North Korea Today No. 200

No. 200 August 2008
Sharp Cuts in the List of Prisoners to be Pardoned
Prisoners Are Greatly Disappointed at the Announcement of Sharp Cuts in Amnesty List
Rakwon County (락원군) in South Hamgyong Province Designated as a Special Garrison Area
Rakwon County, "It's Not an Exile but a Relocation"
Spreading Rumor Points to the Second Rakwon County Migration
Forced Migration Leads to Angry Arson
Shooting Over Fertilizer in Pyongyang City
[Congratulations on the occasion of the 200th issue of North Korea Today]
[Congratulatory messages on the 200th issue of North Korea Today]

Sharp Cuts in the List of Prisoners to be Pardoned
In commemoration of September 9, the 60th DPRK foundation’s anniversary (공화국창건60주년), and October 10, the Party Foundation Day (당창건일), a decree granting amnesty to a large number of prisoners was expected. Recently, however, there was an announcement that there would be sharp cuts in the list of prisoners to be pardoned. According to the Central Party Committee's instructions, the Permanent Committee of the Supreme People's Assembly and the Supreme Court have made a decision to provide a one-year reduction in sentences for inmates charged with minor/social crimes. As a result, a small number of prisoners are expected to be pardoned. Meanwhile, the draft of the list of amnesty candidates was dismissed.

Prisoners Are Greatly Disappointed at the Announcement of Sharp Cuts in Amnesty List
Prisoners and their families, who were looking forward to this year's amnesty, are greatly disappointed with the recent announcement of sharp cuts in the amnesty list. The total number of inmates in the labor re-education center (로동교화소) in Ohroh County (오로군), South Hamgyong Province, is approximately 1,500. Of these, 500 prisoners will benefit a one-year reduction in their sentence, while 100 inmates will be released on a pardon. As this year marks the 60th DPRK foundation’s anniversary, a large-scale amnesty was expected. Nevertheless, this year's amnesty candidates will reportedly be restricted to those who committed economic offenses as authorities have decided to reduce the overall number of amnesty recipients.

Meanwhile, 500 inmates of Jeongur-ri re-education center (전거리교화소)in Hoeryong city, North Hamgyong Province, were expected to be pardoned. But it turned out that most of them were excluded in the final list and only 80 prisoners will be released. Also, only some of the minor criminals charged with theft, violence, accidents, or national property damage will benefit the reduction in sentence. In the cases of economic offense, criminals who have spent more than 5 years in prison will be released whereas prisoners serving less-than five-year sentences will receive a minimum one-year reduction in their sentence. Criminals charged with Ice (Amphetamine)-related crimes or human trafficking were excluded in this year's amnesty beneficiaries.

Rakwon County in South Hamgyong Province Designated as a Special Garrison Area

Rakwon County in South Hamgyong Province has been designated as a special garrison area (특별위수구역). Authorities have started investigations in search of households that have any family members who attempted to cross the river into China. They are also searching for anyone who is missing that crossed the border into South Korea, and anyone that has family members who are serving or served in re-education centers with charges of social crimes. The households detected by the investigation team have been relocated to other areas as of July 22nd. In fact, this forceful relocation of households is the same as an exile order. The Rakwon County residents on the list of relocation strongly protested against authorities' decision to forcefully relocate innocent people. The voiced this by shouting out, “What did we do wrong? Why are we being forcefully exiled?" In response, police officers mentioned that, "This is not an exile but a migration (relocation). Get it straight!"

Rakwon County, "It's Not an Exile but a Relocation"
In an effort to assuage residents being relocated, the secretary in charge of the party (당책임비서) and the head of the police station (보안서장) in Rakwon County of South Hamgyong Province mentioned, "You are relocated not because you are bad people but because of the particularity of Rakwon County. When you arrive at a new area, you will find houses with heating systems, food, firewood, and coals that are prepared for you. In addition, the new county's party officers also promised to take good care of you without partiality. As mentioned earlier, what you have to remember is that you're not being exiled but you're migrating due to the particularity of the county. We're neither abandoning nor ousting you."

Rakwon County's feeding and clothing care center (급양관리소) also prepared meals for the residents leaving the county. These people who were relocated took their necessities and food and got on a train. Doctors and nurses also joined this trip in case of an emergency. Furthermore, night patrol officers got on the train as well in order to prevent fleeing during the trip. In the meantime, the Central Party issued an order stating, "Be prepared to welcome new residents [people who are being relocated] when they arrive. Take good care of them. Provide them with necessities, including food so that they can feel safe and stable." Residents in the area where these people are relocated will bear expenses for the supplies necessary for new comers.

Spreading Rumor Points to the Second Rakwon County Migration
There is a circulating rumor of a second forced migration following the current relocation, which will affect the lives of families in seventy to eighty households. The police station rebuffed the rumor with the following statement, “There will be no more relocations and residents should not spread this false rumor“. The concerned residents however, dismissed the statement as more rhetorical evidence of its plan to execute a subsequent migration. Their worries deepened over the possibility of being included in the next relocation.

Forced Migration Leads to Angry Arson
One of the residents, who was forced to vacate his house in order to join a recent migration sponsored by the government, set fire to his own house using gasoline. He could not contain his anger over the involuntary relocation and committed the arson when he learned that an executive government leader would be occupying his recently renovated home. He has accumulated substantial wealth through his privately run fishery business and has been an envy of his neighbors. He was arrested by district security guard members soon after the incident and was beaten while taken into custody.

