GoodFriends: Research Institute For North Korean Society

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North Korea Today No. 252

RESEARCH INSTITUTE FOR NORTH KOREAN SOCIETY
No.252 November 2008
Editor’s Note
“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) is 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.

Farmers at Ryongpo-ri, City of Jungju Farms Sustain Themselves with Potatoes
Only Those Who Participated in the Mobilization Allowed to Collect Leftover Grain Ears
Sale of Winter Clothing Much Less Than Last Year
Quarrel Between Police and Female Shopkeepers at Market
Good Chinese Cabbage Is Released at the Market to Raise Funds for Farming Management Commission
Residents of Baekarm County, Charged for Stealing Rice Sheaves
A Threshing Floor of Tongchun County, Kangwon Province Is Robbed Four Times in Ten Days
Farms in Kangwon Province, Protect Grains from Soldiers with All Their Might
Population Decrease in Every Local Area
Yeonsa County, Registration for Small Patch Lot Begins
Education Authorities Emphasize On Improved Control over Teenagers’ Hair and Dress Codes
Sinuiju Criticized for Harsh Punishment on a Student Caught Smoking
Son-In-Law Kills His Father-In-Law after Intense Debate over South Korea
Farmers at Ryongpo-ri, City of Jungju Farms Sustain Themselves with Potatoes
Each person at farms in Ryongpo-ri, City of Jungju is rationed six potatoes, twice a day, and ten pieces of boiled chestnuts in between. This area, a rural village, is low in population density. There are only fifteen children in the nursery and kindergarten in the village altogether. Nowadays, only five to six children show up since lunch is no longer being served. Even the soldiers trying to collect chestnuts in the area look pitifully thin. The farmers in this area are waiting anxiously for their food rations even though they do not expect much.

Only Those Who Participated in the Mobilization Allowed to Collect Leftover Grain Ears
Shingye County, North Hwanghae Province restricts the residents from collecting leftover grain ears. Police authorities check persons hanging around near the farms and confiscate any grain ears found in their possession. Their rationale is that anyone who can find time pick up leftovers should spend more time in the farm mobilization. Anyone who desires to glean should register their names at the farm management commission. Only those who can prove to have worked on the farm are allowed to gather leftovers in the afternoon.

In a similar fashion, Booryong County, North Hamgyung Province issued instructions that the residents are allowed to search for remaining grain ears after their work at the farms. After these instructions, the workers deliberately dropped bundles of grain ears here and there during their work shifts so that they can claim to pick up the leftovers later.

Sale of Winter Clothing Much Less Than Last Year

According to Kim Sun-hwa (41) who deals in used clothing at Haeju City, South Hwanghae Province, business is much worse this year than last year. Last year, the markets were already crowded with people trying to buy winter clothing early November. Even though the weather turned cold sooner this year, there are not many people who want to buy winter clothing. She looked sad, saying that business is considered good if one piece of clothing is sold a day. Goh Jeom-rye (47), who wholesales fish in Chungjin, North Hamgyung Province, says he cannot afford gasoline for the truck because of the low level of business. Since the end of October, even though amount of fish caught in Chungjin was plentiful, better than any previous year, nobody wants to buy it. Goh says a fish usually costs 600 NK Won. It cost 500 NK Won last year and an increase of 100 NK Won is nothing compared with the increase in grain price. Even so, nobody wants to buy it. When asked why, people say that they cannot afford fish and that they would rather buy corn. Everyone seems to be afraid of spending money on anything else but grain because of the food crisis.

Quarrel Between Police and Female Shopkeepers at Market
City of Pyongyang set a policy that Pyongyang should be a model in market management and have consequently control over the city markets have been tightened. On October 26, at Dangsang-dong market, Mangyungdae District of Pyongyang, a quarrel started between female shopkeepers and police. Several physically handicapped female shopkeepers were fined 1,000 NK Won each and their merchandise was confiscated, and these women did not cooperate with the police. These women tried to hold back the merchandise in their arms and grab the pants of the policemen in an effort to keep them from leaving. The policemen ended up kicking the faces of those women resulting in bloody wounds.

Other women spectators, just watching what was happening, got upset and tried attack the policemen. These policemen who tried to leave with confiscated merchandise seem to be really confused. The policemen ended up with their clothes torn apart and bloody injuries themselves. Dangsang-dong office later held a lecture session on ‘fight for ideology’ with those handicapped shopkeepers and the women who helped the handicapped against the police.

Good Chinese Cabbage Is Released at the Market to Raise Funds for Farming Management Commission
Every farm in the nation has been busy raising funds. Since October 23rd, 1.5 million NK won (approximately US$440.00) has been raised for the Farming Management. Farms have released large, good quality Chinese cabbages (배추) at the market at a price of 200 NK won per kg. To raise the funds, they also sold other crops like corn tree to merchants. Thanks to the good vegetables with affordable prices, people are talking about the vegetable-abundance for this year.

On the other side, residents of Baechun County, Hwanghae Province have received 100 kg of vegetables, including dried radish leaves for every household in order to make Gimchi (김치). People are relieved that they do not have to worry like last year.

* US$1.00 is approximately 3,400 NK won

Residents of Baekarm County, Charged for Stealing Rice Sheaves
On October 18, workers of daily necessary-factory who were mobilized for the Fall harvest in Baekarm County of Ryanggang Province, found many rice sheaves were missing from what they had previously harvested, so they reported this to the farm. Police officers followed ears of rice that had fallen on the street and found about 30 rice sheaves in a storehouse placed at the entrance of the village. According to the house owner, he heard a door knocking sound early that morning and found three soldiers asking to exchange rice sheaves for food.

