No.250 October 2008
“North Korea Today”, published by “Good Friends”, increased its publications from ‘once a week’ to ‘twice a week’ as the food crisis worsened during the first half of this year. Since May 20, 2008, however, a sense of urgency in the need to spread news about the food crisis resulted in an increase in its publication to ‘five times a week’.
Now, Good Friends feel that reducing the number of issues back to ‘once a week’ is warranted. No. 252 (Korean edition, Wed, Nov 12) will be the first publication on this schedule. We promise to bring you the live voices of the residents of North Korea as quickly as possible. In addition, we will try our best so that our readers will understand the scenarios in context of the North Korean society. In these efforts, we seek the support of all the readers.
Issue Numbers 250 (Korean edition, Mon. Nov 10) and 251 (Korean edition, Tue. Nov 11) carry the writings of North Korean children. The original writings have been edited in translation for easier comprehension.
What I Have Lost Is Not a Hen, but People
My parents and I live in a farm village in Jaeryong County, South Hwanghae Province. I am supposed to be a 1st-grade in middle school student, but I cannot afford to go to school since last year. We have three chickens in our house. I have to stay home all day and keep an eye on those chickens while my parents go to the mountains and the fields to collect grass. This year, there were so many thieves roaming around even during the daytime I had to stay vigil for the chickens. Thieve break in even when people are in the house as long as they see something to steal.
We have three hens that lay eggs in our house. One day, my father’s friend came to visit while I was watching the hens in the yard inside my house. I was alone in my house feeling bored. So I put the hens in the cage and played with my father’s friend. And then I fell asleep when my father’s friend left. I woke up when my parents came back because they were shouting and saying that one of the hens is missing. It was obvious that someone snatched the hen from the cage while I was sleeping. We make our livelihood out of the eggs those three hens lay, and the hen that was missing was the one which lays more eggs than the other two. So I could understand why my mother was scolding me. Then my father said, “If a thief did this all hens should be gone, but only one is missing. So whoever did this must be someone we know.” And he asked me if there was any visitor. I remembered that my father’s friend came by. So I told my father that his friend came to visit.
My father said, “I don’t know about other people, but I know that he is a person with innocent mind. So he could not have done that. It has been a while since I saw him ever since the factory closed. I wonder why he came to visit.” My mother said, “Still, we can’t trust anybody nowadays,” and suggested that we go over to his house and look. My mother insisted, “Let’s take a look at his house and ask him why he came by.” However, since my father refused to go, only my mother and I went.
The moment my mother and I entered the house we could smell the scent of steamed chicken in the house. My mother grabbed my father’s friend, using all kinds of abusive language, and said, “How could you do this? You are a friend and you stole the hen when a child was alone in the house. Let’s go to the police station.” I also stepped in and swore and even kicked and spilled the bowl right by his wife that contained cooked chicken.
While my mother was holding on to my father’s friend and shouting that we go to the police station, my father showed up, and tried to stop her. In front of my father’s friend who was kneeling down and begging for forgiveness my mother criticized him and asked for compensation. My father pushed her out of the house. So my mother got out of the house with me. I felt very sorry for my carelessness with the hen as I watched my mother so upset. Later that night my father came back home and told us that his friend came by to our house to borrow some food because he had no food for his ailing wife and ended up taking the hen. My father said, “Let’s forget about it since it’s already happened.” I fell asleep while hearing my mother complaining to my father “You can’t even protect your own stuff.”
A few days after the incident, my father went out when someone at the factory called him out. He came back late in the evening and did not say anything through the evening. Then, right before he went to bed, he told my mother that he attended the funeral of his friend’s wife at the factory. He told us that his friend had to live on grass porridge for more than 15 days even though it was during the harvest. So despite the shame he felt inside he came to our house to borrow some food and ended up doing such a thing. And he asked for forgiveness again.
After hearing the story I remembered that I kicked and spilled the chicken bowl and felt very regrettable. I could not sleep a wink throughout the night when I heard my mother saying,” How hurtful he must have felt inside.” A few days later, my father’s friend whose face was thin came to visit us with a young hen in his hands. He shed tears repeatedly saying, “I am sorry, I am sorry.” In the same evening he visited our house my father went out after being summoned again by a factory worker. He told me lather that his friend also passed away. I cried under the blanket all through the night. What I have lost is not a hen, but people.