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North Korea Today No.121

Research Institute for North Korean Society
http://www.goodfriends.or.kr/eng

North Korea Today
121th Edition April 2008

Price Controls Imposed on Rice, Penalties for Anyone Selling Rice for More Than 2,200 won per kg.
What We Need Most Is Food and More food
Facing Nation-Wide Starvation, North Korea Heads Towards the Mountains
Workers in Kaesong Receive Only 20 Days's Worth of Rations during 4 Months
Pyongyang Receives Food through Imports into Sinuiju
People No Longer Believe News about Food Imports
Re-abandoned Children
People Leaving Hometown in Search of Food
Food Shortages Separate Families: "Don't Die and We Should Meet Again"
"It Must Be Better To Die at War than Dying of Hunger"
The Relationship between North and South Worsens, "Starving To Death or Dying At War"
The Third Renewal of the Japanese Economic Sanction against North Korea and the Increasing Lament of Remigrants to North Korea
The Order "Prepare Successfully for 4.15 Day" Is Giving People a Hard Time
People Busy Registering Birth If Their Children to Receive National Holiday Gifts
The Cabinet Decision No.24 on Cemetery Code of Ordinances
“Prone Grave Stone Will Make the Ancestors Angry"
The Virtue Handed Down For Thousands Of Years Shall Not Be Hampered.
"Public Trials Become Propaganda Place of “The Rich Walk While the Poor Get Punished for the Same” Crime
[Opinion] "Dream of Josin" Becomes a Painful Reality for People of North Korea.


Price Controls Imposed on Rice, Penalties for Anyone Selling Rice for More Than 2,200 won per kg.
As the grain prices skyrocketed across the nation, the authorities started to crack down in a desperate attempt to rein in the rice prices. Security officers are roaming the markets in major cities, catching anyone selling rice at over 2,200 won per kg and punishing them by confiscating their stock. In Pyongyang, the line in the sand is 2,500 won, at which point the stock is confiscated. In Haeju, the price shot up to 2,900 won briefly until forced down; it’s barely holding at 2,200 as of 4/20. Rice prices at Pyongyang, Wonsan, and Sariwon had also shot up to 2,500~2,600 until it was forced down by the crackdown and are now holding temporarily at around 2,100~2,200 won. Although it looks like that rice prices might not go up higher anytime soon, no one knows how long the authorities will be able to keep the lid on the prices. In parts, however, the rice prices are slowly creeping up again, with rice merchants predicting that they will soon hit 3,000 won per kg. Officials are also admitting that they won’t be able to stop the rise in prices forever since there is a fundamental lack of supplies in the market. The party is instructing people at official meetings to be aware of “bad people” who are colluding to raise the rice prices to 3,000 won and “encouraging” rice merchants to lower their prices as much as possible.

What We Need Most Is Food and More food
Regardless of their positions, titles, or socioeconomic status, nine out of ten North Korean people asked, “What do you need the most right now?” will say, “food.” To overcome this crisis, food must be made available. Those with food refuse to sell and those seeking to buy can’t because it’s too expensive. This is because there is a fundamental lack of supply. On top of it all, there is an expectant air of an oncoming train wreck later on this fall, since the spring farming could not be carried out normally because the South Korean government hasn’t sent the fertilizer as it usually did every spring in previous years. They want to buy the fertilizer but don’t have money. Even if they pool their money, it’s just not enough to afford the fertilizer on the international markets at the going prices. They need to let the crop seedlings germinate and sprout under a blanket of protective plastic sheeting before transplanting them onto farms, but don’t even have the plastic sheeting. They just lack everything. The only thing they can produce these days is the sighs of desperation, of which they have plenty. Their future looks bleak.

Facing Nation-Wide Starvation, North Korea Heads Towards the Mountains
The food shortage in Kumkang County in Kangwon Province is very serious, especially since they suffered a direct hit in last year’s flood. Any household who can eat grass porridge three times a day is considered well-off. Most households have to get by on two meals a day at most. People are wandering around the hills to look for edible roots and herbs. Citizens of Koan-ri, Jinchun County in South Hwanghae Province are also suffering from hunger. They are also eating anything they can get their hands on in the mountains. It’s easy to discover people who are trying to allay their hunger on arrowroots. In farms near Haeju City, South Hwanghae Province, farm workers are increasingly absent from their work because they can’t eat. Even here, farm workers are making do with one or two meals of grass porridge and then head to the hills to looks for roots and other plants to dig up. Kids can’t go to school since they have to help their parents forage for food. There are schools in rural areas that have to close because of lack of students. The people say that such things have never happened even during the Arduous March and have to now worry about kids’ education on top of providing for food. The farm workers in Jangpoong County near Kaesong City are also suffering from food shortages. It’s barely enough to eat three full meals a day when the spring farming season starts. But they now have to make do with one meal, or two meals of grass porridge. Without prompt intervention by the government, the food will be gone soon. Workers are saying that starvation is the hardest insult that they have to endure. Everyone is saying, almost like a mantra, that they need to eat; otherwise, they can’t go to work.

Workers in Kaesong Receive Only 20 Days’ Worth of Rations during 4 Months
Workers in Kaesong only received 20 days’ worth of rations between January and April. As such, many workers are too starved to report to work. Many people are taking to the road. It’s easy to see women vending alcohol and food in order to survive. Even young kids are trying to make ends meet by selling things in milk bottles. Inevitably, social problems are increasing. Major crimes like murders, muggings, and thievery are all on the rise, as well as domestic violence. Elderly abuse is especially increasing. Kaesong used to be one of the safer cities but now they recommend that you don’t go out at night past 9pm. In fact, there has been a dramatic decrease in people out and about late at night.

Pyongyang Receives Food through Imports into Sinuiju
Since early April, there have been occasional shipments of food through Sinuiju Port, including an 8,000 MT shipment of corn. Out of that, 4,000 MT was immediately sent downstream to Pyongyang. Pyongyang then used this to distribute food that had been delayed. With the influx of food, there is bound to be incidents. A night guard from Pyongyang Cement Company who went to take shipment of 1,200 MT of rice from Sinuiju Port was attacked by nine assailants. Although he fought back bravely, he suffered grave injuries to his head. But he was philosophical about his ordeal, saying that his assailants were also desperate to eat. He went on to say that it’s fortunate that some food is coming in, although he doesn’t know how or from where.

People No Longer Believe News about Food Imports
Since April 10th, officials have been going to local Neighborhood Unit and Democratic Women’s Union meetings to tell the participants that food will be coming in soon. “The increase in food prices is temporary. We will soon have massive imports of food, so don’t worry,” they say. However, the local people don’t believe a word they say, since they have rarely seen the benefits of any food from outside sources even if they do come in. Kim Kyung-Joong (51) said, “They are all lies. No one believes them anymore since we have heard so much of the same so often. They are doing this to calm down the growing unrest among people but it won’t work.”

Re-abandoned Children
At any train stations during the Arduous March, you could easily see children abandoned by their own parents. Parents who were struggling with chronic hunger left their children on trains, hoping that they could be adopted by warm-hearted, better-off people. That, those parents thought, would be better than keeping their kids and raising them in a miserable environment. Needless to say, however, there were heartless parents who abandoned children for their very own survival. In any case, these abandoned kids were also neglected by the society. It was because the whole society was in poverty at the time, with the economic depression and nationwide famines; no one, therefore, could care about others. It was the time when survival was everyone’s top priority and people who were alive were winners. In spring 2008, ten years after the Arduous March, children are being abandoned again for the same reasons.

A group of young Kkotjebis (homeless children) was running around between passengers to look for food at Sunchun Station on March 17th. On the other side of the station, several Kkotjebis were vying with one another to get crumbs of food on the ground, which passengers dropped. Meanwhile, a baby wrapped with a blanket, seemingly about two months old, was crying at a corner of the station. A Kkotjebi said the baby was crying for a couple of hours. People at the station tut-tutted and criticized the baby’s mother for abandoning the baby. Nonetheless, no one was trying to pick up the baby and assuage him/her. It was not until the baby was too exhausted to cry that police officers showed up, and they took the baby. Only then, people looked relieved even though they felt the sting of conscience. Shortly after, however, they just went back to their own business.

Regardless of where to go, Wonsan, Gowon, Pyongsung, or Hamheung, travelers often see such scenes. Hwang Bo-Sun, a 49-year old woman who frequently travels to Sinuiju, said, “I get to see more abandoned kids this year than before. I can feel things are getting worse this year than last year.”

People Leaving Hometown in Search of Food
As more households have been facing food shortages in April, the number of people who leave their hometown in search of food has increased as well. In fact, a growing number of people in Bukchung County, South Hamgyung Province, are taking only essentials and leaving with their entire family members for survival. And these people are usually heading to places where their relatives live.

Meanwhile, as the number of households leaving the county continues to increase, Bukchung County recently tightened its control to prevent people from leaving the county. However, the county stopped regulating people shortly after due to the miserable reality. A county officer said, “I cannot just let them die here. I’m of course anxious about the situation. But what can I do for them?” There is nothing officers can do about it but helplessly watching people leaving the county, he added.

The family of Choi Gyu-Chul, a 43-year old farm worker who used to live in Bukchung County, had left their hometown for the same reason and started on a roving journey. During an extremely difficult time (the spring hunger?) of last year, Choi had gotten a loan of corn with a deferred payment. But he failed to make the payment last fall due to bad harvest and ended up getting deeper in debt. He described his wretched life a year ago: he had nothing to eat while individual farming was still banned; he had no cash because he had worked only at collective farms and never had side jobs. There was no hope, he reminisced. He eventually sold everything he could sell and even secretly yielded the permit to live his house. Despite all the efforts, he was continuously dunned. After all, he left the county with his wife and kids with minimum necessities on a freezing and windy day of February. His family went first to his uncle’s place in Shinpo, but they couldn’t stay there long since his uncle’s family was in difficulty as well. Thus, he and his family began to drift from place to place. Sometimes they were fortunate enough to get some food from random nice people. At night, they slept covering themselves with plastic sheets at stations. Sleeping crouched at stations became their routine lives. He and his wife, according to Choi, were trying to find jobs. He continued to say that he just felt grateful to his two little kids, seven and eight years old respectively, for undergoing such a hard life without being fretful.