The owner tried to make them leave saying that he did not have any food. However, the soldiers were about to search inside of the house. He had no alternatives but to give wheat-gluten, Tobu and some food that he prepared to sell at the market. Soldiers left the rice sheaves in return. He said, “It was suspicious that soldiers carried rice sheaves so recklessly, so I was going to report this to the police station in the morning.” However, the officer said, “Knowing that rice sheaves should only be in a farm containing different grains, leaving the rice sheaves at home is the same as robbery.” Therefore they demanded one year of the Training Center.

A Threshing Floor of Tongchun County, Kangwon Province Is Robbed Four Times in Ten Days
In the middle of October, there were robberies four times in ten days at a threshing floor of Tongchun County, Kangwon Province. Soldiers brought a car and took beans, corn and rice sheaves into gunny bags and farm laborers could not stop them. The laborers begged the soldiers not to do it but the soldiers said, “Our food condition is too bad. Please help us.”

The farm guards could not consider fighting against the soldiers but tried to soothe them saying, “Why don’t you make a formal request to the Farm Management Committee (농장관리위원회) for food.” However, the soldiers scolded the guard saying, “There are movements of gathering rations first in other areas though. Why do you talk so much?” He then took all the grain. Police officers know all the situations but stand off soldier-related matters so only farmers have to worry for themselves.

Farms in Kangwon Province, Protect Grains from Soldiers with All Their Might
Every farm in Kangwon Province put all their efforts to protect the grain from soldiers. It is more difficult to farm in Kangwon Province because of the barren soil; therefore, grain is rare there. Naturally, the condition of rations in this area is worse than any other areas. As the number of soldiers who try to steal crops is increasing, farmers also strengthen their security so as not to be deprived of grain. Security on the threshing floor has been strengthened since the middle of October because each farm keeps their grain of beans and corn in the threshing floor. The regional party of Kangwon Province assigned 5-6 guards in every threshing floor and doubled the number of guards to 10-12 at night. Nevertheless, groups of soldiers rob them every time.

Population Decrease in Every Local Area
The census that has taken place recently shows the decrease of population in every area. So the National Women’s Union(전국 녀맹) and Youth Union(청년동맹) are giving lectures to young couples about how important it is “to have many children.” A woman, who has three children, will receive the certificate of fecund mom and a heroine title of motherhood if she has more than five children. Despite this effort to promote higher rates of childbirth, young women are negative about having babies saying, “Even with all the titles, I cannot afford to raise more children. I am struggling to raise one child.” Some women say that “in this bad financial situation, women are not responsible for the substantial decrease in the population. Instead the government, which failed to supply the food, should be blamed.”

Yeonsa County, Registration for Small Patch Lot Begins
Yeonsa County, North Hamgyong Province, began registering the size of each lot owned by the residents before implementing the prohibition of small patch lot farming next year according to the environmental-friendly policies. After receiving the size of the land areas, Department of National Land Management is taking an extra step by actually visiting the lots to check the accuracy of the information received. Then, the department ordered residents to start planting larch trees in the small patch lots. At hearing this, many residents are complaining saying, “These plots of land have meant life and death to our families. We can’t give them up so easily for such a vain purpose.”

Education Authorities Emphasize On Improved Control over Teenagers’ Hair and Dress Codes
Education departments in every province have ordered their respective cities and counties to improve control over hair and dress codes of teenagers. Following this order, Sinuiju City officials are searching out girls who have long hair and forcing them to cut it into a bob as well as prohibiting all girls from wearing high-heeled footwear. The boys are restricted to hair short enough to not be grabbed and are strictly prohibited from smoking and drinking. Furthermore, they warned that even students could be sent to teenage training centers if caught singing ‘unusual’ songs or dancing strangely. During teacher’s meetings, school officials emphasized “training students to watch our own movies and TV dramas.”

Sinuiju Criticized for Harsh Punishment on a Student Caught Smoking
A teacher in Sinuiju City, North Pyongan Province, is being criticized for doling out too harsh of a punishment to students caught smoking. On November 2, teacher Kim (47), who was trained to strengthen control over students’ behaviors, caught a 6th-grade in middle school student smoking in the school backyard. Kim beat these students in front of others and forced them to drink water after putting their cigarettes in it. After the beating and drinking the water with cigarettes in it, some students fainted and lost consciousness. While the students were urgently being taken to the hospital, the school warned Kim not to give such overly harsh punishments any more.

Son-In-Law Kills His Father-In-Law after Intense Debate over South Korea
On October 24, in Jungju City, Pyongan Province, Nam Sang-cheol (39) stabbed his father-in-law and ran away after an intense debate about South Korea. While drinking with his father-in-law for the first time in a long time, Nam became drunk and commented that South Korea is a democratic and developed country. His father-in-law, lecturer of politics, got very angry and told Nam to “never say such things again.” However, despite his wife’s effort to stop him, Nam kept saying, “Even if you are a member of the Labor Party, you have to know your facts right. Everyone knows that South Korea is a well recognized country in the world.” The father-in-law responded with, “I have to report you to the National Security Agency” and tried to leave the place. While the daughter was trying to calm her father, Nam brought a knife from the kitchen and stabbed his father-in-law. He was immediately taken to the hospital but soon died. Nam ran away from the scene and the National Security Agency ordered a search near the national border, suspecting Nam will flee to South Korea. At the same time, Nam’s family was taken somewhere and his home was destroyed overnight.
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