GoodFriends: Research Institute For North Korean Society

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North Korea Today No. 132

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


North Korea Today 132nd Edition May 2008

“Research Institute for North Korean Society of Good Friends, in order to bring news of the food crisis in North Korea more accurately and quickly, will increase its e-newsletter frequency to more than one issue per week. As such, the release dates might shift. Thank you for your understanding and attention to this looming crisis. We at Good Friends hope to be a bridge between the North Korean people and the world.”

Residents of Mooksong-ri, Kaepoong County to the City People’s Council Cry out: “Please Release Some Food”
“Party Officials Too Eager To Hide all the Problems”
“Farming Is Said To Be the Utmost Foundation of All Businesses”
“Pretending There Are No Complaints”
“Don’t Treat Chosun (Korea) as a Beggar”
“Continuing Inspections in Sinuiju Cause the Traders to Turn Their Backs”
Women Contributions Vital to Building Powerful Nation
“Don’t Accept Divorce Application Unless There Are Special Circumstances”
“Impressive Is the Freedom to Enjoy Music”


Residents of Mooksong-ri, Kaepoong County to the City People’s Council Cry out: “Please Release Some Food”
Residents of Mooksong-ri(묵송리), Kaepoong County(개풍군) of Kaesong Special City(개성직할시) made a request to the City People’s Council in the name of all the residents that “The state find a means to release some food.” Mooksong-ri, surrounded by mountains, has little farm land but a few tiny plots scattered widely. Most of these plots lie on the slopes, difficult to cultivate, and the crop is reduced each year due to lack of fertilizer. Since early spring this year, most of the families have run out of food. Unlike the other parts of the country, this area has bald mountains and mountains of rock, and consequently has little edible grass that people could collect. Food supply has totally run out and many families cannot even afford to have porridge of grass, and consequently there are one or two persons per household that are too weak to move around. Children, of course, have been kept away from school.

Kim Jung-hwan (52) says, “Even a relatively healthy person cannot work on the fields without eating and this year’s crop is going to be a mess. In this way, neither can we handle any farm work nor can we even maintain tiny plots. The residents therefore submitted request for food aid with a hope that the Ri(리;village) Party Office forward the request to the City People’s Council. As the Ri Party Office understands the situation of food crisis very well, it forwarded the request to the City People’s Council.”

“Party Officials Too Eager To Hide all the Problems”
Jung Young-ho (57) at Pyongsung criticized the party officials bluntly, saying, “Party officials’ main goal is to please and glorify the Beloved Leader and to hide all the problems from him. Consequently, no progress or solution to the problems can be expected to come out.” He continued, “They ascribe the causes of the problems to natural disasters or economic sanctions by the United States. They try to evoke hatred and hostility. They are focused on expanding expenditures on the military. When on earth would the lives of people are going to improve?”

“Farming Is Said To Be the Utmost Foundation of All Businesses”
A resident lamented, “It’s said that farming is the utmost foundation of all businesses for a long time. Our Chairman, however, too busy to govern the country, does not seem to care much about it. For instance, he never misses any anniversary ceremonies or political assemblies, but he seldom appears before any business assemblies such as agricultural assembly. People say that our Leader frequently visits military units, but that his visit to the factories and the farms is much less frequent. Even the farms and the factories he visits are normally those that operate without any problems. Consequently his understanding about people’s lives is not so deep that no solution comes out.” He thus cautiously expressed the sentiments of farmers.

“Pretending There Are No Complaints”
Even high ranking party officials at Pyongyang have something to complain about. One such official said, “Those of us who could afford food are definitely affected this year due to food shortage. There is restriction on the usage of electricity and water. We cannot take baths as needed. It is true that we are living in a different world from those who starve to death, but we find that life gets tougher and complaints are increasing.” High ranking officials also agree that due to bad government policies the food crisis is getting worse. Only “because I cannot afford to lose my job, I must keep my mouth shut. Who would dare to make recommendations when a word said in wrong way may destroy generations of families?” (He) confessed thus the difficulty of forming public opinions.

“Don’t Treat Chosun (Korea) as a Beggar”
An old couple in the City of Musan, North Hamkyong Province, lives in a small hut at the foot of a mountain. One day while working on their patch of field, a thief stole most of their assets: half a sack of corn, dried greens, a rabbit and a few pieces of clothing. This old couple went to the city party headquarters and reported the theft weeping bitterly. The city party officials requested an investigation to the security office. The security officers replied they would start the investigation. A little later, a Chinese-Korean who was visiting a family there heard about the incident and felt sorry about the old couple. The visitor took out his wallet and handed the old couple some money. At that moment, a security officer came over and asked the visitor for his passport. He then shouted in anger, “Are you treating Koreans as beggars? Go back to your home tomorrow.” Fearful of potential troubles to his host family, the visitor apologized to the security officer repeatedly, but it was of no use. People heard of the incident and made comments, “The visitor tried to do something as good as saving a life. What a nonsense it is! We don’t know if we have to cry or laugh.”

A party official made an observation on the incident and said, “The visitor’s behavior was inappropriate. In a situation like this, the visitor should have offered some money to the security officer first, praising his services. And then the visitor should have made the offer of the money to the old couple. The visitor ended up hurting the sense of pride of the Party. The security officer’s reaction was a very sensitive one, but there was no blaming the security officer. Just consider it as a difference in culture.”

“Continuing Inspections in Sinuiju Cause the Traders to Turn Their Backs”
The inspections in Sinuiju, originally scheduled for one hundred days, are being extended with no end in sight. It is unknown when it will end due to the policy that every single crime should be investigated. Insiders at Sinuiju expect it to last until the end of the year. These sharply tightening, lengthy inspections cause the traders in Sinuiju, the Chinese, the smugglers and those in possession of cell phones, who are potential legal suspects, to move to other places such as Pyongyang, Pyongsung, Haeju, Nampo and Wonsan. The traders from the other cities avoid Sinuiju fearful of the continuing inspections and investigations. When they cannot avoid the city, they try to get out as quickly as possible and as soon as they finish their business in the city. Han Sang-duk (52), a trader at two cities of Soonchun and Sinuiju says, “I hate to step into Sinuiju because of the tightening inspections.” He also said that compared to the past he himself had certainly reduced the number of visits to Sinuiju.

