GoodFriends: Research Institute For North Korean Society

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North Korea Today No. 228

RESEARCH INSTITUTE FOR NORTH KOREAN SOCIETY
http://www.goodfriends.or.kr/eng
No. 228 October 2008

The Secretary In Charge of Hoeryong Municipal Party Visits Farms To Estimate a Yield Per Pyong
“It’s Dangerous to Eat Udong Imported from China”
A Food Refugee Who Sought Refuge with His Sister
People Wish “The Police would catch thieves rather than just crackdown on market activities”
An Uncle Who Kicked Out His Nephews Are Weeping
A Japanese Woman, “Eating White Rice Is My Wish”
[Petition] We Urge the Government to provide 200,000 MT of Emergency Humanitarian Food Aid for North Korean People and to earmark 1% of Government Budget as North Korean Economic Development Fund.


The Secretary In Charge of Hoeryong Municipal Party Visits Farms To Estimate a Yield Per Pyong
On September 25, the Secretary in charge of the municipal party of Hoeryong in North Hamgyong Province visited farms to estimate yields per pyong (평; unit of land, 1 pyong is 3.954 sq.). Workers from the Ministry of Agriculture had made an estimate of 6 MT for a yield per jungbo (unit of land, 1 jungbo is 2.45acres, and 3,000 pyong). Yet, the Secretary considered this calculation overestimated, and thus, personally visited farms to confirm it. After a farm tour, the Secretary has reached a conclusion that “I doubt if it will reach 3 MT per pyong,” expressed concerns about the state’s considerably high projected amount.

“It’s Dangerous to Eat Udong Imported from China”
A rumor that “It is dangerous to eat udong (우동) imported from China” has been circulating among residents. Residents said that the rumor of Chinese udong originally came from the health department and Pyongsung social science institute in Pyongsung City, South Pyongan Province. Experts in health science conducted an examination of imported udong noodles and discovered that these noodles were made of 20 % of flour and 80 % of impurities, including grits (or stone dust). Kim Jung-mi, a 42-year old resident of Pyongsung said, “Udong noodles are heavy because they contain grits. Doctors publicly mentioned a three-year consumption of udong noodles can cause a serious health problem or a death due to grits (grits will block up all internal organs).” Despite doctors’ warning, Kim continued to say, “During a period of food shortages like now, people still buy and eat udong noodles because they are cheaper than corn noodles. Even doctors who are warning not to eat udong noodles still have them for dinner. We want to eat nutritious and good foods, too, but they are all expensive. What can we do? No matter we know it or not, we still have to allow ourselves to be deceived to survive.”

A Food Refugee Who Sought Refuge with His Sister
A number of people in Gaechun County, South Pyongan Province had died of hunger this spring. Kwon Tae-bok, a 41-year old resident, took a refuge in his sister’s house in Chungjin City some time ago. Kwon lost not only his old parents but also his young wife and two children, respectively five and eight years old, during this year’s food crisis. Kwon could not stop crying while he was talking of his family’s death. He could not sleep well, he also mentioned, for a single day due to feelings of guilt about being the only survivor in his family. With no desire for living, he just traveled to Chungjin where his other siblings live. Once he saw his siblings, however, he felt the desire to live again. Although it not yet clear how he could make a living, he still showed a strong will about his life and said that he would do anything, including piecework and work on a ship and a farm, once he is recovered from the long journey.

People Wish “The Police would catch thieves rather than just crackdown on market activities”
Residents in Hamheung City, South Hamgyong Province appealed the police “not just to control market activities but to catch thieves.” Jung Hae-sook, a 45-year old merchant who sells sweets from China in a market, was robbed on her way of home around at 8:00PM a few days ago, and lost her money as well as items. She kept the money both in her hip back and a red pocket (which she hung around her neck) but lost them all, which was worth approximately 50,000-60,000 NK won (US$15-18). Jung desperately fought back against the robber to keep her money but was only beaten more for her efforts. Jung’s husband was going to meet her and walk home together on that day but they had unfortunately missed each other on the way. As a result, she had to face the robber alone. “Patrol officers at the municipal police station are in charge of public security but they put more efforts in controlling market activities, such as selling vegetables and rice on streets, rather than catching thieves and robbers,” Jung criticized.

