GoodFriends: Research Institute For North Korean Society

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North Korea Today No. 226

RESEARCH INSTITUTE FOR NORTH KOREAN SOCIETY
No. 226 October 2008
Profit of 10 to 20 NK Won From Selling an Egg
People Usually Buy Two Eggs at a Time
Discharged Military Officials Worried Because They Are Having Difficulty Finding New Jobs
The Gaechun Munitions Factory Workers Live Up To Their Reputation in Selling Cooking Facilities
"The working conditions are so harsh that I have not had a regular menstrual period."


Profit of 10 to 20 NK Won From Selling an Egg
Women of Ryongchun County, North Pyongan Province are going crazy to find food. Like women in other areas, they cut down on their sleep and do all kinds of dirty work to find food. So far, the women have maintained their livelihood with only grass porridge since the spring. For the autumn months, they live off potato, sweet potato and corn which they farmed themselves. The women of Ryongchun town work on a farm as well as sell goods at the market. A typical woman goes to the nearest farm village which is 16km away early in the morning to buy eggs to sell at the market. She can make 10 to 20 NK won of profit for selling an egg so even if she sells 200 eggs, she cannot make more that four thousands NK won (US$1.00 is approximately 3,300 NK won). This is when the market condition is good. In these days, it is difficult to sell 100 eggs so it is hard to earn two to three thousands NK won. Nevertheless, these women walk 32km everyday to buy eggs and come back.

Some women on rice cake sales make rice cake during the night and exchange 1kg of rice cake with 1.5kg of unglutinous rice. The profit they can get is less than 200g of rice because of costs for materials like red bean and processing fuel. 1Kg of corn noodle soup is exchanged with 1.3kg of whole corn (통옥수수). The most profitable business is pork sale because it can make 200 to 300 NK won of profit per kg. With these earnings, people can only get corn porridge. They cannot even think about having side dishes but a little bit of salt. Women there say that it is fortunate sometimes to have dried radish leaves with corn noddle soup.
People Usually Buy Two Eggs at a Time
Lee Seon-ok (age 45) who sells eggs at Sinuiju of North Pyongan Province says it is not a very profitable business. According to Lee, as obtaining food is becoming more difficult, the number of people who buy eggs is decreasing and even when people buy eggs, they only buy two eggs at a time. If someone buys a lot eggs, it is still usually no more than five eggs. Lee has two daughters and a husband who all work at factories but none of them receive wages or a food supply. She needs to support her family including her mother-in-law by selling eggs. She pleads her difficult situation making 10 NK won from selling two eggs.

Discharged Military Officials Worried Because They Are Having Difficulty Finding New Jobs
Han Seon-hwa (age 23) from Wonsan city, Kangwon Province has been looking for a job since she finished her military service two years ago. While she was in service, she became a party member but that has not helped her to find a job. Her mother had sold home-made wine and supported her family members. Since the regulation on home-made wine business became harsh, the livelihood of her family worsened. Han said, “I need to find a job as soon as possible to support my mother and younger brothers and sisters. But there is not a proper job for unmarried women like me. As a member of the party, I cannot ignore party's order which prohibits business. It gives me a headache.” She showed her deep anxiety saying that she had even considered prostitution.

The Gaechun Munitions Factory Workers Live Up To Their Reputation in Selling Cooking Facilities
From November of last year to the present, no food has been supplied at Gakarm Munitions factory of Gaechun city, South Pyongan Province. Workers secretly make home-use cooking facilities (가정용 화식설비) when they are supposed to make cooking facilities for People's Army. They secretly bring the cooking facilities home so that their wives can sell them at the market on the next day. The workers have maintained their living with this income. Workers of this factory go to work everyday but put all their efforts on making home use cookers for selling.

"The working conditions are so harsh that I have not had a regular menstrual period."
Lim Soon-young (age 22) works at a clothing factory of Sinuiju city, North Pyongan Province. She laughed and said that she did not suffer from starvation because the factory sometimes gives wages and food. She also said, “Boys usually go to the military after finishing junior high school and girls who are not able to go to high school work at factories like me. It does not mean that everybody can get a job at a factory. I was very lucky to work at an exporting clothing factory. There are many factories which are stopped or closed. This factory I work at is very good one because it gives me wages and goods. We receive orders from China, work on manufacturing at the factory, and send products to them. The factory even has a bus transporting workers on three shifts. When the electric current is off, they finish the assigned amount of work using a power generator. The pay is 1,500 NK won per month and rice or wheat flour from China is provided. Actually, the wage is very low but I cannot complain when there are so many people who are not paid at all.” Lim who usually has a smile on her face showed some sadness when she was asked if the work was not tough. “If I say it is not difficult, it would be a lie. The labor intensity is very high. There are many unmarried women who do not have a regular menstrual period. Because we work so hard having swollen legs and scabs on their faces, missing the menstruation, sometimes I envy girls who go to college and marry thanks to rich parents. However, it is not a general case and I am not the only one who suffers so I try to forget those things.” She finished her talk with shy smile.

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