Women Contributions Vital to Building Powerful Nation
Under the banner, “Let women devote their patriotic souls to building Powerful Nation!” women got busier. Women work anything and anywhere to feed their families: marketing, farming patches of paddies, keeping houses (for others) and doing sundry trifling jobs. Man of the house used to support their families when Public Distribution System worked, but that is now an old story. Women have worked very hard to make their families survive for more than 10 years after Public Distribution System stopped working. Women’s contribution is vital for the family to survive last ten years without starvation. Women’s contribution y has been playing an important role not only in taking care of household affairs but also in implementing various social projects, including cleaning towns, repairing roads, and rehabilitating towns damaged by floods. They do physical labor without any hesitation, which are difficult jobs even for men. Lee Keum-young (52), who has been a member of Democratic Women’s Union (DWM) for a long time, said “It is no exaggeration to say that recently 80% of all the households in North Korea are supported by women. Without women’s support, the nation would be barely sustainable. Last year the housewives registered in DWM did the construction project of digging up the soil at the bottom of Bo-Tong River in Pyongyang city and finished it successfully. There are many examples including a case of road expansion to Southern Sinuiju last March. It was also the work of housewives.” Concerning women’s active participation in social projects, Rye Min-goo (43) states “That is because they are easier to be mobilized than men because they work without pay. Anyway women toil hard.”

“Don’t Accept Divorce Application Unless There Are Special Circumstances”
The growing severity of the food shortage has affected people: people become less generous and the families with domestic problems increase. Nowadays, majority of divorce applications are filed by women. The dire situation of life has caused spouses to blame each other, violently quarrel, beat each other, or frequent drunken spree. This year, in Pyongsung, the drastic increase in divorce rate has been reported to the Central Party. As a result, the Democratic Women’s Union (DWU) has announced that “Divorce applications should not be accepted unless there are special circumstances.” The DWU has also advocated the strengthening of family ties. In addition, the Central Party has announced that divorced husbands will be sent to a Labor Training Center(단련대) in order to prevent chaotic and poisonous effects on society from divorce. Many of those who file for a divorce take care of the Higher Court officials before they stand in court. They usually pay around a bribery of 100,000 to 150,000 Won to the officials to prevent from being sent to the discipline center. Residents lament, “We just want to separate because we are not meant for each other. We live a world where we can’t even divorce without money.”

“Impressive Is the Freedom to Enjoy Music”
People who had experiences living abroad tend to have more things to say. Han Seok-joo (49) said, “I got sick and tired of my life here after I have been to my relative’s. I was most impressed with the fact that people listened to the radio and the songs in a taxi and talked freely. But it is extremely deplorable that exchanging overseas news is strictly forbidden 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. 131

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


North Korea Today 131st Edition May 2008

“Research Institute for North Korean Society of Good Friends, in order to bring news of the food crisis in North Korea more accurately and quickly, will increase its e-newsletter frequency to more than one issue per week. As such, the release dates might shift. Thank you for your understanding and attention to this looming crisis. We at Good Friends hope to be a bridge between the North Korean people and the world.”

Deaths by Starvation Continues in Goksan
15,000 Workers Mobilized to Goksan are Suffering
Female Workers in Miroo Plain Construction Needs Hygienic Band
People Run Away From Miroo Plain
Orphans Eat Only One Porridge Meal A Day
Children Are Let Out From Orphanages Because Of Food Shortage
Fertilizer Does Not Help This Year’s Harvest
“10- Year- Lasting Arduous March, Stuffy Thing”
“Don’t Work Depending On Foreign Aid”
If the Agriculture Policy Does Not Change, This Years’ Crops Will Be Doomed

Deaths by Starvation Continues in Goksan
In Goksan County, North Hwanghae Province, people are continuing to die of starvation. All of the victims suffer from common cold-like symptoms including persistent coughs and have cases of diarrhea prior to dying, but as of yet, no policies have been instated to combat the situation. Cases of chickenpox and scabies are also on the rise, but again, no preventive measures are being initiated.

Goksan County was one of the regions most severely damaged by the floods last year. Arable land, schools, hospitals, and residences sustained damages in over 20 villages (리;Ri); the region produced some of the highest human casualties from the flood. Last year, the North Korean government released news about the flood damages in Goksan County because it was one of the most heavily damaged area. However, there is speculation that the government regrets releasing this information because instead of receiving aid, they feel that they have become the laughing stalk of the international community.

Because of the severe food shortage striking prior to any significant recovery made from the flood damage, the effect on human life is growing worse each day.

15,000 Workers Mobilized to Goksan are Suffering
The 15,000 workers mobilized to Goksan County to fix the Miroo plain(미루벌) irrigation system, that was destroyed by the consecutive floods of 2006 and 2007, are currently suffering greatly because of the severe food shortage. The workers have been greatly affected by the complete lack of food rations within Goksan County.

Because there is no food or aid being distributed by the central government, most people are subsisting on little more than a handful of maize sprinkled with salt. Often, people are forced to eat grass roots mixed with chaff. Forced with exhausting labor and little food, the number of people dying is increasing. Central government members, shocked at the news of workers dying, began visiting the fields to survey the situation. Upon encountering the current conditions, government officials stared open-mouthed and speechless, shocked by the appalling conditions. Asked what they needed by the officials, the crowd responded in unison, “It would be nice to eat a meal!” Because no actions have been taken since then, the workers, who are little more than skin and bones, continue to work.