An Uncle Who Kicked Out His Nephews Are Weeping

Mr. Park Kwang-nam (51) living in Sinuiju, North Pyongan Province, regretted kicking out his nephew and niece. When his sister living in Kwaksan County got divorced in the spring of last year, she decided to bring up her daughter while her husband took care of their son. This spring when his nephew who could no longer stand the maltreatment of his stepmother was visiting him, the nephew was caught by the homeless (Kkotjebi) Investigation Patrol and detained about 40 days at a Welfare Institution. The child told a woman visiting this institution the address of his uncle in Sinuiju, so his uncle could take him out of the place.

Mr. Park said that he did not recognize him because his nephew was 14 years old now, but he seemed only a boy of 7 years old. Even though his living condition was hard, he could not ignore his nephew’s visit and raised him by gathering clothes and corn from his
neighbors. Furthermore, his niece who had lived with her mother came to him less than a month after his nephew. Mr. Park on the verge of tears said, “My family is living in a room of a shabby house, my wife is sick and lies down all day, and I have three kids to take care of, so it is really tough to feed two more kids. Because I do not have enough food or heating fuel, all of my family could become the homeless (Kkotjebi) soon. I have tried to endure these difficulties about half a year, but I did not have any confidence of raising my nephew and niece any more because I could not secure any food even after harvest.”

Mr. Park continued his story, “I gave each kid 3,000 NK won and forced them to go to their parents. Seungcheol’s mother gave me the money that she made from a day’s work because she felt very sorry about their situation.” At Mr. Park’s statement, Seungcheol’s mother consoled him by saying, “When even their parents gave them up to survive, you did a great job. The kids can understand their uncle’s difficult situation, so they could not reproach their uncle.” Mr. Park did not seem to release his burden from even this consolation and said, “I cannot forget the day when I met my nephew and brought him my home.” He cried and said, “He told me that when he saw four kids die from hunger in his room and wrapped them in a gunny bag to take them out from the room, he decided to escape the place because he felt that he was going to die, too. However, the window was as small as a palm and had bars and the door was locked. As he was speaking of his experience of being locked up in such a room all day and receiving only a few boiled grains of corn, he cried so bitterly that I also cried with him. I threw out my nephew who suffered such terrible experiences with my own hands. I won’t be able to face my ancestors when I die with this shame on my shoulders. I don’t want my nephew to forgive me. I just want them to survive anywhere. I don’t wish they are caught again by the Patrol and detained at a Welfare Institution. I am praying they are not sick and that they just survive.”

A Japanese Woman, “Eating White Rice Is My Wish”
A Japanese woman at 80 in this year lost her husband long time ago and raised two sons and a daughter by herself. Her daughter died during the Arduous March in 1990s, her first son lives in Dukchun County, South Pyongan Province, and the second son lives in Sinuiju, North Pyongan Province. She lives with her second son. Being very diligent and hardworking, she has raised pigs and chicken on her veranda and cultivated vegetables on a small patch of field more than 10 years to support her family’s livelihood. To gather leftovers to feed the pigs, she has visited every house everyday although she is old and sick. Because she has collected the leftovers more than 10 years, some people wait for her to give her their leftovers and other people provide her with meals when she visits them. She slipped and fell on ice last winter, which caused hairline fracture on her wrist and could not use one of her arms for more than 6 months. She is still busy visiting every house and gathering food to feed her pigs and says, “Eating white rice is my wish.”

[Petition] We Urge the Government to provide 200,000 MT of Emergency Humanitarian Food Aid for North Korean People and to earmark 1% of Government Budget as North Korean Economic Development Fund.

We would like to show our respect and love to President Lee Myoung-bak for his efforts for the country and to the citizens for their hard work in their given situation. We also convey our deep sympathy to our fellow countrymen in North Korea who are struggling to survive in the fields, in the market place, and on the streets.

We in the religious community feel a deep pain when we heard of the news that North Koreans are suffering from hunger and starvation the same way they were suffering in the early 1990’s. As such, in our attempt to help relieve the suffering of North Koreans, we started collecting one million signatures urging the delivery of 200,000 MT of emergency humanitarian food aid for the North Korean People and the use of 1% of government budget as North Korean economic development fund.

