry a lot when they go out.

Last July, four soldiers came in to a house and said, “Let us have some water.” However, when they found that there is only one old man in his 60s in the house, they asked the man for food and searched the house. At this behavior, the old man got angry, grabbed two men by their collar, and smashed them on the ground by saying “What are you doing?” When he pushed another soldier on the ground and tried to grab the last, the soldier said, “Let’s get out” and ran away. Neighbors observed that even young soldiers cannot win over one old man and said, “Young soldiers in their prime time do not have any strength to compete an old man because they have not eaten for a long time. It is natural for them to be so weak because they do not eat well like us. We cannot curse only the soldiers because the young soldiers who could eat a horse can have only two meals a day. We can understand the reasons for their deeds.”

Having a Rest Day is a Big Celebration Event
The food factory workers in Yeonsa, the North Hamgyong Province, have continuously been forced in to the mobilization for farming and road repairs since for several months. To commemorate this special year marking the 60th Anniversary of DPRK’s founding and Supreme People’s Assembly members election, extensive repair work has been done throughout the nation. It pushed workers to work extremely hard. Eventually, this immense compulsory mobilization enrage workers because they faced food shortages and were required to stop their small private farming for the mobilization. Workers often say, “The year with a big national celebration event makes people’s poor life much more severe. Political celebration events are not held for us. A celebration day for us is to take a rest even for one day while staying at home or get some rationed rice to feed us. ”

Mrs. Kim’s Unlucky Encounter with a Security Guard
A few days ago at Yeonsa , North Hamgyong Province, a middle aged man came to Mrs. Kim Mi-hwa, who was selling clothes in the market, and asked for the price of pants he pick out . Though she replied it costs 5,000 won, he threw 3,000 Won at her with a rough manner, and then grabbed the pants to leave. Mrs. Kim took the pants from him saying “I can’t accept your price” and gave money back to him. As he left he said, “Don’t be stern to me, someday you will need my favor and I bet you will regret what you have done to me today”. Not much later, two security guards came up to her, singled her out, and demanded that she pack up and leave immediately. They took her to the market management office. They imposed a fine of 50,000 won on her unregistered trade. It is a rule that no one is allowed to sell any merchandise in this area except paying 50,000 won for a market space. She appealed to have the penalty waived saying “How can I afford such a penalty payment when I didn’t even sell anything yet”. So they asked her to buy them cigarettes. When she said she didn’t have the money to buy them cigarettes, they took her to a cigarette store asking the owner whether they knew her. As soon as they heard the owner knew her, they took four packs of cigarette costing 1500 Won per a pack and said that this woman will pay for them. She realized later that the very man who tries to buy her pants at a reduced price was one of the security guards. She said with a very grave face, “It is not my lucky day”.

People’s Life Relying on Illegal Medical Services & Folk Remedies
Around North Hwanghae, Kangwon and Jagang Province, people who suffer from some sorts of diseases such as a cold, diarrhea, dysentery, and headache are getting increased.Rather than people can afford to access to a medical treatment, there are more people to leave being ill with no medical treatment saving money or relying by practicing folk remedies. In accordance with this situation, some interns’ poor practice who hold an only intern license obtained after the air and correspondence college graduation was quite prevalent. Actually, they are interns in place of a doctor, but most of interns practice with barely learned injection skill. Without proper medical supplies, it is almost impossible for them to practice a proper medical treatment. People used to call them as “a maiden proxy doctor” due to the majority of unmarried young woman. They go a round to their clients around villages carrying with a syringe and general medication and visit a door to a door touting “We have a good medication. We charge 500 won for one time injection. With having no money, you can pay with maize ’’. Usually they charge 500 Won for one time injection and 1000 won for medication taking for a few days. So people prefer a maiden proxy doctor’s service because it costs less than a medical office and is convenient by their visiting


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