In addition to improving the food situation, strengthening the medical system is urgently needed. Those who are injured and need immediate medical treatment are literally dying because of the lack of treatment due to the fact that the hospitals are ill equipped to handle anything more than a basic examination.

One official lamented, “There are many cases of people dying because of a lack of food. At the current rate, no one will be left to work. Though the immediate remedy would be to provide more food to ward off starvation, there is very little that can be done because this is no food.”

Another official who knows the situation said, “We desperately need aid at the Miroo Plain construction sites. Any food that can be provided, even dried noodles, would be helpful. We would even permit donors to monitor on the ground. Our government is very concerned about the current situation and considers it a priority, but as of yet, because its reserves are low, there’s not much it can do unless there is humanitarian assistance from the International community

Female Workers in Miroo Plain Construction Needs Hygienic Band
There is no need to discuss any other shortage in light of the food shortage. If shoes are worn and torn, people tie them up with hay strings. If there are no hay strings, they make straw shoes. But women, especially, are going through a lot. Female workers, composing 40% of the entire work force, are asking for hygienic pads as well as food. Goh Young-hwa (28) ran away from the work place not being able to withstand the severe conditions and said, “Women are just left to bleed while working. The humiliation was unbearable. Because there were no pieces of fabric to replace the pads, we would continuously bleed while working and we felt sub human.”

People Run Away From Miroo Plain
Miroo Plain is a huge field that the late leader Kim Il-Song had special interest in. However, in 2006 and 2007, floods took away most of the land and broke the water channels. In the New Year’s Message of 2007 (2007 신년공동사설), the Party gave an order to rearrange Miroo Plain. Accordingly, the Party is working to rearrange Miroo Plain by selecting workers from the local area. Because there are severe housing and food shortages, workers often run away from Miroo Plain. However, they are usually caught before they get home and are then sent to Labor Training Centers(Nodongdalnyundae: 노동단련대). Though families are complaining, workers are reluctant to leave from Miroo Plain for fear of being caught. However, because of their malnutrition, the pace of work is very slow.

Orphans Eat Only One Porridge Meal A Day
Nationally, the situation in orphanages and nursing homes has become very desperate. In South Pyongan Province, food distribution has stopped since last February. From March, they are eating only one corn porridge meal a day. In Nampo Orphanage, 150 orphans are barely managing to eat one meal a day. Local governments ordered those orphanages to take more orphans because these days, more children are being abandoned. However, orphanages are concerned that they cannot afford to take in more orphans as they are unable to feed all their children.

Children Are Let Out From Orphanages Because Of Food Shortage

Miss Goh (48), who is working in an orphanage in South Pyongan said, “our children are eating only one meal a day and I don’t know how they will survive.” She added, “Because of the food shortage, some orphanages let children leave.” This past February, orphanages have endured children’s deaths due to the itch(scabies;옴). Some said, “Up to 27 children who could not get treatment for the itch died. The Itch is contagious and because of the absence of proper medication, we had to isolate those who had like symptoms. Later, because we could not treat them, we just let them leave because it seemed that isolating them was just killing them. “

Fertilizer Does Not Help This Year’s Harvest
This year’s harvest is in danger as the Ministry of Agriculture(농업성) did not provide fertilizers at a scheduled time to the farmers of cities and counties. An official of the Ministry of Agriculture said that “Currently, nitrogenous fertilizer produced by Heungnam Fertilizer Factory does not help this year’s farming.” To compensate, the Neighborhood Unit ordered each household to provide 10kg of manure(퇴비) to the farms of the respective region, and factories and enterprises assigned the same amount of fertilizer to each worker. Currently the commission for agriculture management (농촌경영위원회) predicts that this year’s crop will be in trouble even though farmers spread Heukbosan fertilizer(흙보산비료) onto the fields. Goh Young-gil (44) said “Though there is a mandate to submit 10kg of manure, this will not be helpful. Even if someone provides the manure, it usually contains a high percentage of normal clods. Spreading it out on the fields will not help fertilize the crops at all. The lack of production is caused by the stopgap work and not the fertilizer.”

“10- Year- Lasting Arduous March, Stuffy Thing”
Though the hardship from the food crisis has been severe, public opinion has been worse.
From high level officers to common farmers, laborers and students, the discontent against the current system has rising. Kim Sung-kan (45) at Sariwon in North Hwanghae Province said, “Why can’t we change the food condition 10 years after the Arduous March? What are government officers doing? This is so frustrating.”

“Don’t Work Depending On Foreign Aid”
One of the most frequently heard phrases in the meetings of middle level officials is “Work with your hands.” Officials stress at every meeting not to “…depend on other countries. Other countries also suffer from the food crisis. Especially this year, the food crisis has swept all over the world. So, work by yourself and with your hands. Don’t work expecting other countries to help.” An official who attended one of those meetings said “Officers guess the meaning of the words is not to believe China or South Korea .It means not to expect aids from those countries.”

Particularly in the rice-planting(모내기) season, authorities stress the need to forego hope in foreign aid emphasize the commitment to find alternative fertilizers. In every meeting, they repeat that “this year we will not receive fertilizers from South Korea and cannot import goods from the outside world. We will fight and overcome the economic blockade and every restriction by finishing the rice-plantation successfully within the season by spreading out dried grass or leaves on the rice paddies.”

If the Agriculture Policy Does Not Change, This Years’ Crops Will Be Doomed
Even though authorities emphasize that “every man should do their part to ensure a good harvest this year,” most farmers think there are still a long way to go. The Party insists that people should not expect any aid from other countries due to the worldwide food crisis and should focus on farming crops on their own soil. They also stress that all parties, military, and citizens should support farming because they are all accountable. However, it is not easy to attract active participation.