On hot summer days we, volunteers from all over country, searched out places where people gather including the streets, subways, schools, soccer fields, and the beaches. With sweat, pouring down our faces and with passion that was hotter than the hottest weather we earnestly pled for the relief of suffering for the North Korean people. Each day we collected signatures form thousands to tens of thousand of people and the people of the religious community felt the people’s voices and desires. At times we were chastised by the elderly who still have scars from the war, and insulted and attacked by homeless people. The unfortunate shooting incident of a tourist in the Mt. Geumgang made our spirit falter for a while against all the strong oppositions and accusations. However, we remembered the North Korean people suffering even at that very moment and realigned our determination. We met numerous people face-to-face on the streets and discovered that beneath the emotions the people expressed they carried warm hearts for the people of North Korea and wished for reconciliation and peace. Through this experience our trust and hope for our people deepened. Therefore, with the will of more than one million people we are pleading for the following.

First, we are urging the government to provide 200,000 tons of emergency food aid as soon as possible to the North Korean people starving from food shortage. Many of the citizens who are opposed to North Korean government participated without hesitation when they heard the calling of “Let’s help the starving North Korean people.” We cannot let them to die just because they were born in North Korea. Not much time is left for the starving people. As such, we reached consensus that it is left to only us to save our fellow Koreans. No political views or positions are more precious than lives, and we believe that we should not hesitate to save even the lives of those we hate. We have learned that most believe that people will not turn their back on those who saved their lives.

Second, we are urging the government to set aside 1% of government budget and use it for the North Korean economic development fund. In order to resolve the food shortage problem of North Korean people we need to go beyond emergency food aid and provide aid for economic development. Providing assistance now is more economical than spending astronomical figures for the development of North Korean society after the unification, and that is the way to ensure Korea’s strong future. It is reported that the future cost of restoring North Korea’s bare mountains, devastated agriculture, industrial economy with mere 20% operation rate, underdeveloped social overhead capital, and paralyzed educational system and healthcare system will be anywhere from hundreds of billions to several trillions of dollars. However, we can relieve both famine problem as well as the deforestation problem if we provide nursery trees for restoring bare mountains now and give food to those who plant the trees. If we want to make our dream of unification come true providing aid for the North Korean economic development is the way to win the North Korean people’s mind. In addition, that will be the most economical and efficient investment for building a unified Korea.

Third, we are urging the government to use patience as well as cooperation through various channels in their effort to achieve reconciliation between North and South Korea. Resolving the problems between the North and South requires wise decisions and courageous determinations from the officials of North and South Korea. Sixty-three years have passed since our country was divided after the Japanese occupation and the Korean War. Numerous confrontations and conflicts we have experienced remain as big scars to both people of North and South Korea. The problems of dispersed families who have been separated for several decades, South Koreans abducted to North Korea, and Korean POWs in North Korea should be resolved as soon as possible. The dialogue between the North and South must continue to resolve those problems. We hope that the government will never let go of the dialogue for reconciliation and cooperation between the North and South in spite of difficulties. The mutual goal among those of us in the religious community is to build a world of harmony by practicing love and compassion and by promoting reconciliation and peace between societal classes, between ethnic groups, and between races. As such, we the people in the religious community pledge that we will do what we can do to bring about reconciliation and cooperation between the North and South.

We welcome President Lee Myung-bak’s recent visit to Russia and closing of the business deal for building natural gas supply lines through North Korea. North Korea’s economy and society will develop greatly, and peace in Northeast Asia will become stabilized through this business deal. We urge that the government maintains close and cooperative relations with the countries involved in North Korean nuclear issues, which is in deadlock, in order to resolve the problem. Also, we hope that the North and the South will develop a peaceful relationship by promoting mutual respect and trust and through exchanges and co operations in economic, scientific, and technological fields. Dialogues and co operations between the North and the South must precede everything in order to achieve this.

Honorable Mr. President Lee Myung-bak, government officials, society leaders, and citizens! We once again plead that the government provide 200,000 MT of emergency food aid to save North Koreans, and use 1% of government budget to restore North Korean society. Let us save our fellow Koreans and help create stepping-stones to unification. Let us build a great nation with great people. We hope that we will have a president and people recognized and respected by the world community through these efforts.

October 7, 2008

Assembly of religious leaders for reconciliation and peace in Korea

* This week’s opinion is replaced by the petition, 「The Report and Submission of One Million Signatures」, which was announced by Assembly of religious leaders for reconciliation and peace in Korea on October 7.
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