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North Korea Today No. 246

RESEARCH INSTITUTE FOR NORTH KOREAN SOCIETY
No.246 October 2008
Hemp Sacks Forcibly Taken for Military Food Storage at the Market
Booryong County, Ordered Three Hemp Sacks for Military Food Storage
The Best Selling Footwear is Jihajok at the Harvesting Season
Coal Price Rising as Weather Gets Colder
Onsung County, Prohibition of People’s Coal Mining to Protect Farmlands


Hemp Sacks Forcibly Taken for Military Food Storage at the Market
On October 21, large amounts of hemp sacks were forcibly collected on a market day by the authorities of Jungju City in North Pyongan Province. In the busy market, there were many traders selling their hemp sacks for the harvest season. It is the best season of the year for them because people have much need for the sacks to use them for storage. Joo Mi-young (41) felt it was wrong to complain but said, “I spared effort in cleaning some dirty cement or fertile sacks, then drying them off and kept well to sell them out. On a market day I brought them to the market for sale, but the authorities forcibly collected all of them”. In reaction to the traders’ complaints, Security Authorities in Jungju City said dismissingly, “legally these sacks are not allowed for private property. Besides, we are under an urgent situation for rice sacks for military. It is your duty to support the army by granting your sacks voluntary.” The collected hemp sacks were piled on a small commercial vehicle.

Booryong County, Ordered Three Hemp Sacks for Military Food Storage
Booryong County in North Hamgyong has made an effort to fill orders for hemp sacks used for storing for military food. The authorities ordered factories, entrepreneurs and even schools to collect three hemp sacks per person. People were depressed and said, “It’s not just three bags. Each family is also involved in either a member of Democratic Women’s Union (DWU), or some students, others labors. Therefore a total allotted sacks is to be nine if one family has thee members of family.” Originally, three sacks per family had to be submitted but the total number of sacks consequently exceeds nine pieces because the order for bags was assigned for each workshop and unit. To comply with its allocation, people are having a difficult time meeting full allocation quotas. Some families provided their own sacks, which used to store their foodstuffs.

The Best Selling Footwear is Jihajok at the Harvesting Season
According to footwear traders of Booryong County in North Hamgyong Province,
Jihajok (지하족) is the best-selling shoes at the harvesting season. Jihajok is labor shoes made of fabrics for army wear during the non-combat season. Mainly being favored by farmers, it has became more popular for women who work on small patch lot farming and even students who are mobilized for farming on the harvesting season. Jihajok has some advantages. It costs less when comparing its price with other work shoes. Also the shoes are useful for farming because the shoes are not taken off easily and prevent dirt from entering the shoes. Nevertheless, Jihajok’ selling has been banned at the market due to military supply shortages. Shoes traders cannot put them on the market, so instead they illegally sell them to people who ask for them. In summer, it costs 3,500 NK Won for a pair of shoes due to its off-season, while during harvest season the prices come up to 5,000 NK Won for a pair of shoes.

Coal Price Rising as Weather Gets Colder
As it is getting colder in the end of October, coal price have gradually begun to rise to 9,000 NK Won from 6,000 NK Won a cart. The recent price increase rapidly makes up to 15,000 NK Won throughout Saebyul County, Eunduk County in North Hamgyong Province. Residents who make a living by mining for coal strive hard to mine coal with the significant rising of coal prices. Despite this, the rich families stock up heavily with coal ahead of the higher price for the winter, and therefore it causes further increase of price for coal. Coping with the difficulties, those who can’t afford to buy coal came up with a plan called “cooking share” as a mean of self –preservation, which is to take turns using a kitchen alternately for saving fuel with one house cooking for breakfast, then the other for dinner.

* US$1.00 is approximately 3,400 NK won.

Onsung County, Prohibition of People’s Coal Mining to Protect Farmlands
Land Management Office in Onsung County of North Hamgyong Province conducted to plug holes pitted by people’s coal mining. According to the authorities, damage of farmlands as well as destruction of environment was caused mainly due to the pits. Residents’ reaction to the authorities’ conduct of plugging pits caused outrage, “At this hard time when coal prices are raising, the authorities’ preposterous work makes our life push to the edge”. They added a remark cynically that the authorities should make more effort for food distribution if they have enough time to plug pits.

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