Suh Chang-Hyeok (49) at Bongchoen County in South Hwanghae Province made an impassioned speech about the current agriculture policy, “Farming is conducted in the form of collective labor and volunteers work inattentively, which is understandable because there is no reward for the work. Only a few people pay attention to the labor, vigorously working like it is their own. This year’s crop will not improve unless authorities change its agriculture policy. The elderly publicly state that grain yield was highest just before the Korean War in 1950 because the authorities distributed the rights to cultivate lands to individual farmers and 70% of the crops produced in the land were divided to the farmer who cultivated it.

After all, in order to increase the farmers’ will to produce, the domestic law should consider peoples’ selfish mind, but because it does not, production is very low. It is natural for people to be exhausted because it is hard for them to get distribution even though they work for an entire year go through all the hardships. Moreover, officers who manage the farms do not help the farming at all because they are used to report grain production falsely to the upper level authorities with the purpose of flattery and embezzlement. Originally, Chosun was an agricultural country. The problem in the agriculture industry could be solved by a wise man with firm determination, but no one has come forth. The real problem is that no one is motivated to value their fatherland and people. From the center to the margin of government, the conservative perception is prevalent to just keep their salaries and the status quo policy. It is obvious that this year’s agricultural production will be difficult.”


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. 130

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

North Korea Today 130th Edition May 2008
“Research Institute for North Korean Society of Good Friends, in order to bring news of the food crisis in North Korea more accurately and quickly, will increase its e-newsletter frequency to more than one issue per week. As such, the release dates might shift. Thank you for your understanding and attention to this looming crisis. We at Good Friends hope to be a bridge between the North Korean people and the world.”

Epidemic Diseases Alert
Five to Six Children Dying Each Day in Hoeryung Due to Disease
Sudden Outbreak of Acute Colitis in Onsung Threatens Young Patients
“It is Ridiculous to die because of simple Tuberculosis”
Officials of Chejong Farms (Seed Collecting Farms) in North Hwanghae Province Are Imprisoned
Chief of the Management Committee of Bongsan County Collective Farm said “I am ashamed” when Questioned on the Party Membership
Chief of the Management Committee of Ryongrim Collective Farm at Munduk County has also suffered with the Party’s Cross-Examination
Price of Rice on the Bulletin Board at Market Entrance is Useless.
No Sales except Food Items at the Market
Public Speech Criticizing Lee Myung-bak Government Continues


Epidemic Diseases Alert
Five to Six Children Dying Each Day in Hoeryung Due to Disease
An unidentified disease has been spreading since early April in Hoeryung, North Hamkyong Province, and five to six children have been dying each day since April 27th. In the beginning, the disease originated from Mangyang-dong, and currently, the disease is spreading rapidly throughout the city, but there are no effective preventive measures in place. Children who are able to endure a high fever for two weeks are able to survive, but those who are unable to do so are dying.

Sudden Outbreak of Acute Colitis in Onsung Threatens Young Patients
On May 16th, two children from the town of Onsung kindergarten in Onsung County, North Hamkyong Province, died in the hospital due to acute colitis, and 11 other children are currently receiving treatment in quarantine. However, doctors have a bleak outlook on the chances of survival for the children who are receiving treatment because of their weakened state. With these young children suffering from acute colitis, the health authorities are keeping a watchful eye out to see whether or not the outbreak is going to spread.

“It is Ridiculous to die because of simple Tuberculosis”
Kim Sang-hyuk, a driver from Soonchun, South Pyongan Province, has already been suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis for a few years now despite his relatively young age of forty-six. Because there is no medicine available at the hospital, Kim Sang-hyuk has not been receiving any treatment other than the occasional costly purchases of medicine he makes in the marketplace. With no regular distribution of food being made, his comparatively healthy and strong body has become nothing more than skin and bones. Kim Sang-hyuk reflected the attitudes of others when he said, “It is regrettable that in other countries, tuberculosis is not even considered a disease and people can get better after receiving treatment, while in our country people are dying.” He went on to criticize the current conditions by saying that, “In light of the large number of people who are dying because they do not have the money to get treatment, it would be better to simply say that this is a country for government officials rather than deluding ourselves and saying that this is a country where healthcare is free. Isn’t true that government officials are the only ones who receive treatment for free?”

Officials of Chejong Farms (Seed Collecting Farms) in North Hwanghae Province Are Imprisoned
The officials of the village and the operations manager of a seed collecting farm in Shingang-ri(신강리), Geumchun County(금천군), the North Hwanghae Province, together with the officials of other seed collecting farms, have recently been arrested. These farm officials had sold part of their seeds to the general farms in return for food, which caused a shortage of seeds for the upcoming farming season. The government holds these farm officials responsible and arrested them. In addition, those that demanded speedy distribution of food to the farms by the Central Party have been relieved of their position and have been sent to jail or re-education center. No one now dares to raise the issue of food aid to the farms for the worsening food situation.

Chief of the Management Committee of Bongsan County Collective Farm said “I am ashamed” when Questioned on the Party Membership
Lee Ryong-hoon (45), chief of the management committee of Bongsan County Collective farm(봉산협동농장), Sariwon, North Hwanghae Province, was caught during the inspection by the City and was questioned severely about the Party membership. The inspection results of the prosecutory office were sent to the City Party and this Party examined the chief’s activities in the Party. As a result of the inspection it was pointed out that due to shortage of seeds, there would be severe problem at the harvest time. The City Party threatened him saying, “(you) betrayed the Party’s trust and damaged its reputation. Will you surrender your Party ID card or not?” Mr. Lee said that he would follow the Party’s decision and do his best if he is given another chance. He stated, “I don’t have quality as the Party member and I am ashamed,” and said he would take responsibility for the matter.

