GoodFriends: Research Institute For North Korean Society

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North Korea Today No. 218

RESEARCH INSTITUTE FOR NORTH KOREAN SOCIETY
http://www.goodfriends.or.kr/eng
No. 218 September 2008

Pyongsung City Starts a Large-Scale Patriotic Rice Donation Movement
Those Who Do Not Donate Patriotic Rice Are “Cold-hearted Egoists”
Patriotic Rice Donation Movement Spreads to All Areas in South Pyongan Province
Military Units in Daedong County Have Very Critical Food Shortage, Soldiers Are Chewing Cobs
Taechun County, Farmers Are Deeply Worried About Failed Corn Harvest
Many Corns Have Only Blighted Ears
Because of Wild Blueberries, One Month of the Last Summer Was Happy
[Opinion] Food Shortage in the Military and its Societal Implications



Pyongsung City Starts a Large-Scale Patriotic Rice Donation Movement
After reaching the decision to promote the patriotic rice donation movement, the Pyongsung City Party convened each district party with the leading secretary and People’s Assembly chairman attended in attendance, and discussed specifically how to support the movement. At the district party meeting they said, “If people eat 3 meals a day, we can tell them to eat only 2 meals and donate the food for one meal” and decided that the person in charge of each unit will carry a rice sack in person to collect the grain.

The motivation behind this patriotic rice donation movement is the determination of the party’s leading secretary, who attended the Central Party organizational meeting. The Pyongsung City Party’s leading secretary response to the report, “Soldiers barely eat 2 meals of corn porridge because there is not enough food in the military base. There are many weaklings (those who suffer from malnutrition) and even officers are not being fed properly.” He organized the patriotic rice donation movement as soon as he returned to Pyongsung. He first donated rice from his own house and made a plea to the residents of Pyongsung to join the patriotic rice donation movement. The Pyongsung City Party’s officials and the city People’s Assembly members also gave the highest priority to the patriotic rice donation movement and went around the city to encourage people to join the movement, saying, “Be conscientious and donate as much as you can.” Also, each village office, factory, public enterprise, school, hospital, and Democratic Women’s Union, are all focusing on the promotion of patriotic rice donation movement for 10 days. As the patriotic rice donation initiative has turned into a well-organized movement, the Central Party highly praised the Pyongsung City leading secretary as the “pioneer of the patriotic rice movement.”

Those Who Do Not Donate Patriotic Rice Are “Cold-hearted Egoists”

People in Pyongsung city who barely eat two meals a day are having trouble with the patriotic rice donation movement. Authorities ask “Just take one spoonful of rice from your meal.” However, that is too much of a burden for the people, who can barely eat corn porridge as a daily meal. The City Party’s initial plea for voluntary donation has become more oppressive as nobody showed signs of donating voluntarily. At every meeting, they call the names of those who did not donate patriotic rice and denounce them as “cold-hearted egoists.”

Patriotic Rice Donation Movement Spreads to All Areas in South Pyongan Province
While the patriotic rice donation movement is being actively organized the movement also started in the countryside near Pyongsung City. As the atmosphere of obligatory donation forms, farm members have reluctantly donated 1 kg of potatoes or green onions, or garlic, which they grow in small lots. Because the patriotic rice donation movement affects all of the population, including party-members, non-party members, workers, housewives, students, or farmers, the movement has spread from Pyongsung city to all areas of South Pyongan Province. The city of Pyongsung and the Central Party expect that Pyongsung City’s patriotic rice donation movement will soon spread throughout the nation. Nevertheless, the people suffer from it because the movement adds extra burdens while they already have difficulty feeding themselves. Hwang Ok-hee (age 38) complained by saying, “I wouldn’t feel too bad about donating patriotic rice or whatever if they allow us to do trading business. They don’t allow us to trading business; my husband is not getting any rations. There is no place we can get any grain. So, how can we donate anything more? Our life is hard enough with hunger and hardships. Why do they have to make us suffer like this?”

Military Units in Daedong County Have Very Critical Food Shortage, Soldiers Are Chewing Cobs
Military units based in Daedong County, South Pyongan Province, have a very critical food shortage. Last August 28, when an anti-aircraft battery regiment of 91 soldiers and squads under the 3rd Corps had nothing to eat, commanders visited the secretary in charge of the County Party and a chief of the People’s Assembly in person to request urgent food aid. Meanwhile, these military units have provided their soldiers with five potatoes for their three meals a day. These commanders asked, “If Daedong County has any reserved food for emergency, please help us.” At this request, the secretary in charge of Daedong County and a chief of the People’s Assembly were perplexed and answered, “So far, even residents of Daedong County have rarely received food distribution appropriately.” However, they gave soldiers barley seeds that are for next year’s farming because they cannot ignore the military’s request. But, compared to the number of soldiers, the amount of barley was so small that it was eaten in less than a week, even though soldiers tried to conserve as much as they could. In September, soldiers felt so hungry that they chewed corncobs for their sugars. As officers also felt extremely hungry, they let their subordinates steal and grill corn to eat. When the Ministry of the People’s Armed Forces received a report about the critical situation, it ordered the emergency military supply department of Daedong County to release food that it had stockpiled for the wartime.