Food Shortages Separate Families: “Don’t Die and We Should Meet Again”
Worsening food shortages separate families in South Pyongan Province again. Recently, the number of Kkotjebis in South Pyongan Province, particularly Shinyang, Yangduck, Hoechang, and Sungchun, has rapidly increased. A growing number of households could not even have one meal per day. Due to such strained circumstances, all family members are scattered to find their own ways to live in the end; husbands and wives are wiling to separate for survival. They consider it better than dying together. Each of them leaves for places that allow them to stay, mostly where their parents or siblings live. Even kids are broken up as well; some of them go with their fathers while others stay with their mothers. They all promise each other to stay alive and to live together again when things get better. It is too pitiful to see them parting from each other in tears.

On the other hand, Lim Sun-Ok, a 48-year old female resident, described the country’s currently overwhelming Kkotjebi population as “the nation of beggars.” A Kkotjebi relief center in South Pyongan Province is facing overcrowding; as the existing number of Kkotjebis is already beyond its capacity, the center is even trying to send out some of Kkotjebis. As April 15, the Day of Sun (태양절) is approaching, the authorities are busy with preparation for festivals and events. On the contrary, ordinary people are wearing worried looks due to the concerns about finding food.

“It Must Be Better To Die at War than Dying of Hunger”
As an overall food situation of the nation is worsening, more and more people are wishing that a war would break out. This tragic wish, in fact, reflects people’s despair of soaring prices of food in major cities in the country, including Chungjin, Sinuiju, and Pyongsung. Suh Gyung-Chul, a 49-year old resident of Nampo, voiced his concerns about a rise in food prices, “This nationwide food crisis is never going away. Food prices are soaring and soaring. How can we possibly sustain our lives? I even wish there would be war. If a war breaks out, we would be able to flee to China. At present, we cannot do so. Things may get improved if the North and the South are reunited.” He continued to say, “It must be better to die at war than dying of hunger.” It is not only Suh who is saying this; indeed, you can hear other people wishing for the same in any part of the nation.

Kim Song-Chul, a 48-year old resident of Daedong County also expressed his frustration about the situation, “Can you even imagine how bad food shortages are in this country? It’s so horrible that people rather wish that there would be a war. People who have ever suffered hunger might understand how we feel now. Officials would never understand it, because they’ve never experienced it. Even though we don’t know what is going on outside of the country, we certainly know that famine is worse than a war. I often wish that there would be a natural disaster to kill all people together. Still, it would be better than dying of hunger.”

The Relationship between North and South Worsens, “Starving To Death or Dying At War”
Recently the major media of North Korea such as Korean Central Television (KCTV) and Rodong Shinmun, and all kinds of meetings and lectures have criticized the Lee Myung-Bak Administration of South Korea. Because the criticism is getting worse, officials who have supported the improvement of the relationship between North and South Koreas became agitated. An official was disappointed and said, “During the Governments of Kim Dae-Jung and Rho Moo-hyun, the North Korean TV never complained about these presidents, but when I look at the current situation, I don’t think the relationship between North and South will improve.” He continued, “In this situation, I think even private trading between South and North will completely stop. If this conflict continues and worsens, we should eventually choose from two options, death or war. According to some officials, they are worried about this situation and said that now we have only two choices: starving to death or dying in the war.” Another official stated, “The South Korean Government has spoken too hastily and thoughtlessly. Although they have something to say, they need to learn to keep quiet about certain things. I don’t understand why they seem so eager to say things they do not have to say. I am not sure if they want to improve or retreat the relationship with us. Even for someone like me who supports improving the relationship with South Korea is confused, so how much more perplexed are those who do not support the effort to improve the relationship with South Korea? .”

The Third Renewal of the Japanese Economic Sanction against North Korea and the Increasing Lament of Remigrants to North Korea
Last April 11, Japan decided to continue the economic sanction against North Korea for 6 additional months, specially prohibiting North Korean ships such as Mankyungbong 92 from entering ports, people with North Korean citizenship from entering Japan, and products made in North Korea from being imported to Japan. Remigrants from Japan who read this news on Rodong Shinmun were in despair and discontented with this sanction. They had maintained their living by receiving aid from their relatives in Japan, but they have experienced infernal difficulties since 2006 when Japan started the economic sanction against North Korea. Their living standard couldn’t be worse. Residents of North Korea can get assistance from officials who are their family members or friends or can use any possible connections to get help, but most remigrants can hardly escape their poverty because of the shortage of personal networking and the social discrimination in North Korean society. The first generations of reimgrants are usually regretting their decision and the second generations are complaining to their parents about the decision. Especially, the first generations deplore the fact they suffer this difficulty because they were born in a poor country. Their relatives in Japan are also so indifferent. When the reimgrants ask help, their relatives sarcastically chide them; “When you tried to return to North Korea, we persuaded you not to do, but you persisted stubbornly in keeping your decision. Now you are regretting and asking us for help. That’s your choice and a reward for loving the country.” The poor reimgrants and their children are enduring their troubles, but things are getting tougher because of their relatives’ indifference in Japan and the deep-rooted social discrimination in North Korea. Additionally, the Japanese government’s economic sanction made their lives more miserable.

Ko Chung-Hyun (74 years old) said, “Because this blockade has been issued at national levels, we cannot live. How can we survive? Since they already issued this measure twice and they renewed it again, I am not sure whether I can survive or not.” He was filled with tears and regretted, “It’s a shame. I am a sinner to my children. If I die now, I can accept it. However, what is their fault? My innocent children just followed their parents. Please, save them.” Suh Kyu-Hwan (42 years old), a second generation of reimgrants, was despaired and sadly deplored, “When I was a child, I can remember that an elder uncle of mine in Japan sent us a lot of clothes, candies, snacks, and others, so we were OK. But, now it was just a dream. My children envy Chinese emigrants. Their mother country is living well, so they have some benefit. Even the native residents (original North Korean people) say that it’s their goal to do daily chores for the Chinese emigrants’ houses. But everything seems to be just a dream for us.”

The Order “Prepare Successfully for 4.15 Day” Is Giving People a Hard Time
Because the authority of North Korea has issued an order that people should celebrate 4.15 Day more extravagantly than ever before, every organization, enterprise and school is very busy preparing for the celebration. Both adults and children spend days and nights preparing for sports, cultural performances, and group dances. Young kids do not have appropriate meals regularly, but they have to endure exhausting activities, so it is natural for them to want to eat food. They want their parents to provide them with lunches, candies, snacks, and fruits, so their parents have troubles. On the other hand, schools in North Hamgyung Province conducted the export trade movement to show their loyalty to the government and collected 7 rabbit skins from each student. People complained a lot because people who did not contribute had to pay 2,000won for a skin. People strongly complained about the order because schools used to collect 5 rabbit skins at most, but they increased the number of the contribution without considering people’s dire situation.

People Busy Registering Birth If Their Children to Receive National Holiday Gifts
To celebrate Day of the Sun, the government distributed to members of each neighborhood unit with a bottle of liquor, a cake of soap, and a pair of socks, and candies for children. The government gave the staff of the National Intelligence Agency and police stations in the entire provinces 2-5kg of bean oil, liquor, cigarettes, 2-5kg of pork, candies, and underwear. The quantity and quality of distributed items, although similar, depended on the organizations, enterprises and units. Even though the holiday distribution for children is really worthless, people want to receive this trivial gift, so the number of birth registration has drastically increased. Because people did not receive any benefit for a newborn baby from the government, they used to neglect to register the baby. However, the police station is in turmoil because people want to register their children’s birth. Oh Soon-Young (32 years old), from Soonchun, stated that she also recently registered her 2-year-old child and people tried to use ways and means to receive anything free in this economically difficult situation.

The Cabinet Decision No.24 on Cemetery Code of Ordinances
On Last March 27th the 24th Decision of the Cabinet on Cemetery Code of Ordinances was made as follows.

“On establishing an order for disorderly located old graves”

1. The order should be followed that graves shall be in the approved cemetery zone.
1) Graves shall be in a public cemetery zone.
2) Graves shall be a flat type with 2 m of length, 80cm of width and 10cm of height.

2. All the graves that are not in the new public cemetery zone shall be moved to the new one.
1) Graves seen from main roads, highways, and railroad or located in farming or forest regions shall be disinterred and reinterred into the new public cemetery.
2) Graves without the owners shall be removed with the stone tables and headstone.

3. Graves with high mount that are not moved by April 5th to a new public cemetery shall be regarded as one without the grave owners and shall be leveled off.

4. Graves that cannot be moved because of special reasons shall lay the headstone down and level the grave mount.

Juche 97th year, March 27th, Democratic Peoples of Republic Korea Cabinet

Prone Grave Stone Will Make the Ancestors Angry
The residents are skeptical about the 24th decision of the Cabinet because the similar policy has been attempted repeatedly for the last 10 years but it has not been complied by people Oh Jung-Keun (63 years old) in Pyongyang said the rules and regulations about the cemetery and graves are not easily complied. Even though the Party orders to use a flat type grave like those in the Patriotic Martyrs Cemetery (애국렬사릉), it is hard to do this. He showed a strong opposition about the decision saying “Is it reasonable to lay down the headstone because the grave looks bad? My ancestors will be angry.” He said it cannot be even imaginable and that is not the way to show respect to the ancestor. Ko Sang-Hyeun (58 years old) also revealed the negative response saying “It is acceptable to level off the high grave amount a little. But how I can see my ancestor after my death if their headstone is flat on the ground.” The Party recommends for people who are not willing to lay down the grave headstones to move their graves to public cemeteries. However, this is also difficult to implement. A party official said “The public cemeteries are too far to reach for people who do not have a car. So people have no choice but to make their graves on the hills near their place disorderly. Even though the Party delivers the order to level off the grave mounts and lay down the headstones because of the ugly appearance, the residents’ resistance is so strong. So the Party recommends moving the graves to public cemeteries, which are too remote to go there on foot. That is the reason why the same policy has failed for the last 10 years” and 24th decision of the Cabinet will not have much effect either this time.