Chief of the Management Committee of Ryongrim Collective Farm at Munduk County has also suffered with the Party’s Cross-Examination
Choi Oak-hee (52), chief of the management committee of Ryongrim Collective Farm(룡림협동농장), Munduk County, South Pyongan Province, has been evaluated as a loyal Party member who had devoted his mind and body for the collective farm management during the past several decades. Last April when a farming season began, but many farmers did not come to work because of starvation for a long time, the chief tried to encourage farmers to come to work by visiting from house to house. However, he did not motivate the hungry and exhausted farmers at all, so he decided to rent the field to individuals. He tried this method, fully determined to face the harsh criticism by the superiors, to encourage farmers to work because he knew that if left uncultivated the field would become waste land. Unlike other chiefs who have resigned their positions because of the shortage of food, he tried to find an answer to save farmers but it brought a disaster. Choi is under preliminary hearing on a charge that, “he treated the national farmland as private property and tried to fulfill selfish desire for personal profit. He was influenced by the capitalism and it damaged the national solidarity.” The members of the collective farm speak in a hushed voice saying, “shouldn’t we try different methods of farming instead of insisting only one method, and then promote the best method? Isn’t the goal to do good farming? The Chief didn’t try it to only enrich himself but to encourage the weakened farmers? Isn’t it a too harsh punishment?” The public expressed sympathy on the imprisonment of the Chief.

Price of Rice on the Bulletin Board at Market Entrance is Useless
At the entrance of major markets in North Korea, a notice was posted on the bulletin boards prohibiting sales of corn and rice at a higher price than Won 1,000/Kg for corn and Won 2,000/Kg for rice. This notice was to advertise the rice price control policy which has begun since around last April 20th. The residents say that there is a big difference between the suggested price and real market price. From the point of view of buyers, “We did not receive any wage; even though they control corn’s price not to go over Won 1,000/kg, it doesn’t make any difference because it is still too expensive and we cannot buy it at all.” Bae Choon-sung (49), a resident of Nampo, said, “(I) don’t know which social class these prices are based on. If it was based on the wages of majority workers, the price should drop to won 10/Kg to allow them to live normally. No matter how (they do) to control the soaring prices, they are not reasonable prices.” The businessmen in general say that “the prices determined do not reflect the reality,” and that the price control policy has no real effectiveness.

No Sales except Food Items at the Market
In any market of the whole country, we cannot see any one but the people who buy food. Daily necessities such as clothes, shoes, miscellaneous goods have not been traded. As the food prices skyrocketed, people have to spend more money on food and have no extra money to spend on other items. Sellers who trade other items cry out that they cannot make enough money to buy one meal a day even if they worked hard all day. People use lye for laundry, put on worn-out shoes, save candles, and eliminate other items except food as much as they can. There is absolutely no sign of improvement and although they work hard all day and make 3,000won, they can barely maintain their lives with thin gruel.

Public Speech Criticizing Lee Myung-bak Government Continues
North Korea’s uncomfortable attitudes toward the Lee Myung-bak Government continue. The North Korean Government held public forum in which they spoke on the subject that “the anti-North Korean policy of the rebel leader Lee Myung-bak will not avoid destruction.” They say that “The gangs of Lee Myung-bak are just traitors and rebels. Followings are four specific examples: First, his government does not want peaceful unification by and between our people. They rely on the power of US and consider the amicable relationship with US as the first priority and carry out actions to strengthen it. Second, the Lee Myung-bak Government is in the front line demanding the denuclearization which US is forcing upon us. Third, the rebels of Lee Myung-bak pressure us to improve human rights and open doors, and if we do that they will help us achieve GNP of $3,000 per capita. Fourth, they say that the North Koreans’ poverty and shortage of food are severe violation of human rights and they insist on pushing through the South Korea’s demand.”

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. 129


Research Institute for North Korean Society



North Korea Today 129th Edition May 2008

“Research Institute for North Korean Society of Good Friends, in order to bring news of the food crisis in North Korea more accurately and quickly, will increase its e-newsletter frequency to more than one issue per week. As such, the release dates might shift. Thank you for your understanding and attention to this looming crisis. We at Good Friends hope to be a bridge between the North Korean people and the world.”

People Subsisting on Thin Porridge
People’s Supreme Assembly of Nampo City Request Emergency Food Aid
People in Kangwon also Suffer Food Shortage
“Farm the fields in the Morning and Then Go Gather Grass in the Afternoon.”
The Ryong-yang Mine in Dancheon City Halts All Production
The Price of Rice Soared to 3,900won after Chairman Kim’s Visit to Kyongsong
Irrigation Works from the Tumen River is Priority for Onsung County
Upholding Virtue and Moral Character for the Women of Chosun
[Opinion] We Urge the South Korean Government To Launch 200,000 Tons of Emergency Food Aid To North Korea


People Subsisting on Thin Porridge
With the suspension of food distribution in some parts of Pyongyang, the number of people who are subsisting on watery porridge is on the rise. Residents of areas like Sadong District(사동구역), Ryukpo District(력포구역), Rakrang District(락랑구역) and Seungho District(승호구역), are likely to be resorting to these measures. The food stores in these areas are completely empty and have closed their doors, and factories and businesses that used to distribute food on their own have suspended operations because of the lack of food.

Chairman Kim Jong-Il has declared on numerous occasions that food rations for Pyongyang be guaranteed. In April, Chairman Kim called together the Trade Minister, Secretary of the Pyongyang City Party, and the Chairman of the People’s Assembly to ensure that food rations be provided to people in the city of Pyongyang.

A partial shipment of food that entered the country through Sinuiju was immediately released to residents of Pyongyang, but because of the overall lack of food, food distribution was suspended shortly thereafter. Affluent households that live in the central districts of Pyongyang have, at minimum, 6 months of food in reserve, in addition to US dollars, which gives them the option of purchasing food when necessary. However, in other districts that are occupied by people with fewer resources, households are more reliant on government food distributions and have few options when distribution is suspended.

One official in Pyongyang said, “I recently went to Kangwon Province because I had some work to do there. It was on that trip that I truly realized the extreme disparity in living standards between Pyongyang and its outlying regions. It seems like another world in areas outside of Pyongyang. The living conditions of residents are so poor that I couldn’t help tearing up. Compared to other areas, Pyongyang is like heaven. If people in Pyongyang are subsisting on porridge water, it is easy to believe that people in other areas are dying of starvation.”

