GoodFriends: Research Institute For North Korean Society

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North Korea Today No. 224

RESEARCH INSTITUTE FOR NORTH KOREAN SOCIETY
http://www.goodfriends.or.kr/eng
No.224 October 2008

“Is a vehicle more precious than a person?”
“They ask us to protect our country, but we would rather live in China”
"Proper Conduct at the City Water Center"
For Complimenting South Korean Sports, a Chinese-Korean Man Suffers a Bitter Experience
At the Hamheung Textile Factory, Extreme Measures to Collect Cotton for Military Blankets


“Is a vehicle more precious than a person?”
On August 3, a merchant vehicle on its way to Rajin from the Gimchaek Iron Mill in Chungjin City, North Hamgyong Province, rolled off a cliff at Juhseulryong Hill (저슬령고개). The first place the manager ran to after hearing about the accident was to the cliff itself. The workers were not too happy about such reaction from their manager. “Is a vehicle more precious than a person? It is morally right to visit the hospital first to check on the condition of the driver,” said Hwang Kyu-hyuk. The vehicle involved in the accident was one of the few imported vehicles used in the state-owned enterprise.

One staff member offered a counter argument saying, “Even I would have checked on the condition of vehicle first. If we do not act promptly, people would just take all the parts off the vehicle and there will be nothing left. If the vehicle is not completely destroyed, a manager’s responsibility is to save whatever he can. Someone at least in the manager position has to appear at the scene if we want to bring back the vehicle. Since the patient should already be receiving medical care in the hospital, iron mill staff members can go wherever they believe they are needed.”


“They ask us to protect our country, but we would rather live in China”
In Hamheung City, South Hamgyong Province, the number of people complaining about their living conditions is increasing. “Every political speech seems to claim that it is us who have to protect our own country. However, we do not have a passion to fulfill that goal nor do we feel any need to do so. In the past, it was hard to think about crossing the border simply because it was too far away and leaving family behind was a difficult choice. However, conditions have gotten to the point where we want to risk everything to cross the border,” complained the residents. The number of people complaining has definitely increased, but only a few people actually try. The reason is that nowadays it has become nearly impossible to cross the river without a bribe. The money required for bribing is too expensive for people who barely survive on one meal of porridge each day. It costs about 2,000 Yuan (Chinese currency) to cross the river for a round-trip to China. This amount exceeds 3,000 Yuan for those who only want one-way trip. Although people dream of crossing the river because of there terrible living conditions, it is only those who are relatively rich that can actually cross the river. This is representative of the present situation in North Korea.

"Proper Conduct at the City Water Center"
In North Pyongan Province, Sinuiju region, there was a public lecture to promote proper, orderly conduct at the drinking station in the city. There have been complaints about certain groups of people who are wasting water by taking it directly from the main water pipe and the lecture suggests that this act should be prohibited. Many apartments share a main water pipe, but certain groups of people are directly connecting that pipe to their homes, which results in a selfish, rapid use of the water which is to be shared by many. On the other hand, these citizens are complaining that it is wrong to tell them to stop using water from the main pipe without taking steps to fix the lack of abundant tap water. "I hope that the officials will pay more attention to the water supply scarcity," said 38-year-old Shim Kyung-cheol.

For Complimenting South Korean Sports, a Chinese-Korean Man Suffers a Bitter Experience
A Chinese-Korean man (50 years old) from Hunchun city in China got into trouble after speaking out while visiting his relatives who reside at Onsung town in Onsung County in North Hamgyong Province. After kindly offering his cigarettes to villagers who were leaving a trade market, he had a chat with them about the Beijing Olympic Games. He said to them “South Korea advanced into the ranks of the ten most powerful sports nations. Moreover, in exporting South Korea ranks twelfth among the major world exporters, a rich country seems to get the lead in sports as well.” However, someone reported his words to the market security office and its officers investigated him. Even after the man clarified the purpose of his visit, the security officer investigated his identity and questioned the purpose of his visit, suspicious that he might have come to make propaganda for South Korea. They interrogated him about what he had talked about near the market. He did not understand what was going on around him, simply saying “I swear what I have told them just before is all true.”

Once he answered, they said, “You are strange. Pull everything out of your pockets! ” and then they inspected the contents of his pockets. They found a phone number written on a piece of paper, the officers questioned him about whose phone number it was. The Chinese-Korean man explained that the number belonged to a friend’s relative, who he had offered to contact on his friend’s behalf. However, the officers continued their interrogation, “Don’t lie! Is he South Korean or a North Korean defector? They might send you here with a suspicious mission. You seem to look with favor on South Korea. You are not like a normal visitor.”

Now the man grasped the seriousness of the situation he faced. He gave Chinese currency 3000 Yuan and two cartons of cigarettes to the officers while apologizing for his slip of the tongue due to his unfamiliarity with North Korean law. Then the officers softened up a bit, saying “We will confiscate this money because its purpose is suspicious. It shouldn’t happen again, so go back to your country tomorrow with no delay.” He was indignant about the unexpected loss of money caused by his simple words. Villagers who had watched the incident develop comforted him, saying “It is lucky you did not make things worse.”

At the Hamheung Textile Factory, Extreme Measures to Collect Cotton for Military Blankets
The wool textile factory in Hamheung city of South Hamgyong Province is a national enterprise providing military supplies with two industries. The factory is mainly aimed at manufacturing military blankets for the People’s Defense Ministry (인민무력부). But after suffering from a shortage of raw materials, workers have been forced to use only worn-out cotton (파솜). To accomplish the task, factory managers organize female workers into a unit of 50 or 80 and send them out to each village in order to gather used cotton inside of villagers’ bedding or from other sources. The units of female workers buy the cotton, paying 50 cents per kg. The factory has around 5,000 workers, of which 3,500 female workers go out of the village to another city or district to obtain cotton. Most of the women are impoverished.

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