“The Virtue Handed Down For Thousands Of Years Shall Not Be Hampered.”
Last April 5th (Hansik), many people visited their families' ancestral graves and held their own rites to worship ancestors. A man in his 60s spoke frankly to his neighbors about the cemetery regulation on the way down from his visit to the ancestral graves. He gained a lot of sympathy from his companions, when he said “It has been a virtue and a laudable custom of our people for thousands of years to bury our ancestors in topographically great mountains and visit the family grave on a traditional holiday every year in order to show our respect. I heard that South Korea regards Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving Day) as the biggest holiday and even China gives one-day off for traditional holidays such as Chuseok and Hansik. While other countries supports this kind of cultural traditions very well, I cannot understand why our country suppress the freedom to hold the ritual for the ancestors more and more by ordering us to ‘reduce the grave size’. How inhumane. Complying with the government rule is to break primary life principles that should be followed.” His companions and passersby listened to his speech seriously and agreed with him saying “more and more things are hard to understand” In the past, those kinds of remarks were carefully made, but these days people talk about the issues without a hitch, and listeners do not report the fact to the Party Officer or other relevant institutions.

Public Trials Become Propaganda Place of "The Rich Walk While the Poor Get Punished for the Same Crime"
Last March 31st, at 3pm, there was a public trial in Onsung in North Hamgyung Province.
At this public trial held on the playground of Machinery Vocational School in Onsung-town, 17 criminals were sentenced on charges of drug smuggling, illegal film circulation, human trafficking and illegal border crossing. People are tired of being forced to watch all trials.

Cha Mi-Yong (38) shook her head saying “I wish only those who want to witness the trial can watch the trial, I cannot understand why people who do not want to see should see it.” An Chun-Sil (43) coming back to his house with his neighbors said “When I see the public trial, I cannot help but think that the rich survive and the poor dies even though they commit the same crime. The public trials are intended to advertise that fact to the poor like us.” His neighbors who accompanied him agreed with him saying “It is right”. The recognition surges that the public trial is the place where only the poor are punished unjustly.

[Opinion] “Dream of Josin” Becomes a Painful Reality for People of North Korea.
In the Naksan Temple located in Kangwon Province, the legend of the monk Josin is still being told. The young monk Josin fell in love with the daughter of the local village magistrate and prayed to be together with her. Magically, she appeared to him and they ran off together to live together as man and wife, giving birth to five children. But their happiness was soon overwhelmed by the abject poverty and constant hunger that shadowed their life together. Their eldest son died when fifteen-years old from starvation and disease since they had trouble eating one meal a day. When the couple became old and weak, their twelve-year old daughter had to go begging. One day, the daughter came back limping from being bitten by a village dog. Realizing that they would all starve to death staying where they were, they decided to split up in desperation, with a parent taking two children each. As they said goodbye to each other for the last time, they were heartbroken at the emptiness of life. Then he woke up. It was all a dream. The monk Josin, thankful at the lesson, focused on his studies from then on.

Unfortunately, this legend is all too real for many families in North Korea who are forced to split apart to survive. The legend of the monk Josin is being reenacted among children who are killed by starvation and diseases, kids who have to beg to keep their whole family alive, and couples who promise to see each other again as they are forced to say goodbye, knowing that such promises are empty promises. Even a family bond or a couple’s love is powerless in the face of starvation.

The government of North Korea today is no longer capable of providing an environment in which a family can survive. The monk Josin at least got to wake up from his dream that turned into a pitiful nightmare. But the North Korean people are waking up from a dream into a worse reality. The monk Josin learned a valuable lesson from his experience. But the North Korean people are only learning an indelible hurt that will linger within their collective consciousness for years to come as deep-seated rage and distrust.
For how long are we to bear witness to the tragedy enveloping the North Korean people today without doing anything? For how long would we go on blaming the North Korean government? How will we explain our absence in their desperate hour of need to the 20 million North Koreans when we are forced to look into their eyes?

Perhaps we are dreaming that this current situation in which we pretend to not know what’s going on is better. Perhaps we are thinking that it’s better to remain in this dream-like state of willful ignorance? Then we are not dreaming. We are deluding ourselves. We dearly wish that this cruel spring of 2008 is all a dream. But it’s not. It’s a cold reality. It’s time for us to wake up from this dream and heed the desperate cries of help of 20 million fellow Koreans


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North Korea Today No.120

Research Institute for North Korean Society
http://www.goodfriends.or.kr/eng

North Korea Today
120th Edition February 2008

The 2nd Arduous March has, in effect, begun
Rice Prices Are Insane In Haeju
Corn No Longer Seen In Certain Markets in North Hamgyong Province
South Hamkyong Province Is Seeing an Increase of Households Who Survive On Grass Porridge
Farming Not Being Done Because Of Absentee Workforce in Kumchun County Farm in North Hwanghae Province
Even the Traditionally Most Prosperous Chaejong Farm Is Suffering From Food Crisis
“If Only We Could Get Farm Equipment and Support from Somewhere”
Food Prices Rise Caused by South Korean National Intelligence Agents’ Scheme
Food Shortages Cause Increasing Absences at Work in Younggwang County in Hamheung City
50% of the Households at the Walpa Farm in Onsung City are Short of Food
No Food Loans for People at Walpa Farm
The Increase of Corn-rice Processing Fees Exacerbates Food Shortages
Special Food Rations for War-bereaved Families
The Criticism Battle against President Lee Myung Bak Started
Due to Increased Cigarette Price, the Cigarette Factory Robbed
Damage by Pine Caterpillars Occurred on the Entire Forest of South Pyongan Province
Urgent Meeting to Protect Forest
Measures to Protect Country’s Environment
News of Incidents and Accidents
[Opinion] For How Long Are We Just Going To Watch?

The 2nd Arduous March has, in effect, begun
With the exception of Pyongyang, North and South Pyongan, North and South Hwanghae, North and South Hamgyong, Kangwon, and Jagang Provinces are, in effect, experiencing the 2nd Arduous March. Although there are no reports of outright famine, it will be difficult to stabilize the situation if nothing is done by the end of April. No matter where you go in North Korea, it’s filled with dire rumors of the Arduous March being reenacted soon.

Rice Prices Are Insane In Haeju
Since April 8th, food prices have been skyrocketing across North Korea. In major cities, such as Sinuiju, Pyongsung, Kangye, Wonsan, Sariwon, Pyongyang, and Hamheung, rice prices rose past 2,000 won per kg. Even in Sinuiju, where the food prices were relatively stable, rice prices rose past 2,100 won on April 9th eventually hitting 2,500 won on April 11th. Haeju, which is the heart of the grain basket, saw its rice price hit a record high of 2,750 won. This record high is due to rich rice merchants from Sariwon coming to Haeju to purchase all the rice stock. They are holding the rice and not releasing them suspecting that rice prices will raise to 3,000 won in the near future. Residents of Haeju are openly complaining about the outrageous cost of rice, exclaiming, “I don’t know what’s happening with the world.”

Food Prices Chart for the 2nd Week of April (NK Won per Kg)

Pyongyang

Hamheung

Haeju

Sariwon

Wonsan

Hoeryung

Rice

2,500

2,600-2,700

2,750

2,100

2,500

2,500

Maize

1,400-1,500

1,100-1,200

1,500-1,700

1,300

1,400-1,500

1,100


Corn No Longer Seen In Certain Markets in North Hamgyong Province
With the skyrocketing rice prices, the demand for corn has also risen, leading to the disappearance of corn from select markets in Onsung, Chungjin, Kyongsong, and other regions in North Hamkyung Province. This is because people buy up whatever corn comes on the market. Even if corn is seen on the markets, it’s usually one or two handfuls.

South Hamkyong Province Is Seeing an Increase of Households Who Survive On Grass Porridge
These days, “Let’s earn enough today to buy one kg of rice!” has become the people’s mantra. With the skyrocketing rice prices, more and more households in the rural regions are resorting to grass porridge for survival. In collective farms located in Jongpyong, Kowon, Shinpo Counties, food has completely run out and the farm workers are not reporting to work. The situation is not too different in the cities. The residents are coming out to the markets to shop for food and are turning away in shock at the prices. Considering the situation, it’s only obvious that there is an increase of people eating grass porridge. Should the rice prices stay above 2,500 won for more than a month, people are predicting that the death rate will eclipse the number that died during the Arduous March?

Farming Not Being Done Because Of Absentee Workforce in Kumchun County Farm in North Hwanghae Province
Managers of collective farms in North Hwanghae Province are telling Party officials that half of the farm workers are not reporting to work because they haven’t eaten. This is severely impacting their preparation for the upcoming farming season. The farms in this region, like other regions, did not distribute enough food to the workers last year because of bad harvests. This led to many households depending on grass porridge for food starting last fall. With the onset of winter, many households ran out of food. Only very few, select household of managers of farming operations, storage operation, and other units were able to eat rice, while the majority of farm workers had to live on grass porridge, or sell the wild mountain plant roots they harvested in the markets. Tasked with surviving every day, it’s understandable that the workers are not reporting to work. Though the Collective Farm Committee has asked the farm workers to report to work as per the orders of the Party, they are not listening. The workers say that they have to use whatever time they have to dig up more wild plant roots in order to feed their family. Children are also affected. They guard the house or go to markets with their parents rather than attend school. There is more than a 40% absentee rate in schools in Kumchon County.

