GoodFriends: Research Institute For North Korean Society

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North Korea Today No. 207

RESEARCH INSTITUTE FOR NORTH KOREAN SOCIETY
No. 207 September 2008
Five Homeless Children Die from Poison
The Homeless Beaten To Death
People Prefer Backpacks Due To Theft by the Homeless
More Parents Relying on the Elderly for Child Care
“Improve Teachers’ Abilities First”
Students of Gilju Elementary School Receive New Shoes



Five Homeless Children Die from Poison
On August 15th, five homeless children (Kkotjebi) died at Ganri station in South Pyongan Province. In less than an hour after they had eaten food that someone threw from the train, the children suffered from a stomachache and died soon after. While the homeless struggled for ten minutes, nobody tried to help them. Although there were many conductors and passengers waiting for trains, they only looked on as the Kkotjebi rolled over the floor with pain. Six homeless people ate the same food. Five of them died and one survived. As the children competed for food, the survivor was the one who could not eat enough because he was weak. The surviving child had a headache but no stomachache. He kept vomiting but recovered after one hour.

Although it was too late to save the lives of the Kkotjebis, the safety bureau considered their death to be strange and looked into the cause. They took the corpses to West Pyongyang People’s hospital to perform an autopsy and found the cause of death to be poison. While it is not yet known who did this or why, there is a strong speculation that someone purposely put poison in the food and did experiments on the homeless. The case was closed without further investigation because it was the death of homeless children who have no name and home. A witness at the scene said, “It is better for them to die. It is more comfortable to die when they are young than to struggle throughout their whole life without education and money. It might sound heartless but it is realistic.”
The Homeless Beaten To Death
Since July, the number of homeless people has increased and many of them have been injured or died from beatings all over the country. The homeless usually frequent parking lots, restaurants or food stands in the market. They steal food and eat it, even though they know they will be beaten to death for doing so. They are busy putting food into their mouths even when they are beaten. While their heads are bleeding, they only focused on eating and struggled with the pain caused by suddenly swallowing food. A woman who sees these kinds of boys very often said, “They will get sick and die if they don’t eat food, even in this way. I know their situation very well but I cannot give them food for free because of my financial situation.” The woman said these words with tears in the eyes. A few days ago, a boy younger than ten years old died from a beating in Chungjin City. He had stolen food but was soon caught. During a terrible kicking, his skull cracked and his whole body became covered with his blood. He floundered on the street but nobody helped him. Nobody tried to stop the people from beating the child. Even police officers looked at the scene impassively.

People Prefer Backpacks Due To Theft by the Homeless
Residents who go shopping at Soonam market in North Hamgyong Province have been robbed by the homeless. Older people are especially vulnerable to having their pocket picked when they count bills to pay. Police officers oversee the homeless, limiting their access to the market. The homeless, who cannot go into the market, prowl around and steal food, money and goods. As the number of people who suffer from the homeless has increased, the public has developed ways to guard against thievery. People prefer backpacks, as shoulder bags are snatched easily but a backpack is more difficult to grab. Closer to the area where the homeless often appear, people hold their backpacks tightly or carry the bag on their chest, as if they are hugging it. King Seong-rye (age 43), said she shared her tips about how to defend against the homeless with her neighbors.

More Parents Relying on the Elderly for Child Care
As nursery schools and kindergartens continue to increase their fees, more parents who cannot afford the new prices are pulling their children out of the programs. Parents say that it is hard to ignore when teachers say that the class window curtain is worn out and new velvet fabric is out in the market. Since teachers keep indirectly asking for money or goods, parents have to donate at least once or twice. Parents must pay attention to the requests because they want their children to get attention from teachers. Due to this method of indirectly charging more, many families do not send their children to nursery schools or kindergartens.

However, parents still need someone to take care of their children while they go to work. More and more, some parents are asking older neighbors to help with baby-sitting. Old people are not mobilized by the state for labor. While they stay at home, older women take good care of children with a small amount of food. They have not yet replaced the formal teachers of nursery schools or kindergartens, but parents are paying the elderly to take care of their children instead of the expensive institutions. However, more parents are also leaving their children at home or letting them play around the house.

“Improve Teachers’ Abilities First”
From August 2nd to the 5th, the education bureau of Jagang Province held a test to judge the learning ability of middle school students in Kanggye City. The results showed that students’ learning ability is very low. The low score shocked the provincial education bureau and the result was also reported to the Central Party. The Central Party agreed that improving teachers’ capabilities is necessary to advance students’ learning ability. Therefore, the Party ordered schools across the country “to elevate teachers’ abilities.” The education department of every region decided to evaluate teachers’ abilities.

Students of Gilju Elementary School Receive New Shoes
On August 17, six hundred new shoes were provided to the students of Gilju elementary school in Gilju County, North Hamgyong Province. These fabric gym shoes were made from materials that were sent from South Korea last year. Although the shoes were not a free gift, it was a very precious present to the children who had worn out shoes.
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