GoodFriends: Research Institute For North Korean Society

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North Korea Today No. 220

RESEARCH INSTITUTE FOR NORTH KOREAN SOCIETY
http://www.goodfriends.or.kr/eng
No. 220 September 2008

Daily Entreaties, “Please Abolish Age Restrictions on Commercial Activities”
County of Ryongchun, “Rice Dealers, Change Your Careers”
Without Seed Money, There are Only “Stake Peddlers, Echo Peddlers”
Even Imitations of “Magpie” Shoes in Circulation
Prices Increase On The Occasion of the Mid-Autumn Festival (Chuseok)
City of Pyongyang, Special Ration on Occasion of the Chuseok (Mid-Autumn Festival)
September Distribution of 15 kg of Corn by Sinuiju University



Daily Entreaties, “Please Abolish Age Restrictions on Commercial Activities”
It has been disclosed that the provincial People’s Council of North Hamgyong Province receives more than ten entreaties daily, asking to abolish age restrictions on commercial activities. Women under the age of forty are prohibited from engaging in commercial activities and consequently suffer from an inability to make an adequate living. It is these women who seem to petition the Council most often. Most entreaties claim that there should not be any restrictions on those capable of earning a living. They claim that the state currently is not able to provide adequate food and clothing to people. Under these circumstances, rather than enacting any restrictions, shouldn’t the state encourage people to do their best in solving the problems of daily life? Such is the main theme of their claims.

A woman who claims to have submitted an entreaty says, “prohibition from commercial activities has made daily living much harder. As the living conditions get harder, what can we expect the people to do? I can only expect more people to turn to crime. Only those who are willing to steal some corn or potato or deal with the contraband, ‘ice’ (methamphetamines) can survive, even if only on porridge. The harder daily living becomes, the greater the number of crimes in a society. The effect of these labor restrictions is complex, generating more criminals in the society and creating a disturbance. The prohibition from commercial activities does not organize the markets, as high-ranking officials desire, but creates more turmoil within them. How can the leaders not understand this?” She suggested that the unreasonable regulations be changed.

County of Ryongchun, “Rice Dealers, Change Your Careers”
Early September in Ryongchun County, North Pyongan Province, the General Conference of Labor Party was held in public. The General Conference discussed the idea that “Dealing in rice should cease.” Further mention was made, “Do not deal in rice anymore. Follow the rules of the law. Accordingly, rice dealers had better change careers.” Residents of Ryongchun County expected the food situation to get better after a splendid celebration of the 60th anniversary of the foundation day of the republic. But there was only disappointment.

Without Seed Money, There are Only “Stake Peddlers, Echo Peddlers”
At Rakwon in South Sinuiju, North Pyongan Province, there are many factories, but few of them provide their workers with wages and food rations. Families of the workers here rely on income brought in by female peddlers. But women under the age of forty are prohibited from commercial activities. Those women who are permitted to work but lack any seed money to start their business barely survive by being “Alley Peddler”, “Stake Peddler” or “Echo Peddler.” Those cigarette peddlers standing on the streets are called “Stake Peddlers” and those who advertise their goods by shouting in the streets are called “Echo Peddlers.” These peddlers struggle every day and barely earn enough for meals of porridge. All they can do is buy corn noodles and boil them in salt water to make porridge.

Even Imitations of “Magpie” Shoes in Circulation

The favorite shoes of the residents of North Korea are the “magpie” shoes made in Sinuiju. Genuine products normally cost 7,500 NK won a pair, so imitation products have become popular. The imitation “magpie” shoes are manufactured in Hamheung and sell for 3,500 NK won a pair. The least expensive Chinese-made shoes usually cost 15,000 NK won and those with money buy the Chinese shoes rather than the “magpie” shoes. In the major markets of Pyongsung, Soonchun and Wonsan, imitation products of the Chinese shoes are circulated in large quantities.

Prices Increase On The Occasion of the Mid-Autumn Festival (Chuseok)
On the occasion of the Chuseok (Mid-Autumn Festival), the prices of food items, including those used in traditional ancestor-worship rituals, soared in all of the major markets in the country. Cabbage, which usually costs 600 NK won per Kg, doubled to 1,200 NK won, the price of apples jumped from 3,000 to 4,500 NK won, a 50% increase. Fish used to cost 3,000 NK won, but now sells for 4,000 won. The price of pork went from 5,000 per kg to 6,500 NK won, eggs from 250 to 350. Soybean oil now sells for 7,000 NK won per kg, seasoning for 8,000, garlic for 1,500 and red pepper for 8,000 NK won. (US$1.00 is approximately 3,300 NK won.)

City of Pyongyang, Special Ration on Occasion of the Chuseok (Mid-Autumn Festival)

On the occasion of the Chuseok, the City of Pyongyang provided residents, including farmers of its neighboring villages and soldiers at the garrison, with special rations. Each person was given 1.5 kg of rice. Normally the soldiers at the garrison were fed once a day with a meal of long grain rice or three potatoes and two boiled corncobs.

September Distribution of 15 kg of Corn by Sinuiju University

Sinuiju University distributed 15 kg of corn as rations for September. The distributed corn of 15 kg barely weighed 7 kg after drying. People are worried that they have to survive for a month on 7 kg of corn. The university dormitory provides meals of whole wheat or corn noodles.

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