Even the Traditionally Most Prosperous Chaejong Farm Is Suffering From Food Crisis
Chaejong Farm in Shingan-ri, Kumchon County, North Hwanghae Province has almost nothing to eat because of the failure of last year’s harvests. They acknowledge that this is the worst production in history. Farm workers are going out to the mountains and fields instead of reporting to work because they are looking for something to eat. The management is pleading with the workers to come in to work for at least one hour every day, arguing, “What will happen next year if we don’t farm this year?” But their pleas are falling on deaf ears. Workers respond that they can’t work when they don’t have the energy to even stand. Each day, they roam the fields to dig up plants and grass, saying that even poisonous plants are safe as long as they are picked before May 5th, the Dano Festival Day. On hearing this, one central party official responded, “I can’t believe this. Chaejong is an area where we send our best workers and give, on a priority basis, the latest equipment and fertilizers. How could people be starving at Chejong? I would have to see it with my own two eyes to believe it.”

“If Only We Could Get Farm Equipment and Support from Somewhere”
The export and import traders are coming under increased pressure because of requests for food and agricultural materials. The North Korean government has guaranteed fertilizer for Pyongyang and North and South Pyongan Provinces. But it has only provided partial subsidies to other regions for the cost of purchasing fertilizers. North Hamkyung Province has 15 cities and counties that all lack farm material. Among them, especially Kiljoo, Eunduk, Saebyul, and Yeonsa Counties are suffering from a lack of farming materials, especially in the remotest areas. They need .07mm or .12 mm plastic sheeting, fertilizers, and various pesticides. Each county needs about 200,000 sq. meter of plastic sheeting, 500 MT of fertilizers, and 50-100 MT of pesticides. In Kiljoo, Eunduk, Saebyul, and Yeonsa Counties, the authorities had gotten rid of the companies who traded these items, leaving an absence of people with the right skills to go out and trade for them. Everybody in these regions, especially the farmers, is praying that they will be able to get some aid from somewhere.

Food Prices Rise Caused by South Korean National Intelligence Agents’ Scheme
It has been propagated in parts of the national border areas that a recent rapid increase in food prices was caused by South Korean national intelligence agents’ scheme. This propaganda originated from the interpretation of North Korean authorities, such as the National Security Agency and police stations, on recent food crisis.

Meanwhile, the National Security Agency began to track down merchants who have contributed to the rise in food prices. A local trader was arrested on charges of such accusation on March 25th in Hamheung City in the South Hamgyong Province. The authorities who had suspected the massive outflow of foods from Chungjin and Hoeryung in North Hamgyong Province to Hamheung conducted investigations on traders who could affect the control of nationwide food prices, and found the aforementioned arrestee.

In addition to ongoing investigations on influential merchants, the authorities also have made enormous efforts to prevent the outflow of foods from one county to anther. In the case of Saebyul County in North Hamgyung Province, a checkpoint at the border of Eunduk County and Hoeryung City is controlling the flow of foods. Regardless of purposes, either for trade or for sending to relatives, it has been banned to take any foods, including rice, out of the county; once foods on the delivery are found, they are confiscated. These seized foods are sent to the local food administration unit or Kkotjebi welfare institutions.

Food Shortages Cause Increasing Absences at Work in Younggwang County in Hamheung City
Most workers and farmers in Youngkwang County in Hamheung City do not go to work due to the serious food shortage. Despite a series of emergency meetings to cope with the current food crisis, the County Party has not come up with any concrete counter plans. The recent food crisis therefore is causing an increase in the number of Kkotjebis (homeless children). Seemingly, there are more Kkotjebis than passengers who are actually waiting for trains at the Hamheung Station. Regardless of day or night, Hamheung Station is always packed with Kkotjebis and passengers. And dozens of cases of missing baggage are reported per day.

50% of the Households at the Walpa Farm in Onsung City are Short of Food
The Walpa collective farm in Onsung County, North Hamgyung Province estimated that approximately fifty per cent of the farm households are running short of food as of March 20th. Due to the lack of grains, most households feed themselves with roots of plants, the powered of cornhusk, and even the powered corncobs. The Management Committee of Walpa Farm is waiting for rice aid from the County Party. An officer said that “even though the County Party decides to provide us with a rice aid, it will only be possible when the state receives food from other countries. At this point, there is no hope that we will receive any food aid. Even the Grain Policy Division and the State are facing food shortages. Given the situation, it is hard to predict when we can receive the aid unless a miracle takes place.”

No Food Loans for People at Walpa Farm
Unlike other farms, Walpa farm finds it difficult to borrow food from wealthy individuals. Residents, who have side jobs in Onsung County or other cities, are doing relatively better in terms of food supplies. Thus, people in need are seeking food loans from those how are well-off. The payments for these loans, which have very high interest rates, are deferred until the coming fall. Yet, it seems to be very difficult to even borrow some food with such a payment plan. Unfortunately, it seems that no one is willing to lend food this year. Kim Keum-ok, a 38-year old female trader of secondhand goods in Chungjin City, firmly said that “I’ll never loan food to people at Walpa farm even though I would do so for people at other farms.” She continued to say, “it is always people from Walpa farm who come first to ask for a loan of foods with a deferred payment plan every March. It means they have had a bad crop year. In that case, they wouldn’t be able to make payments in the fall.” This is why no one would loan their reserved foods to people from Walpa farm. Therefore, there is no way to meet the needs of people at Walpa farm, despite their increasing outcry against a pandemic of hunger.

As the situation has not improved since April, the Walpa Cooperative Farm Management Committee is rushing to make up plans to relieve famine sufferers. As a first step, the Committee identified the number of households who cannot go to work due to hunger, and ordered management officers and community party officers to provide immediate food aid to some of these households. This was the first relief program for people who are in immediate danger of starvation. The Committee, however, is already facing difficulties in executing the program due to the increasing number of households in need. If this program stops operating, there will be no other program that can be launched.

As a result, students were eventually mobilized to find alternative foods. Due to the serious food shortage, only a few students are attending school. Instead of going to school, many young teenagers are running around with baskets and knives to find roots of plants and any wild edible plants, such as a wild rocambole and dandelions, to eat.

The Increase of Corn-rice Processing Fees Exacerbates Food Shortages
In addition to the serious chronic food shortages, the insufficiency in electricity has become an additional burden for the people. Recently, the power supply has been cut down to 2-3 hours per day. This limited supply of electric power has increased the production cost to make corn into corn-rice(옥수수쌀 or 짝쌀). In the case of Sariwon in North Hwanghae Province, the power supply has been very unstable; no one can predict when the electric power will be provided. Even when it is offered, it barely lasts 1-2 hours. As a result, people find it difficult to run their corn-rice making machines (they use electronic machines to process corn into corn-rice). The machines are surrounded by women who are anxiously waiting to use them. Currently, it is very common to wait at least two or three days in order to ground 10-20 kg of corn into corn-rice. When the electrical supply was relatively stable, people could get 1.2-1.3kg of noodles in exchange for 1kg of whole corn. With the lack of electricity, the amount of noodles to be exchanged per 1kg of whole corn gradually dropped from 900g to 700-750g.

Special Food Rations for War-bereaved Families
South Pyongan Province is also facing food shortages just like other provinces in the nation. As a result, there has been no food rations provided at any of the enterprises, factories, and special organizations of cities and counties since April 2008. However, food rations continue to be offered to war-bereaved families. These families can receive foods and subsidiary foods per person if they go to municipal food administration units. This special offer for war-bereaved families and relative is based on Chairman Kim Jong Il’s particular consideration of fallen soldiers.

The Criticism Battle against President Lee Myung Bak Started
There seems to be no end in sight for political tension between North and South Korea. Recently, daily criticisms from all levels of North Korean society are made against President Lee Myung Bak and his statements. The main criticism is summarized as, “South Korea has completely stopped trading with North Korea, in order to conquer North Korea by exploiting their very difficult situation. We have to be mindful of this truth and fight against antinationalist Lee Myung Bak.” Reactions to this criticism vary depending on whom you ask. A midlevel official confessed his concern, “When I reflect on the lessons I have learned, I have no idea of how we will survive if trading is stopped with South Korea.” Kim Yong Sun, age 52, who peddles used Japanese goods in Wonsan, Kangwon province asks, “Is it true that the South Korean government has barred all private and non-governmental trades with North Korea? Actually, whether trading has stopped or not does not concern me as I did not receive any direct aid.” A high-level official deplored, “Because of a few people’s dissatisfaction, many innocent people are dying. It’s like an innocent bystander who suffers a side blow in a fight. I know and accept the problems of North Korea; however I realize that South Korea has the same problems. The two countries are not so different. The two countries are not concerned with their people, but with their national identity. Because of this dishonorable fight, Korean people do not have any future. Who I can trust in the world? Does South Korea indifferently look on as a bystander while North Koreans are dying?”

Due to Increased Cigarette Price, the Cigarette Factory Robbed
Due to the rising costs of cigarettes, cigarettes have been stolen. Last April, storages of 3.26 cigarette factory of Shinsungchun, South Pyongan Province, were stolen over night. Completely unexpected, the amount of stolen good was too much to estimate. All of the unmanufactured and raw leaf tobacco was also stolen. Due to the significant amount that was stolen, police officers have devoted all their energy to investigate this case, but their efforts have not leaded to an arrest. The investigation has been very difficult for residents of Shinsungchun as officers are questioning and searching passer-bys on the street. If the officers find anything suspicious such as an insignificant amount of leaf tobacco, they are taken to the police station for questioning. The price of a pack of cigarettes used be 500-600won, but the current price of it doubled and is traded for 1,100 – 1,200 won.