Fig. 1 Map of the Risk Areas in Pyongyang

People’s Supreme Assembly of Nampo City Request Emergency Food Aid
Conditions in Nampo City are much worse than in Pyongyang. All of the food stores within the city have closed their doors, and long ago, the factories and businesses that were designated as important by the government stopped providing food rations. The officials in Nampo all say that “because of the pressing food situation, the young, the elderly, and all of the citizens are facing death and human casualties.

The officials went on to say that if the government wishes to prevent large-scale deaths due to starvation, food aid must enter the country as soon as possible. The People’s Assembly of the city is urgently requesting the central government for food aid.

Nampo’s food crisis began in December of last year, and food distribution was suspended beginning in February of this year. Only the workers at Nampo’s port receive a small amount of food rations, and even the workers who work at Nampo’s artillery and military armament factories are facing difficult times.

The central government released party funds on a one time basis in order to provide a month of food rations to workers in military related factories such as these and other important industries such as specially designated businesses and factories. If these workers were like the other citizens who never received a grain of rice from the government, they would have resorted to working in the markets or farming earlier, but because these workers were all used to receiving their food rations without fail, the cessation of food distribution has had an even greater effect on them.

An official from Nampo said, “Originally, there were plans to get rid of the markets on April 15th, the Day of the Sun(태양절; Birthday of Kim Il-Sung), but now they are unable to get rid of the markets and the policy became vague. Things that can be regulated are being regulated, but the minimum age requirement is not being enforced. Since the amount of food stuffs are so scarce, the authority are fear that the public reaction would worsen even further. Women who were arrested for offense, often they are physically protesting, for instance, scratching the police’s face or grab on the ears of the officers when the women’s goods are being confiscated.

People in Kangwon also Suffer Food Shortage
According to a resident in Jookgen-ri(죽근리), Kosan County, Kangwon Province, people in this area are not showing up for work because of the food shortage. Instead, they pick herbs to make porridge. These meals are not sufficient to sustain them to do farm work. It is the same case in Kimhwa County, Bubdong County, and Kosung County. Especially in the areas that suffered from the effects of the flood last year, more people are suffering from malnutrition than in other areas.

According to one soldier in Keumkang County, the soldiers in this county are experiencing a food shortage as well. They are fed with less than half a bowl of long grain rice(안남미), a couple of pieces of Korean radish, and seaweed soup that tastes like seaweed, yet does not contain any actual seaweed. Lamenting on how bad their food situation was, he said that only on traditional holidays, can he see some oil floating in the seaweed soup. “Because we can’t eat well, we do not have any energy to participate in military training. Thus, sometimes we get into vacant houses, steal food and resell them to other residents. With that money, we get a good amount of food. Sometimes the owners of the stolen food come and complain about the theft, but we dismiss their claims and scold them for their negligence.” He added that to save themselves, there is no choice but to do some harm to the other residents.

“Farm the fields in the Morning and Then Go Gather Grass in the Afternoon.”
In Hunyung-ri(훈융리), Saebyoul County, the North Hamkyong Province, farmers are not tending to their fields because they are exhausted with no energy to work the fields due to the food shortage. Governmental officers are helpless in remedying the situation. Desperately, they demand that farmers work the fields in the morning, and then gather grass in the afternoon. According to one manager, this is the only option as herb porridge is the only food alternative and without, farmers can’t work.

The Mine Ryong-yang in Dancheon City Halted All production
The Mine Ryong-yang in Dancheon city of South Hamkyong Province stopped all production in May because it could not manage the food problem of workers for several months. One official in this area said that, “The main products of the Mine Ryong-yang are magnesium clinker. But the biggest challenge is that there is no appropriate market or outlet. If there are some importers for magnesium clinker, the mine will continue its production. However, the outlets for expert got stuck for now. It is inevitable workers get nothing to earn a living and quit economic activities.” And he added, “This is a barren place, which makes it more difficult to live on grass,” reporting that the region has been in such a destitute situation.

The Ryong-yang Mine in Dancheon City Halts All Production
The Ryong-yang mine in Dancheon city of South Hamkyong Province stopped all production in May, contributing to the food shortage crisis. One official in the area states, “The main product of the mine is magnesium clinker. But because there is no demand for magnesium, production has halted. Without pay, miners are left to search for herbs, which is very difficult because, “the area is so barren, grass cannot be found.” The region is in a very destitute situation.

The Price of Rice Soared to 3,900won after Chairman Kim’s Visit to Kyongsong
The price of rice soared from 3,200won (May 11th) to 3,900won (May 12th) just one day after Chairman Kim Jong-Il’s visit to Kyongsong County(경성군). Due to the Chairman’s visit, the Chungjin area was blockaded for 2 days, which is adjacent to Kyongsong County. All vehicles and passengers were prohibited from entering the area, causing the price of rice to rise. After the lift of the blockade on May 13th, the price of rice stabilized back to the 3,000-3,100won level again. Critics complained that “A national level economic blockade brings a lot of difficulties, which are magnified on the domestic level. It is like our hand and feet are bound. Despite severe criticism by the public, the authorities move forth with the blockade.”

Irrigation Works from the Tumen River is Priority for Onsung County
In the busiest time of the season of rice-planting(모내기), Onsung County faces a crisis as half of their paddy fields are dry due to the lack of irrigated water. On May 17th, the County Party mobilized all available personnel to aggressively pump water from the Tumen River(두만강). County authorities provided lunch consisting of a bowl of corn-rice and spinach as a side dish to all the workers for their labor. Corn meal(옥수수밥) was a wonderful substitute for their usual sustenance of just a bowl of porridge. This motivated the mobilized workers to give their best efforts and were willing to work late into the night to finish the work as soon as possible.