Shooting Over Fertilizer in Pyongyang City
A shooting between military soldiers and district police erupted in late July when the soldiers were on an illegal business expedition. They attempted to sell 6 MT of stolen fertilizer on behalf of Limsuk-ri farm union member’s wives, who were caught earlier by district police while attempting to sell the stolen fertilizer. The military soldiers were trying to place the stash into a proper business transaction at Moonmoo-ri, Suhheung County(서흥군) of North Hwanghae Province, but were discovered by a group of security police who were on a patrol and resisted their effort. At first, heightened emotions from both sides clashed into fierce, fist-fighting that soon erupted into shooting after one of the district police was killed by a blow to the head in the midst of fighting.

As a result, all the soldiers and police were arrested, and the policeman, who shot the soldier, has been dishonorably discharged and is awaiting an arraignment. Due to the fact that this shooting accident stemmed from the illegal activity of the corrupted workers of Limsuk-ri farm, the chief of the Farm Management Committee (농장관리위원장), the chief engineer (기사장), and the party secretary(당비서) have all been terminated from their posts and taken into custody. One of the Central Party officials indicated that their criminal activity should have a very strict consequence because the scarcity of fertilizer has been a widespread national issue.

[Congratulations on the occasion of the 200th issue of North Korea Today]
It has been four years since we began publishing North Korea Today in September of 2004, pursuing our goal of broadcasting the voices of everyday North Korean people to the world. In the beginning, our investigations were like a blind man trying to figure out what an elephant looked like by passing his hands along its hind leg. However, we persisted because we believe it is important to be a spokesperson for the North Korean people, for men and women who suffer in isolation and silence in a society where information is tightly controlled. As we greet the 200th issue of North Korea Today, we promise to be faithful to our original mandate.

North Korea Today tells the world how the human rights of the North Korean people are being ignored, submerged in the excitement of improving North and South Korean relations. North Korea Today also told the world how dire the North Korean people’s humanitarian needs became as the North and South Korean relationship deteriorated. We have always kept watch over whether our unification policies are actually improving the welfare of the North Korean people.

The 200th issue of North Korea Today is a direct result of our intention to do everything we can on behalf of the people of North Korea. In the process, although we have a long way to go, we have gathered crucial insights into North Korean society. All this would not have been possible without the sacrifice and efforts of all the volunteers involved, as well as the advice of respected North Korea experts. We thank them all.

We promise to do all we can to get the voice of the North Korean people out to the world until the day of reunification. We hope to expedite that day by promoting understanding between the people of North and South Korea. Thank you.

Ven. Pomnyun Sunim, Chairman of Good Friends

[Congratulatory messages on the 200th issue of North Korea Today]

Dr. Katy Oh (Institute for Defense Analyses and Brookings Institution)

"When it comes to North Korea, most of the news is about the unending nuclear negotiations, which have little to do with the 23 million North Korean people. North Korea Today helps fill the gap in our knowledge of how North Koreans live their daily lives. Thanks go not only to the Good Friends organization for maintaining a valuable network of information sources on North Korea, but also to the courageous people on both sides of the border who gather information and take photographs to document the hardships of the North Korean people."

Dr. Jae-jin Suh, (President, Korea Institute for National Unification)
As a North Korean researcher, I find it commendable that a small civil society group would even attempt such a thing as North Korea Today. Now, as North Korea Today passes its 200th issue, I believe it to be an astonishing accomplishment. North Korea Today is an absolutely precious source of primary research material for researchers like me who don’t have direct access. I wish North Korea Today all the best in the years to come.

Dr. Young-soo Kim, (Professor, Department of Politic Science, Sogang University)
Congratulations on the 200th issue of North Korea Today.
Because you publish every day now, I have to be extra diligent to keep up! My students also complain because I have more material to draw from when I test them. Without North Korea Today, it would be impossible to study North Korea. Thank you for all your hard work.

New Arrival (Saetomin) Mr. P
On the 200th publication of North Korea Today, we would like to send our heartfelt congratulations to all those involved in editing and publishing the publication. We believe that North Korea Today truly supports the democratization and improvement of human rights in North Korea, leading to that day when our divided land will come together once more. North Korea Today is able to give a realistic and faithful representation of North Korean lives to the South Korean people and it has created a big reaction. It is also giving Saetomins like me a way to receive news of our homeland that we miss so much.

I have no doubt that North Korea Today will fulfill its mission to safeguard the lives of North Korean people and brighten the potential for peace and reunification on the Korean peninsula. Finally, I would like to warmly greet all my comrades of heart involved in this effort and wish a bright future for North Korea Today.

Hope planner, best blogger in Daum blog news
When the first issue rolled out, it was unfamiliar and somewhat foreign. North Koreans were still aliens to me. Now we have the 200th issue. It took a few years to get here. North Korea Today has now become part of my everyday life, as important to me as the 9 o’clock news. It taught me how to see North and South Korea together. It’s like the bridge of birds that connected the two lovers of ancient legend. Congratulations on the 200th issue of North Korea Today.
Good Friends: Center for Peace, Human Rights and Refugees
If you need further information, please contact

Good Friends (Korea)
Tel:82-2-587-8996 / Fax:82-2-587-8998
Good Friends USA (Washington, DC)
Tel: 1-202-824-0788/1-301-455-9196(D)