Damage by Pine Caterpillars Occurred on the Entire Forest of South Pyongan Province
When spring returns, the forest department declared a state of emergency with harmful insects. This April, the entire forest in the North and South Pyongan Provinces were infested with pine caterpillars. This has caused significant damage. The forest department does not know what caused this infestation. They have just received and registered damages from North and South Pyongan Provinces. Forest of South Pyongan Province has already been devastated and trees of North Pyongan Province encountered significant damage. Pine caterpillars, which were first found in South Pyongan Province, spread to the North Pyongan Province and are now progressing to the Jagang Province. The forest departments of North and South Pyongan Provinces have mobilized government and enterprise workers and even military soldiers to catch the caterpillars. These departments have also mobilized students from elementary schools to universities, members of Street Neighborhood Unit, and any available people to catch the caterpillars.

Urgent Meeting to Protect Forest
The Central Party has received a report about the damage of pine caterpillars in North and South Pyongan Provinces and worried about deforestation. An official said, “It is true that our government is worrying about deforestation which can negatively affect this country’s economy. In deed, what the government is most significantly concerned with is the fact that it cannot manage the country’s natural properties and environments. It takes several years or decades to nurse and grow a young tree. During this period, if there are heavy rains, the forest can be seriously destroyed. In this case, how can homes be protected from the rains? The government held an urgent meeting about this issue, which led to an order given by the Party to mobilize all units to catch pine caterpillars. In addition, the Party decided to make promote the planting of young trees. As in previous years, they announced in the Party a tree planting project on Arbor Day of March 2nd and mobilized people.

Measures to Protect Country’s Environment
Continuously, measures to protect the country’s environment are being announced. Officials and managers of the country’s department of natural properties received training for the environmental measures from March 25-27th. According to the measures, all 230 cities and counties of North Korea will plant acacias on the roadside. The government will rank well units implement the project and will reward well-performed units with prizes, such as vehicles and auto parts. An anonymous official of the Central Party lamented, “In April, 2007, the People’s Assembly of Chungjin bought and planted nursery acacias with 3,500,000 won, an astronomical amount, which the Department of Protecting Country’s Environment provided. Go and see the trees at Chungjin. Few trees are alive. It’s a waste of money and labor, and mismanagement of the national environment. Without learning from last year’s mistakes, we are going to repeat them this year. Prevention of pine caterpillars is urgently needed, but we do not have the means to take care of this problem. Once the government gives the mandate to plant the acacias, people will follow the order. But so what?”

News of Incidents and Accidents
On April 3rd, a train running between Gumgol and Pyongyang was derailed between the Yangduk and Gurcha station. Four passenger coaches following the locomotion came off the track and it took 11 hours to put them back on the track. A passenger on the second coach was killed after falling from the exit door during the derailment.

[Opinion] For How Long Are We Just Going To Watch?
The price of grain is just exploding through the roof. Rice prices, especially, can be justifiable described as, “insane.” In Nampo, the price of rice rose to 2,000 Won on March 30th. Then it jumped to 2,500 won in less than two weeks. Now, it’s headed to 3,000 Won. That is, if you can find any. Because of the scarcity of supplies, it’s getting harder and harder to find any rice or corn to purchase. Even if the residents are able to find one or two sack-full’s of corn, the prices are so high, it only leads to further frustration and despair.

Hope for this year’s harvest is quickly crumbling because preparation for the farming season is not proceeding well. Farm workers are not tending the fields because they are too weak from hunger. The managers of the farm collectives are pleading with the workers to return to the fields but they are not responding. The workers have stressed that they are forced to dig up and eat grass roots in order to survive. This lack of production is not only restricted to this region, but is spreading across the entire nation. Alarmingly, it is beginning in the North and South Hwanghae Province, also known as the grain basket of North Korea, which has always been a reliable producer of grains in the past.

This emergency has come about because the South Korean government hasn’t sent the fertilizers that it had been sending annually. You don’t have to be a prophet to realize that the second and third waves of famine will hit like a tidal wave when you lose the opportunity to farm and harvest this year. It’s scary to imagine what the end-result might be. In the face of this burgeoning crisis, both the South Korean government and the international community, not to mention the North Korean government, are all silent.
Shouldn’t the North Korean government enact an appropriate emergency measure to appease the severity of this crisis, just as they did last year by releasing military food stockpiles? If they don’t have the stockpiles to release, the government should ask the international aid community for help. They must realize that preventing people from starving to death is the first and foremost step to national security.

The South Korean government should be consistent in the implementation of its humanitarian principles. Their main tenet is to give aid when it’s needed without preconditions. This is the time to live up to those principles. Why doesn’t it reach out first? Why does the government condition their actions to the nuclear and other political talks? MB’s government has stated that it will consider the plight of the North Korean people with compassion and are determining what form action hat compassion will take. The North Korean people are openly acknowledging that South Korea is their only hope for survival. They have high hopes for the new administration. South Korea must live up to their hopes by being more forthright in its engagement. It’s not too late. To prevent another famine and death toll, South Korea must immediately begin to give large amounts of food aid to North Korea.


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North Korea Today No.119

Rearch Institute for North Korean Society
http://www.goodfriends.or.kr/eng
North Korea Today
119th Edition April 2008


End of March, Price of Rice and Maize Reaches Highest Level in History
Updates on the Rice and Maize Prices in Major Cities - End of March 2008
“Distribute Rations at Your Own Discretion”
Due to Food Shortages, Increase in Workers Leaving Jobs
Last Year’s Food Production estimated at 2.5 Million Tons
50% of Households in Some Regions of North Hamgyong Expected to be Without Food
Complaints Because of Higher Cereal Production Quotas than Last Year
Onsung County, 4.25 Tobacco Plantation Foremen Resign
South Hwanghae Province, Farming Preparation Meeting for all Citizens
An Investigation on Private Investment Business Started
Investigation of the Forest Sector by the National Defense Committee
Silly to Let the National Defense Committee to Inspect the Forest Sector
Sinuiju Customs Facing Troubles Due to a Crane Breakdown
International Trade Companies are Mere Ciphers in North Korea
“Even Though There Might Be Hope, We’re Fed-Up with It”
“Hope? Absolutely Fed-Up with it!”
“Please provide plenty of aid so that even we can eat”
General Praise for the Ministry of Education for Distributing Notebooks
News of Incidents and Accidents
[Opinion] Looking Forward to More News That Warms the Heart Like the Spring Sunshine

End of March, Price of Rice and Maize Reaches Highest Level in History
The price of foodstuffs is increasing at an incredible pace. On March 30th, for the first time in the country, the price of rice went over the 2,000won per kilogram mark and was traded for 2,050won in the city of Nampo. In the case of maize, the situation is even more extreme. The rumors that the price of maize would go over 1,000won in April became a reality and was being sold for 1,000won in places like Pyongyang, Chungjin, and Hamheung, while in Nampo, it was being traded for 1,050won. In other outlying regions, maize was still being traded at high prices ranging from 900won-950won. Only in areas like Onsung, Hoeryung, and some border areas in North Hamgyong Province was rice being traded at the comparatively low price of 1,600won for rice and 650-750won for maize.

Updates on the Rice and Maize Prices in Major Cities - End of March 2008
(Units: kg/ North Korean Won)



NOTE: Exchange Rate: 1 USD: 3000won (North Korean)
[Average workers wage is around 6000won per month]

“Distribute Rations at Your Own Discretion”
At the end of March, the Central Party held an emergency meeting to address the current issues related to foodstuffs. Because of the lack of a clear alternative, the decision was made for each province to “distribute rations at your own discretion.” It was revealed that because increasing the supply of rice for the military is currently the most pressing issue, rice that enters the country through trade must be distributed first to the military. For the past few years, the regions that have been the first to distribute foodstuffs have been Pyongyang, Kaesong, and Hoeryung. In Hoeryung in March, a 15-day supply of whole maize was distributed to workers and their dependents.

Due to Food Shortages, Increase in Workers Leaving Jobs
The daily attendance rate of workers at factories in Hamheung, North Hamgyong province, has been dropping so significantly that the absenteeism is readily apparent. Presently in Hamheung, many citizens are having a difficult time sustaining themselves with even two meals a day. A resident of Hamheung, Kim Gwang-hyuk, expressed his concern and said that if the present conditions persist for a few more months, many people will die of starvation as they did during 1996’s Arduous March. Workers at the Gimchaek Steel Mill(김책제철소) in Chungjin, North Hamgyong Province have also not been reporting to work ever since food distributions were stopped. With food prices currently hovering around 2,000won, it is difficult for workers to even afford one kg of rice with their monthly wages of 1,000won. Rather than report to work, workers are trying to earn money in labor intensive jobs such as movers by working as drivers or porters. There are also many people who help their spouses at the markets. In order to enforce attendance at its factory, the authorities at the Gimchaek Iron Factory have mobilized patrols to find those who are absent.

Last Year’s Food Production Estimated at 2.5 Million Tons
The interior ministry has come to the understanding that the total food production, including the food produced in the different provinces, was 2.2 million tons. Even if the semi-annual crop is taken into consideration, the amount of food produced does not exceed 2.5 million tons. Due to the damage caused by the flooding last year, the semi-annual crop production declined and did not exceed 300,000 tons. This figure is roughly 15% lower than the amount of food that was produced in 2006. For the country as a whole, it is likely that the food situation will be even more difficult than the period during the Arduous March. The biggest blow to food production has come become of the decline of food production due to flood damage in North and South Hwanghae Province, the breadbasket region of North Korea. These two regions usually account for 55-60% of food production in the country, but currently, it is only accounting for 30% of food production. Pyongyang is feeling the impact caused by insecurity about food production in these regions and as a result, food distribution has been suspended from April.

50% of Households in Some Regions of North Hamgyong Expected to be Without Food
In regions across North Hamgyong Province such as Saebyul, Eunduk, Yonsa, Booryung, Myungchun, which are plagued with infertile land, it is expected that half of the households will have their supply of food cut off. During the farming hardship period from April to June, it is expected that each “County” will be short of at least 800 -1,000 tons of food.