Upholding Virtue and Moral Character for the Women of Chosun
In order to survive, an increasing number of women are engaging in prostitution. As sex trade activities mushroom throughout the country, authorities are having a difficult time controlling the practice. In response to this epidemic, the Central Party initiated a program to educate women abstain from this practice. The lectures, which are repeated mainly to members of the Democratic Women’s Union offered, “Preserve the unique virtue and moral character of Chosun women and dispel the temptation to resort to prostitution.”

[Opinion] We Urge the South Korean Government To Launch 200,000 Tons of Emergency Food Aid To North Korea
Case1. I survived with grass and vegetables in the spring and summer. But they have become rare and are found far from resident areas, which has increased the number of starving people. A typical meal consisted of grass or a vegetable boiled in water with a few grains of salt, with corn flour. After stirring all the ingredients, I drank one bowl. That was the only meal for the day. (A man in 40s at Hwasung County(화성군) in North Hamgyong Province)

Case2. Even though a mother and daughter devoted all their energy to provide for the survival of their family, they did not have enough porridge water for everyone. The old mother gave most of the porridge water to her grandson and drank a small amount of it. In her weak condition, she wandered several miles a day to collect wild vegetables, but after her work, she couldn’t get up again in the severe malnutrition condition. That’s how our mother went to heaven forever. (A man in 50s at Gosung County(고성군) in Kangwon Province)

Case3. One day unknown children were caught stealing food. They were almost beaten to death with blood all over their body. An innocent 5 year old younger brother was forced to lick the blood off the face of his 11 year old elder brother. I was so heart- broken, I bought one bowl of fried corn and gave it to them. Then, the 5 year old kneeled down and burst out crying. I could not stop my eyes from tearing even though I am a very cold minded person. (A man in 50s at Hamheung City in South Hamgyong Province)

Case4. My son spent a long time in the military service. While I worried about increasing malnutrition in the military, one day a military car stopped by my house, put down my son and drove away immediately. I was shocked and cried over the heart of my son for a while. As people held me back, I rushed to begin to save my son. Usually, no one is concerned about he health of their children after they leave for military service because they come back home in a healthier condition. Now they return home in horrible condition. What has happened to our nation where we can not feed and care for our own military? (A woman in 40s at Songhwa County in South Hwanghae Province)

Above cases are not current reports from ‘North Korea Today’ but are stories of just 10 years ago.

South Korean authorities say that the North Korean food situation is not as serious as the Arduous March. What information do they base this assertion on?

News heard from all over North Korea in May is quite similar with the stories of the Arduous March. Good Friends presented the North Korean food crisis 10 years ago based on interviews with 1,855 North Korean defectors. We also recorded more severe cases than the above cases based on interviews with 5,000 people. Now most residents have relied merely on grass porridge and porridge made of the root of rice plants, the number of Kkotjebis (homeless children) has increased all over the nation, and various epidemics like tubercle are prevalent. Comparing the current situations with those of the Arduous March in 1990s, it appears as an early stage of massive starvation. If nothing is done, massive starvation would be inevitable.

Currently, the situation is a humanitarian crisis. Whether the North Korean government asks for aid first, should not be the bases to determine whether the situation is a humanitarian crisis. In fact the North Korean government does not have a will and even an ability to solve the crisis. The current crisis should be the only basis to determine if aid is necessary.

The South Korean government should rush to launch immediate aid to North Korea. Twenty million North Korean residents are silently calling forth for immediate food aide. There is no time to delay. Even if the U.S. sends food, it will be delivered after July or August. These are difficult days as we wait for the new potato harvest. The South Korean government should send 200,000 tons of food immediately in order to minimize the casualties of starvation in May and June. Though the amount cannot solve the malnutrition problem ultimately, it can abort the starvation risk. We strongly urge the South Korean government to send 200,000 tons of food, most of all, to North Korea as a gesture of brotherhood, so that they can withstand the serious threat of massive starvation.


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. 128

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

North Korea Today 128th Edition May 2008

3 Die, 3 Collapse while Planting Rice Bongsan County, North Hwanghae Province
With Food Supplies Scarce, Prices Skyrocket
Table 1. Price of Grains in the Major Cities on May 15, 2008
Government Hopes To Secure Public Sentiments by Revealing US Food Assistance
Hand-Food-Mouth Disease (HFMD) Originated From China Alarms the Health Department of North Korea
A Women Involved in Prostitution Sentenced to Two-Years of Reeducation
Criticized Over Forcing Her Daughter To Marry, Woman Attempts Suicide
Everyone in Our Family Works
Residents Shake Their Heads at Having To Buy Rat Poison That's More Expensive Than the Markets


“Research Institute for North Korean Society of Good Friends, in order to bring news of the food crisis in North Korea more accurately and quickly, will increase its e-newsletter frequency to more than one issue per week. As such, the release dates might shift. Thank you for your understanding and attention to this looming crisis. We at Good Friends hope to be a bridge between the North Korean people and the world.”

3 Die, 3 Collapse while Planting Rice Bongsan County, North Hwanghae Province
On May 15th at a collective farm in Bongsan County, North Hwanghae Province, 6 workers who were planting rice seedlings collapsed. The workers were forced to work for a few days from dawn to dusk without eating, and this led to their sudden collapse. Emergency measures were taken to revive the workers, but 3 of the workers died while the other three remain unconscious. Although other workers are not in as a severe state as these 6 workers, many are unable to do their work properly because of the lack of food. In Yeonan County, South Hwanghae Province, cases continue to emerge of farm workers who report to work, only to faint or die while working. The authorities in these regions urgently reported the situation of the weakened farm workers and their inability to work properly, and demanded to know how much food the government was going to provide. One farm official commented, “it’s like throwing a stone into a river,” and said that the urgent requests would not bring about any response from the central government.

