North Korea Today No.180

No. 180 August 2008
●Abundant Squid Harvest Expected This Year
●Man Arrested for Asking “Does an abundant harvest of fish guarantee that you will provide us with the rice we desire?”
●East Coast Is Crowded with Squid Fishing
●The Ryunchun-ri Farm in Chungjin City Adjusts Work Hours for Workers' Side Jobs during the Squid Season
●Workers of Gimchaek Steel Mill Are All Involved in Squid Fishing

(Image by Google earth)
Abundant Squid Harvest Expected This Year
An abundant squid harvest from the East Sea is expected this year. People are saying, “Even the poorest and Kkotjebis can have enough squid to eat this year.” Although it’s good to have such a rich harvest of the squid this year, the availability of the squid to people in North Korea may be limited due to export opportunities. In the past, octopus sold for 400 to 600 won per kg in the Shinam market in Chungjin City. The smaller dried pieces sold for 5,000 won per kg, while the large dried pieces sold for 6,000 to 6,500 won per kg. The Beijing Olympics provide an opportunity to export the squid, which has since increased in price by 3,000 won each. As of July 20th, large, dried squid pieces sell for 9,500 won per kg.

Man Arrested for Asking “Does an abundant harvest of fish guarantee that you will provide us with the rice we desire?”
At an academic lecture in a marine corporation in Uhrang County of North Hamkyong province, someone commented, “We have an abundance of fish in the sea this year, which will serve us well. The sardines are plentiful. In the year Chosun (North Korea) was liberated we had abundant octopus in the sea. So this year everything will be going well according to the plans of the Great General Kim Jong-Il.” As a response, a laborer who had been discharged from military service last year asked to a secretary of the party, “How can we live only with octopus and fish when many households have no rice to eat? Will you give us rice in return for fish?” People burst into laughter at this remark. The Secretary of the Party who had espoused devotion to hard work was embarrassed. After the lecture, the discharged solider was ordered arrested for “the crime of causing commotion and sedition”

East Coast Is Crowded with Squid Fishing
Since early July, squid has been caught in large quantities off the East Coast. The cities located at the East coast, such as Rajin, Chungjin, and Gimchaek in North Hamgyong Province, Shinpo in South Hamgyong Province, and Wonsan in Kangwon Province, are filled with people from other parts of the country for squid fishing. People continue to flow into these cities due to a rumor that if fortunate, during three months of the squid season, one could make millions of won out of fishing, or can make more than one million won with other odd jobs like carrying and drying squids. Residents from Jagang Province and Ryanggang Province, currently suffering from the most severe food shortages, as well as from inland and mountain areas are coming to visit their relatives, friends, or even friends' relatives who live in East coast cities to look for a job. This recent influx of people has led to a rise in rent in the coastal cities; the monthly rent for a room has increased from 20,000-30,000 won to 50,000-100,000 won. Despite the rapid rise in rent, people still find it difficult to rent a room. On the other hand, markets have become more lively as more people are coming to the cities. Residents of the coastal cities (sea towns) are all busy with business due to this special squid boom. Kang Sang-young, a resident of Shinpo in South Hamgyong Province said, "Just as farmers have a harvest season once a year, these couple of months is the most important time people like us who live in sea villages. I hope we have good weather so that we can get a good catch, which will ultimately help us get through this year's food shortages."

The Ryunchun-ri Farm in Chungjin City Adjusts Work Hours for Workers' Side Jobs during the Squid Season
The management committee of the Runchun-ri farm in Chungarm District, Chungjin City, North Hamgyong Province has made a decision to allow male farm workers to hold side jobs during the squid season; male workers can opt for octopus fishing for a fee to the committee. In response, workers made an additional request that "Allow us to use the daytime to dry squids. For those of us who cannot participate in market activities, this is our only change to make some money and we cannot miss this opportunity. If we miss just one day during this special season, we would have to starve for ten days in the winter. Please let us to use the daytime for our side jobs." The management committee approved the request and adjusted work hours to 5:00-8:00am and 4:00-8:00pm so that its farm workers could use some of the daytime for their squid work. After their morning work at the farm, female workers go to the ports with pots to receive the squids from fishermen. Later in the day, they dry and process the squid; they dry about 160 squids on sunny days and 100 on rainy days, and receive 20 squids as a daily wage. If they sell these 20 squids in markets, they can make approximately 5,000-8,000 won. These farm workers who had spent hours in the mountains and fields in search of edible wild greens during the farm hardship period are all coming to the ports for this competitive but profitable opportunity.

Workers of Gimchaek Steel Mill Are All Involved in Squid Fishing
The Gimchaek steel mill located in the Songpyong district, Chungjin city, North Hamgyung Province has recently struck a snag as workers of the melting units all have been involved in their squid side work. Due to prolonged suspension of food rations, many workers at the Gimchaek steel mill have been absent from their duties; instead of coming to work, they have been searching around nearby mountains and plains for edible wild greens. As the squid season started, these workers are now busy with squid fishing. Because of the warm weather, squid has been caught in large quantities off the East Coast, particularly near Chungjin this year. On the contrary, the steel mill has been faced with a lack of workers. Police officers of the steel mill who were in charge of searching absent workers and bringing them back to work are now going to ports to find them. In response to the police's search for absent workers, some people expressed their displeasure, "Even though no food rations are provided for the labor, they still command us to come or leave."
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