Complaints Because of Higher Cereal Production Quotas than Last Year
At the end of March, the Interior Cabinet discussed measures for ensuring supplies of rice for the military. In order to do this, a plan to increase cereal production quotas for all farms throughout the country was discussed and the quotas for this year were raised. Because of this plan instituted by the Interior Cabinet, there are significant complaints issuing from workers in the farming industry. The managing chairmen of farming and the chief engineers went to Farming and Economic Commission (농업경영위원회) and said, “What are you going to accomplish by just raising the farming quotas without a proper plan? You know full well the current situation of the farmers, so if you push this kind of policy through, who is going to want to farm? We can’t bring ourselves to order those individuals to report to work.” There were also people who said that they would rather submit their letters of resignation and object.

The supervisors and foremen of the farms said that “simply raising the cereal production quotas without providing proper fertilizer or rations for the workers is to treat them as less than human beings,” and went on to say, “We cannot continue farming like this, so you individuals who have made this decision go ahead and work on the farms. We have not been able to achieve the present production quotas even once but let’s see if you can meet the higher production quotas that you have instated.” The popular sentiment is that raising the production quotas does not make any sense because the previous quotas were never accomplished, and the fact that the commission has raised rather than lowered the quotas shows how out of touch the policy is.

Onsung County, 4.25 Tobacco Plantation Foremen Resign
Following the news from the government to distribute rations at their own discretion, the foremen and supervisors of the Onsung 4.25 Tobacco Plantation have taken fright and have submitted their letters of resignation. Although the plantation previously received rations simply by producing tobacco leaves, the change in the system to a self-sufficient one whereby food needs to be secured independently has caused much concern because the avenues for securing food are few and far between. There are many foremen and supervisors of other farms who are voicing their intention to do the same because they stand to receive much criticism especially with the cereal production quotas having been raised. These individuals uniformly say that if the government does not lower the planned production quotas, they will not be able to perform their duties as foremen and supervisors. The workers who work on cooperative farms also do not want to work because they are tired and exhausted from working. Kim Yong-hwan, a farm supervisor from Haeju, said that “the increase of the cereal production quotas by the government is making life for workers much more difficult.” Koo Jong-soo, a foreman from the same farm, said that “if the government wants to institute increases in the cereal production quotas, at the very least, our workers need to have food before we can even attempt to achieve the goals.”

South Hwanghae Province, Farming Preparation Meeting for all Citizens
On March 21st in South Hwanghae Province, there was a meeting for all citizens of the province. Because South Hwanghae Province is one of the central grain producing regions of the country, the open discussions centered on the topic of how to secure a good harvest this year. Despite the discussions, no clear methods for improving the production could be arrived at, and many of the participants could not hide their disappointment. One of the reasons why preparations for farming is being delayed is the lack of diesel fuel, which is a necessary element of tilling the fields, and a plan for distributing diesel fuel was discussed at the meeting. The different factories and businesses in the various cities and “counties” of South Hwanghae Province agreed to provide farms with as much diesel fuel as they needed. One executive sighed that “the policies that are made each year are all the same. Well, I guess its because its not possible to come up with any other policies.” The participants of the meeting all resolved to do everything possible to ensure a productive harvest and concluded the meeting.

An Investigation on Private Investment Business Started
An investigation on private investment companies and Convenient Service Networks (편의봉사망) has begun since this March. North Korean authorities recently ordered the National Security Agency, the Defense Security Command, and the People Safety Agency to conduct a joint investigation on private companies doing business under the name of organizations(기관), public enterprises or units. The primary goal of this joint inspection is to find out where actual investors get money from and place those companies back under the state’s control. An official of the joint investigation team mentioned that the main purpose of the inspection is to narrow the gap between rich and poor, and it is also the very first step of a national wellbeing project that aims to make the nation more equal as well as to enhance the quality of people’s lives until 2012.

Investigation of the Forest Sector by the National Defense Committee
The National Defense Committee has started its investigation on the forest sector. They have tightened control on the forest sector to prevent illegal tree-cutting since the open execution in Yonsa County last July on a charge of cutting slogan trees
[1]. However, there is hardly any tree left in the forest throughout the country. It has been extremely difficult to find woods since the late 1990s’ food crisis, when people started to clear hills to make patch fields. Even after a long search deep in the mountains one is lucky if he can find a tree to cut a just piece of wood. With no trees in the mountains, there are increasing landslides and soil erosion, in such a situation, no officials can avoid getting caught during the investigation. According to the order, an overall forest policy should be made while no mercy would be given to any kind of flaws done before, which has made many officers nervous.

Silly to Let the National Defense Committee to Inspect the Forest Sector
A laborer in the forest sector in Kangwon province said it is silly that the National Defense Committee investigates the forest sector. He made a long complaint, “if we go to the mountain, we find that the worst law offender is the army. Before the problem becomes worse, just stop feeding the army to build barracks and training camps. The military authorities should solve the lumber problem first before giving an order. Private Solders receiving the order under wood shortages climb mountains to cut woods with axes recklessly. If we control the army’s’ wood cutting, they make a disturbance saying “Military and People in Unity(군민일치)”. Even they beat us to the point of having to go to hospital. I am suspicious that the forest inspection is an excuse to collect money. How easy to earn money once an inspection is carried out.” An officer in Wonsan in Kangwon province said “Now the National Defense Committee investigates the entire sectors including the forest and land. There is no need for other agencies. Only the National Defense Committee will remain.”

Sinuiju Customs Facing Troubles Due to a Crane Breakdown
After the shift of administrative authority over Sinuiju Customs to the executive branch, there have been various managerial problems. Many traders and local merchants seemed to see this as a policy failure and are fretful about the recent administrative change.
The National Defense Committee has banned direct driving of container vehicles to a port. As a result, traders have been facing difficulties in moving containers. When traders were trying to transfer containers at Gyodu Customs (National Border Customs), they could not do so at the customs yard. What is worse, it is difficult to find a crane to move 40-feet containers. Even a currently available crane is broken. A resident Gye Myung-Sung deplored the national backwardness and the government’s ignorance, “Wherever you go in this country, we are so behind. Despite such backwardness of the nation, state leaders do not even try to improve the situations or to come up with any plan to solve problems, not to mention local government officers who are indifferent to people’s needs. Rather, the government continues to issue new rules and policies to tighten its control over people. Thus, nothing is getting better; things are only getting worse.”

International Trade Companies are Mere Ciphers in North Korea
Employees of international trade companies say that these companies are boasting but their work does not have anything to do with foreign trade. Because these companies function just as a broker rather than trading, their financial status is near bankruptcy. A few companies employing some skillful workers can barely manage their business by purchasing goods on credit and paying back after selling them. In the farming season, the companies are busy and running around like a headless chicken because they need to supply vinyl, fertilizers, seeds, foods, and daily necessities and to take care of all kinds of requests related to the international trades. However, the workers of these companies felt discouraged because their companies do not have money to purchase these items and nobody wants to supply them on credit.

“Even Though There Might Be Hope, We’re Fed-Up with it”
“Hope? Absolutely Fed-Up with it!”
Popular sentiments are currently becoming more and more grim. The populace is suffering from the food shortage, electricity shortage, and from the different restrictions that are in place. Even when citizens are able to procure a kilogram of maize that is selling for more than 1,000won, they are unable to process the maize, which is necessary to preserve it, because of the lack of electricity. As a result, women are forced to grind the maize by hand in their homes. Lee Sun-ook (28) of North Hwanghae Province said, “After spending a day trying to do business in the markets while evading capture by the authorities, I have to come home to a dark room and a heap of housework to do. Even when the electricity comes in for two or three hours a night, I can’t believe they could only provide electricity when I buy voltammeter that costs 120,000won. If I had that kind of money, I would rather fill up my empty stomach. How can I have the luxury of buying a voltammeter?

Oh Moon-hui (42), who was returning from the Democratic Women Union (DWU), complained, “This is really too much. I’m not sure if they’re telling us to live or to die. Other women who were assembled said, “Trying to survive is tiresome. Even though they say at the meetings that the situation is improving, we see no improvements on our end. No matter if we attend lecture meetings ten times or a hundred times, it won’t amount to anything.”

“Please provide plenty of aid so that even we can eat”
The North Korean populaces are suffering immeasurable difficulties because of the different inspections and regulations that are currently in place. People are not provided anything while marketplace restrictions are being increased and people are being forced to their workplaces, and this is causing some to worry whether the government is trying to kill off the populace. A wholesaler from Nampo, Park Ki-jung(37), said that “some of us wholesalers are even saying that perhaps the executives are increasing the scope of the current regulations because they have enough to eat due to the outside aid they receive. Some people say that if the international community is going to provide us with aid, they should give us enough so that we can all eat, or they should give us nothing rather than putting on a show and tormenting people like us. The fact that people are saying things like this should indicate just how much we are suffering. The fact is that although people wish that even a little bit more aid would enter the country, some people doubt the intentions of those who provide aid because of the small amount of food that is given.” He went on to say that, “people are suffering so much that many people can be heard saying ‘It would be better if we just had a war’.” The final comment he made was that “those people who do not have anything wish for just one thing. We want to have enough food to survive until tomorrow. If those people who make donations can hear this, please, send us enough food aid so that even people like us can eat.”

General Praise for the Ministry of Education for Distributing Notebooks
The new elementary school semester began on April 1st. Each locality had previously ascertained the demand for school material and distributed them accordingly. In Chungjin, North Hamgyong Province, they distributed 7 textbooks to the best students regardless of the number of classes they were taking. To the rest of the students, they distributed 4-5 textbooks. Because of the general economic troubles and lack of material, it is very difficult to provide students with new textbooks. However, there is a limit to how long one can use previously used textbooks. Because of the poor quality of the paper, students can’t use a book for more than 3-4 years in a row. This year is better than previous years in terms of the availability of school material. The City of Hoeryung gave each junior high student three notebooks. Each elementary school student received 6 notebooks and a handful of pencils. Parents are saying that this was the first time that they saw their children look excited over going to school, and praised the actions of the Ministry of Education.