An officer said, “During even the March to Hardship, when people starved to death, we never ate the army provisions. Because this country does not have any reserved food or foreign countries do not give enough food aid, we are compelled to use temporarily the army provisions for wartime. Actually, this food could be the last supply. Unless we provided this emergency food this time, soldiers of my unit could not eat even a meal a day and would have passed out from hunger. When we consume all of this food, our next meal might be when people give us food for patriotic purposes. This is the real food situation of my unit.”

Taechun County, Farmers Are Deeply Worried About Failed Corn Harvest
Dukheung Farm, Taechun County, North Pyongan Province, failed to produce corn this year because they rarely spreaded fertilizer on the fields. When the corn seemed to ripen a little bit, farmers and residents stole them, leaving only blighted ears on the stalk. Jang Sam-guen (51) deplored, “We failed to have the corn harvest that we really counted on, so I have no idea how many rations we can receive in the fall.” Other farmers were also greatly worried about how they could survive.

Many Corns Have Only Blighted Ears
According to a report about the amount of the grain harvest that chief engineers of the National Provincial Farming Management Committee (전국도농촌경영위원회) expected this year, the locations with the greatest shortfall will be Gaesong and the whole area of Kangwon Province. Next to Gaesong and Kangwon, North and South Hwanghae provinces had the greatest failure in crop production. When it came to farming corn, we could see that there were many blighted ears on the stalks instead of grains. On the ordinary size of cornfields, each farm can have about 20-25 Jungbo (unit of land, 1 Jungbo is 2.45acres, and 3,000 Pyung) where corns have many blighted ears and the harvest failed. On the other hand, the harvest at Chungjin, Hoeryong, Onsung, and Saebyul of North Hamgyong Province, which lie next to the national border, seems to be better than other places.

Because of Wild Blueberries, One Month of the Last Summer Was Happy
Residents of Samjiyeon, Ryanggang Province, call the month from late July to late August “a golden period” because they can pick blueberries. During this season, everyone goes to the mountains to pick these fruits with their children. The berries can be traded at 1,100won per kg and many people come from Chungjin, North Hamgyong Province, to Samjiyeon to buy wild blueberries (들쭉). Wholesalers buy them in bulk and distribute them to the main markets of the country. Because people with skillful hands can usually pick more than 3 to 4 kg of blueberries a day, making money by picking seemed to be a good choice, especially in the current situation where earning money has become almost impossible. Hwang Eung-cheol (46), who lives in Samjiyeon, is happy and said, “Because we could pick blueberries this summer, we were relieved from the worries. Although we have only potatoes to eat, it is possible for us to survive for at least one month because we made some money this season. You can imagine how great and important securing food for a month is when we do not have any food to feed ourselves for a day.”

[Opinion] Food Shortage in the Military and its Societal Implications
The food shortage in the military throughout North Korea and subsequent unrest among North Korean soldiers appears to be serious. We have raised the issue of food shortage in the military several times since last spring. By now, this issue has become a priority at the meeting of the Central Party Organization Department. An official from Pyongsung suggested a voluntary ‘patriotic rice donation’ movement by the people, and the movement is reportedly spreading around South Pyongan Province with the encouragement from the Central Party. We worry that this government-led movement will go beyond voluntarism and take the form of mandatory contribution, putting extra burdens on civilians, who are already suffering from a food shortage.

As the food shortage has spread throughout the country, to all societal levels, the military has also started to face its worst food shortage since the Arduous March. Since January there have been soldiers deserting because of hunger and the military authorities issued orders requesting that the seeds in the farm during the spring season be made available for military food. Despite these actions, soldiers live on a few corns and potatoes a day and their empty stomachs are not being filled. Those soldiers who have to complete difficult training and who must work often face the same suffering as civilians. But it could be worse. The problem lies in the fact that the hungry soldiers are young males and are capable of exerting great physical force, making their desperation take on a totally different societal implication than that of children, Kkotjebis, and the elderly. In order to survive, the soldiers will sometimes use forces, weapons, collective power, and can resort to the authority of the People’s Army. On top of the food shortage problem, people have to deal with market intervention and various other inspections. The oppression of people by the soldiers could triple or quadruple the suffering of ordinary people. The conflict between the military and civilians will escalate and destabilize the public order, making ordinary people the biggest victim.

There has been a suspicion that the food aid from South Korea and the international community is being diverted to the military. The South Korean government could not ignore the hunger of the vulnerable classes of North Korea, but there is impossible in practice to insure that the food will reach those civilians who need it most. Meanwhile, sacrifice of the vulnerable class continues as a "war of all against all" intensifies inside North Korea. Nobody can say for sure if the biggest beneficiary of the food aid was the leadership of the North Korea, the military or ordinary people. However, the biggest victim when humanitarian aid ceases is never the leadership of North Korea or the military, but powerless ordinary people. Without clear understanding of this fact, the South Korean government’s position regarding North Korean humanitarian aid will be adrift with no principles or philosophy.

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