News of Incidents and Accidents
Last March 12th, an employee of a post office of Seungho district, Pyongyang, was arrested and beat by a police officer, and finally died. The victim died of
visceral cleft on the spot. The officer stated that the victim was not obedient to his order and that’s why this incident occurred. However, witnesses stated that they clearly saw the officer beating and killing the victim, and argued that the murderer should be arrested and punished. The officer has been arrested recently.

Last March 25th, a ship belonging to the Fisheries Enterprise of Urang County, North Hamgyong Province, was taken by wind and waves and all 5 crews died. Because of this accident, some executives were punished.

Last March 27th, a cargo container tumbled down at Musanryung Hill, Buryung County, North Hamgyong Province, due to malfunction of brakes. 5 passengers including the driver died in this accident.

Last March 29th, there was a vehicle accident in Ryonggye-ri, Saebyul County. A truck from a machine factory in Hamheung hit a farmer and a cow belonging to the Ryonggye-ri. In this accident, the farmer injured his legs and the cow died on the spot.

[Opinion] Looking Forward to More News That Warms the Heart Like the Spring Sunshine
We recently heard that, in spite of dire lack of paper and other resources, the Ministry of Education of North Hamgyong province distributed from 4-7 new textbooks to the students, eliciting cries of joy from students and parents alike. We only hope that there was more heartwarming news like this in North Korea that we could share with the world.
The North Korean education system is supposedly free, including textbooks, stationery, and other school materials. However, because of the difficult economic situation, parents have been taking up more and more of the educational expenses for some time, forcing them to choose between the educational needs of their children and food for the whole family. As such, students had to use books that were rags and use notebooks made from corn husks, making the writing almost illegible. Parents went around houses selling their personal items to buy textbooks for their children. Often, the textbooks were too expensive.

Although this good news is limited to this particular locality, the residents didn’t stint on their praise for the hard-working staff of the Ministry of Education. We hope that the residents who have been so buffeted by the vagaries of difficult life in North Korea would find some modicum of hope and strength from the smiles of the children with their new textbooks. We also hope for more good news that could warm the hearts of the people as they brace for higher food prices amidst increasing crackdowns by the authorities.


[1] slogan trees(구호나무): “slogan trees: praises for Kim’s family engraved on the trees on the well known hills in North Korea”


Good Friends: Center for Peace, Human Rights and Refugees
If you need further information, please contact

Good Friends (Korea)
E-mail:intnetwork@jungto.org
Tel: 82-2-587-8996
Fax:82-2-587-8998

Good Friends USA (Washington, DC)
E-mail:goodfriendsusa@yahoo.co.kr,
Tel: 1-202-824-0788/1-301-455-9196(D)

North Korea Today No.118

Research Institute for North Korean Society
http://www.goodfriends.or.kr/eng

North Korea Today
118th Edition April 2008


Nationwide Fertilizer Crisis for Upcoming Farming Season
All parts of North Korea are facing a lack of fertilizer for the upcoming farming season. Due to a serious scarcity of agricultural materials, such as fertilizers, plastic sheets, and seeds, local traders from other parts of the nation are continuously coming to Sinuiju. Even after running around the whole city, however, these traders could not obtain enough materials and expressed their frustration that they would miss this year’s farming. In an effort to control this fertilizer crisis, the Central Party has ordered to provide each province with subsidies for purchase of fertilizer. Yet, local officials appeared to be skeptical about the Central Party’s decision. An official said that “Even though the Central Party offers 70 percent of the total cost of necessary fertilizers, the actual money that local parties would receive only reaches at 30-40 percent of the total expense. It is because a part of the fund is often taken by officers in the process of disbursement. Due to such embezzlement, we wish that the Central Party would directly provide us with fertilizers rather than fund to purchase them. In fact, even fertilizers are expected to be snatched in the process of delivery as well. In that case, nevertheless, we still can have actual fertilizers. With such little money, only covering 30-40 percent of the total expense of fertilizers that we need, we’re never able to buy enough fertilizers for our local farmers. Thus, no matter whether the Central Party provides actual fertilizers or subsidies, it generates concerns.”

“The Best Way to Help Us Is To Provide Food and Fertilizer”
“What North Korea needs most now is fertilizer, plastic sheets, and rice seeds. The best way to help us, therefore, is to provide food and fertilizer,” people uniformly answered, regardless of their social status, to the question what their urgent needs are. Baek Guang-hyun, a 48-year old resident of Chungjin City, said that “The women’s collective protest against the market age restrictions policy in March can be seen as a people’s strong message that they would not helplessly die of hunger without taking action, unlike how they were during the Arduous March.” What is essential to the survival of North Koreans is an aid of fertilizer and plastic sheets. He continued to say, “During this difficult time, the women’s market protest was a natural incident that the food shortages caused. Reportedly, 60,000 households in Chungjin City are running out of food. In other words, approximately 200,000 people are suffering from hunger, assuming 3-4 members per household. When food rations for workers stop and women’s market activities are banned, the families of those people could not but die of hunger.” Go Sung-guk, a 53-year old resident of Hamheung, also mentioned that “What we need most is food and fertilizer. We must have fertilizer and plastic sheets until the end of March. Otherwise, we cannot do farming this year. If we cannot do farming, something horrible will happen.”

Pyongyang to Stop Public Distribution till October
As of late March, the public distribution situation is very difficult, even in Pyongyang. Pyongyang recently decided to stop all public distribution from April till October. Some officials in Pyongyang are saying that such long stoppage of public distribution of food has never happened, even during the Arduous March. But the Pyongyang residents have some money with which they can buy foodstuffs in markets in Pyongsung, Sariwon, and Nampo, among others. And they also have some spare food, which means that no one is starving as of now. However, they are still nervous since their spare food levels are low and the food prices are skyrocketing. While the roads going to other cities are in bad condition, Pyongyang residents’ food situation will be in dire straits if the food supplies run low in other regional markets.

No Non-Public Distribution Management (NPDM) Allowed This Year
Last year, the authorities disallowed the non-public distribution management practice. This had which allowed collective farms to rent out unused or less productive land to workers in other industries that were shut down due to various reasons and therefore couldn’t pay their workers. These non-farm workers would then farm the land and survive on the harvests. This practice is called the 6-month farming practice because the land is rented out in 6 month increments. This year, the authorities continued the prohibition against this practice.

Kim Myung-duk (58) said, “The workers are saying that the government’s prohibition against NPM is going to make life really difficult for us. It’s hard enough to survive this year but what are we going to do next year with NPM?” One managers of a factory also agreed: “If we can’t do the NPM this year again, then I can’t, in good conscience, ask the workers to come to work. I would quit first. If we keep on going this way, I will be beaten to death by the workers.” Oh Sang-suk (54), who is the leader of a group of factory workers that make everyday essentials, supposedly yelled at his factory manager, “They shouldn’t ask us to report to work if they don’t allow NPM. I will be the first one to not come to work. Don’t even think about asking my team to come to work.” Oh was called into the police station and was punished severely for three days but still insists that he hasn’t changed his mind.

Despair Spreading Over Lack of Food
People all over the nation are feeling anxious because of the overall lack of food. Some even have shadows of palpable despair on their faces. One worker in an export company similarly despaired, “During the Arduous March, we learned survival mechanisms. Usually, we would cope through the 6-month farming practice, farming on private plots, and trading in the markets. Our government stopped us from doing these one by one. At the end of 2005, they stopped us from doing the 6-month farming and using private plots because they said the public distribution was starting back up. Last year, they began to crack down on market activities. Also, the heaven was not on our side. We had huge floods two years in a row. There is no way anyone has huge stores of food because we haven’t had good harvest for two consecutive years. So, how are we supposed to live without food? What use is skills and willpower if we don’t have food?”

An official in Pyongyang echoed similar sentiments, saying, “No matter how much they exhort us to come up with plans to get over this crisis in food, how can we come up with food that just isn’t there? China is limiting food exports and we don’t have our own stores of food left. The Cabinet might have all the meetings they want but what could they do? The food situation was improving from 2002-2004 in the aftermath of the Arduous March, but it started going downhill again in 2005 when talks of restarting the public distribution system came up, which was a huge mistake. Our country is in serious trouble right now for sure, with all the flood damages, lack of fertilizer, ill-conceived seizures of private plots, and stoppage of non-public distribution management policy.” He went on to say that there are officials who agree with him but are too afraid to speak up. “I would try to muster up courage to speak if there is any chance of change, but the situation inside is probably far worse than what they suspect from the outside,” he continued. There are rumors that famine victims will start to appear in major cities like Pyongyang, Hamheung, Chungjin, and other major cities by April. By May, we could see a mass famine.

Going Round and Round In Search of Rice
During the nationwide food crisis, North Hamgyung Province is relatively in a good condition according to rice merchants. It is because North Hamgyung Province was the only place that avoided last year’s floods. Recently, Namkang Company in Chungjin imported 300 MT of rice with a deferred payment through Hoeryung Customs. The original trade price per ton was $360 but Namkang purchased the rice for $430 per ton due to its deferred payment plan. As the rice was delivered to Chungjin, local traders from other parts of the country were heading to Chungjin.

Meanwhile, Chungjin traders are actually leaving for Sinuiju in order to get rice because Chungjin is running short of the rice due to a large outflow of the rice to other cities. The reason why Chungjin traders are coming to Sinuiju is that they are expecting to get some rice produced from farms near Sinuiju or food smuggled from China. Sinuiju, however, has been under extensive Anti-socialist Conscience investigations. Likewise, traders from all different parts of the nation are continuously moving around in search of rice. In the meantime, these rice traders are expecting that the rice price will go up soon to 2,000 won per kg.

Sinuiju Is In a Great Stir Due To Investigations
As Sinuiju is facing a series of the Central Party’s investigations, the city’s overall atmosphere is getting more and tenser. Besides the already ongoing investigation group for anti-socialist activities, 200 additional investigators of the Central Party are coming to Sinuiju in the name of Anti-socialist Conscience Investigation. The investigation group is currently scrutinizing foreign trade organizations’’ account books of 2006 and 2007. The Central Party’s Anti-socialist Conscience Investigation patrol will be inspecting all kinds of anti-socialist activities in Sinuiju for next 100 days. Everyone in the city, from officials of the municipal party and local government to law enforcement officers and local traders, is extremely nervous about this upcoming inspection. In addition, investigators are checking even local residents’ packs and bags. As a result, all the people, from top to bottom, in Sinuiju are under a great tension.

Local Traders Watching Sinuiju with Breathless Attention
All local traders’ eyes are on Sinuiju. It is because a key export-import trade route is Gyodu Customs (National Border Customs) in Sinuiju, according to Kim Myung-guk, a 48-year old local trader. He said that “Who would dare to take a risk during this intense investigation? Local traders like us can’t do our jobs with any semblance of stability. Not to mention smuggling, if this trade route is blocked, it is obvious that prices will soar. What is worse, the inspections will last 100 days. If we cannot trade for that long, we will completely run out of all the products.” Lastly, he also mentioned that a sharp price rise in rice is expected due to the upcoming the Central Party’s Anti-socialist Conscience Investigation patrol.

Chungjin City Discusses “How to Accomplish Market Management Policy”
Last March 18th Chungjin city held a Soonam district Party’s meeting to discuss about “how to manage the market to accomplish the central policy. However, the discussion flowed straight along the lines of the party policy, merely repeating that the District Party should implement the order from the top to assign the women in the factories, who should not be allowed to trade in market because of the age requirement. Other discussions centered on how to prevent the recurrence of previous resistance to the policy by strengthening the control and censorship of proper law and order institutions. The conclusion of the discussion was to implement the Party’s order unconditionally without fail in the event of similar resistance. The following day, on March 19th, the Party reiterated the policy of “facilitating ways for women below the trade minimum age to work in factories” during Saturday study group meeting of party secretaries and managers of factories and state enterprises.

Breeding Rabbits and Cultivating Mushrooms for the 60th Anniversary of the Party Foundation
As per Chairman Kim Jong-Il’s February 3rd directive, the Ministry of Agriculture encouraged factories, enterprises, units to raise rabbits and cultivate mushrooms. Responding to the encouragement, all laborers in factories, enterprise units, and the kindergarten-students have to breed rabbits and cultivate mushroom until the 60th anniversary day of Korea Worker’s Party. People’s Assemblies in regional provinces, cities, and countries reconstituted their agriculture department in order to execute the assignment. Agriculture departments sent official directives about raising rabbits and cultivating mushrooms to factory and enterprise units and are organizing operation teams consisting of model workers.

There are concerns about both programs because they were implemented annually but failed. An officer said “There is not much clover to feed rabbits. A key to the success is to solve the feeding problem. Many rabbits died from diarrhea caused by indiscreet feeding of all kinds of grass. Mushroom cultivating program management is also in the same situation. In farming mushroom, keeping an aseptic condition and appropriate temperature and humidity is very important after receiving mushroom spores from mushroom research center. Even though it looks simple, it needs special skills to cultivate them.” He worried that these programs, which need special skills, are being implemented by the general public without any training.

Managers Will Be Fired If They Don’t Raise Rabbits
Last March 15th, there was a meeting of all members in the Giljoo County Party in North Hamgyung Province. In the ‘fight for ideology’ atmosphere, general managers of factories and Party secretaries had a meeting about assigned economic tasks in industry sector. Administrative workers raised their voice that “good management will guarantee the minimum quality of life and we should keep the initial plan to the very end.” The main topic of the meeting was the plan about 60th anniversary of the founding of the Party. They stressed that “all factories should build small mushroom cultivating spaces and rabbit cages and breed one rabbit per three labors and distribute the rabbits to their laborers by October 10th, which is the 60th anniversary of the Party’s founding. They announced that mangers that do not accept or execute the plan will be fired for lack of ability. The meeting ended with the final remark that “Let us farm workers and laborers come together to have a great farming season this year.” Meanwhile, the factory managers who did not meet the target of the farmyard manure plan must work for additional 15days as a penalty in service to the farm support campaign.

Chicken Droppings are Still Valuable Substitute Fertilizer
Every district has decided to send at least one employee of the County Party and the management committee to every small agricultural management unit to collect substitute fertilizer. They dispatched workers to rural sides of North Pyongan Province to visit houses raising chicken in Sinuiju and small cities and buy an oxcart-load of droppings for 20,000 or 25,000 as substitute manure. In Pyongyang even apartment residents also raise chicken and sell eggs and manure to help their livelihood. Every year, chicken droppings are used as very useful substitute fertilizer; as such they are always in short supply.

Motivating Competition by Ranking Human Excrement As fertilizer
To secure fertilizer, farms of each county and division of North Hamgyung Province are using all kinds of possible ways to create incentives. The management committee of Sesun division’s cooperative farm of Onsung County uses a competition system to motivate oxcart drivers to collect human excrement and gives prizes to the drivers who bring in the human feces that are best suited to be used as fertilizer, ranking them from 1 to 10. The management committee of the Wangjaesan cooperative farm of Onsung County has leaders of farming units bring a bucket of human faces and urine every morning, and gives underwear as prizes to those who place from first through third and socks to those whose daily human excrement bucket ranks from fourth through seventh.

Thief Who Has Stolen 138 Bikes Arrested
Last March 12th, a thief who had stolen 138 bikes was arrested in Chungjin. The police officers of Soonam District in Chungjin City arrested a local man, Mr. Kim, on the spot when he was caught stealing a bike around the market. Because the entire number of bikes that he had stolen was 138, even the investigating officer was shocked. The culprit confessed that he stole bikes around markets, schools, or resident areas and sold them cheaply in suburb areas for 2 years since February 2006. He stated that when he did not have anything to eat at his house on a holiday in February 2006, he saw a bike owned by a guest of his neighbor and stole it. Afterwards, he continued stealing bikes. So far, the police officers identified 37 bikes that the culprit sold in the neighboring rural areas.

Adult Movie CD Circulation Supported By South Korea Intelligence Service
Recently in Pyongyang, Mr. Park was arrested on the charge of making and distributing illegal copies of South Korean adult movies in Hyesan city in Ryanggang Province. He confessed that he was assigned by the South Korea National Intelligence Service, which he connected through a North Korean exile, to distribute South Korean movies in North Korea. Adult CDs are traded at a high price of about 50 dollars per CD, but there is no stock because of the high demand by Pyongyang officials. Until his arrest, Mr. Park received South Korean movie at the border area, had his college buddy produce illegal copies, and sold them though merchants in Pyongyang. So far about sixty CDs have been recovered.

North Korean Wives in China Cannot Come Back Home
Recently North Korean women in China cannot come back to their home country even if they want to because of the March 1st declaration that illegal border crossers will be dealt with harshly when caught. A man in forties in Musan recently got a message from his wife in China telling him that she will come back home. He cried with joy after hearing that she saved enough money to send their children to school and start them off with good marriages, a result of hard work during the difficult 7 years of being separated from her family. However, the joy did not last long. The husband cannot help but send a message to his wife not to come back, who remains ignorant of the recent declaration. He felt heartbroken when he had to inform her of the miserable news that she would be arrested and sent to a Re-education center if she came back. He thought about suicide more than12 times a day, starving and caring for their children without his wife. He yearns for a reunited happy family life with his wife as soon as possible. However, he thinks that it is best for his wife to live abroad rather than be sent to a Re-education center, from which there is no guarantee she would return alive. As he spoke, he wiped tears with his rough hands.

News of Incidents and Accidents
On March 18th, a ship belonging to Riwon County’s Fisheries Enterprise of South Hamgyung Province sank while at sea. Unexpected wind and waves overtook the ship so suddenly that nothing could be done. Of 12 crews, two were rescued and the others are presumed drowned since even their bodies couldn’t be found.

[Opinion] Worried About the Second Arduous March
The food situation in North Korea is getting perilously close to extreme danger. The danger of an onset of famine is being felt in many regions. The rise in corn prices for those people who can only afford corn is a very serious danger signal. Corn prices have never hit 900 won before. Considering that we are just beginning the barley hump, it’s worrisome how much more the prices will rise.

At the same time, the inter-Korea relationship is worsening. North Korea is ratcheting up tensions in Kaesong Industrial Complex and West Sea; when combined with South Korea’s stringent tone in response, the inter-Korea relationship seems to be sliding back to the enemy-state relationship of old. NK’s position is that they will deal with any amount of economic damages and loss of human life before they ask outside for help. SK’s position is that they will not help unless NK asks for help.

Although the positions of both governments have their internal reasoning, one can’t help notice how similar this situation is to that of 10 years ago. Back then, more than 3 million perished without a war. Although the danger lurks of another tragedy, the governments of North and South Korea are only engaged in a tug of war of inflexible positions. Both governments should not repeat the foolishness of 10 years ago. Once the window of opportunity to intervene is lost, people will start dying in droves and there will be nothing that can be done to arrest the tragedy. North and South Korea must work together to come up with a plan to save the unnecessary deaths of the North Korean people.


Good Friends: Center for Peace, Human Rights and Refugees
If you need further information, please contact

Good Friends (Korea)
E-mail:intnetwork@jungto.org
Tel: 82-2-587-8996
Fax:82-2-587-8998
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E-mail:goodfriendsusa@yahoo.co.kr
Tel: 1-202-824-0788/1-301-455-9196(D)
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