With Food Supplies Scarce, Prices Skyrocket
Food prices are once again increasing at a frightening pace. Although there are regional differences, the price of rice has exceeded 3,000won in many places, despite the efforts of the government to manage the rising prices.

In Hamheung and Chungjin, the price of rice reached 3,800won - but in Chungjin, the price of rice reached a high of 4,200won before settling down at 3,800won later in the day. Even in one day, it is normal to see the price of rice change by 200won to 500won depending on the time of day. With the price of grains rapidly increasing through most of the country, a state of unease is continuing to persist. More alarming, the increase in the price of maize is quite frightening. As recently as May 1st in big cities such as Pyongyang, Wonsan, Sinuiju, Nampo, and Sariwon, the price of maize was stable at an average price of 1,200won, but in the span of 15 days, the price of maize has risen to over 2,000won in some cities, and in the case of Hamheung, the price of maize recorded a high of 2,300won. Kang Keum-Hyuk(49), an exporter and importer, explained the increase in food prices by saying, “with rumors spreading that there is no food to be found anywhere in North Korea, the price of foodstuffs is increasing throughout the country.”



Government Hopes To Secure Public Sentiments by Revealing US Food Assistance
News that America would be providing 500,000 tons of food aid was spread to other cabinets through an official notice. “Because of the dignity of the Great General and the might of the military, America has agreed to provide 500,000 tons of food aid to North Korea beginning in the end of June.” The notice went on to say, “Do everything necessary to prevent other situations from taking place prior to the end of June.” Additionally, the notice asked to “spread the news of America’s aid to ease the populace’s concerns,” and issued other orders such as “mobilize the full capabilities of the farms.” Upon hearing this news, some residents from Nampo had a similar response and said “I don’t know how much aid we will be receiving, but when aid entered the country last year, with the exception of Pyongyang, average citizens did not receive much and the price of rice in the marketplaces failed to decrease.” The residents went on to say that when the aid enters the country, it would be nice if the common citizens were fed first.

Hand-Foot-Mouth Disease (HFMD) Originated From China Alarms the Health Department of North Korea
A public health alert was issued in Sinuiju on May 18th. The alert urged to strengthen prevention systems against Hand –Foot-Mouth Disease (HFMD;수족구병), a contagious disease caused by a fatal intestinal virus, originated from China. North Korean Health Authorities expressed concerns of a high fatality rate that HFMD could cause among young children. HFMD usually affects infants and children under the age of six. What is worse, considering the fact that a large number of children have suffered from malnutrition, which weakens their immune systems, once these kids are infected with HFMD, fatality is expected to reach 90%. Indeed, children’s patients who show symptoms of diarrhea and a high fever of unknown origin have already been increasing in downtown of Sinuiju.

A Women Involved in Prostitution Sentenced to Two-Years of Reeducation
A 24-year old woman (Shin), who was arrested for prostitution, was recently sentenced to two-years of reeducation. Shin was working at a towel factory in Shinuiju after graduating a junior in high school. She had been struggling to survive since her monthly pay as well as food rations were suspended. Shin once wanted to quit the job and earn money through market activities but she found it difficult due to her shortage of funds. In the meantime, she could not easily quit her factory job because she was afraid of losing her only source of income as well as food rations that were occasionally offered. As it became harder for her to feed her family, Shin started to do a side job introduced to her by a friend. Shin’s prostitution was finally uncovered by Anti-socialist inspections and she was arrested. Shin’s coworkers at the factory who heard of her arrest showed sympathy to Shin rather than criticizing her. Ju Hye-ran, Shin’s colleague at the factory, said that “I don’t think she wanted to do it. She did it because she had to do it for survival. After the inspections, male workers who were involved with Shin were identified at their workplace and position. They were not even considered to be arrested. I really don’t understand why they arrested only that poor girl and sent her to the reeducation center. Authorities should make more efforts to resolve the root-cause of all these social crimes. With the current ways to deal with social issues, such as Shin’s case, many more people who are socially vulnerable will become victimized.”

Criticized Over Forcing Her Daughter To Marry, Woman Attempts Suicide
A 46-year old woman living in Sonhak-ri, Eunduk County, in North Hamgyong Province had sent her 19-year old to marry a 42-year old widower with two children. The daughter didn't want to marry him, but her mother forced her to and received some money and rice in return. The daughter ran away from her new home less than a month after the marriage. The widower then came to the mother's home and created a scene, shouting that the mother and daughter conspired to cheat him out of his money. He demanded his money back. Neighbors, realizing what had happened from all the hoopla, severely criticized the mother by saying, "How could you basically sell your daughter like that no matter how difficult life was?" Not knowing where the daughter went and finding it difficult to withstand the cold gaze of her neighbors, the mother attempted suicide by drinking pesticide. Although she was discovered early enough to have her life saved, she is now living like a person who has lost her mind.

Everyone in Our Family Works
One family living in Yeokjuns-dong in Sinuijy has five members. Everyone in the family, which includes the grandfather, grandmother, father, mother, and daughter, are all working to make ends meet. Grandfather repairs shoes, grandmother sells cigarettes, gas lighters, and other items. She also runs, without a permit, a restaurant for students. Father is a teacher but also does private tutoring. Mother, who used to be a teacher, now only provides private tutoring. The daughter, who is 16-years old, works in the market helping shoppers carry their items. When only the father and mother worked as teachers, all they had to look forward to was grass porridge for meals. But now that the whole family is working, they have become relatively well-off and could afford a TV, washing machine, refrigerator, and a bicycle. This year, when the food prices shot up, they were selling off their household items one by one and focusing all their attention on obtaining food. Even so, they can eat corn meals and are better off than others. Ryum Chun-ho, the head of the household, says, "I am satisfied that we can at least afford to eat corn and salt, when others can't even eat porridge. We sometimes eat salted radish and tofu, but we try to be extra careful because we don't know how long we will have to endure this period of hardship." The daughter chimed in, "We all work in this family. Otherwise, we might starve to death."

Residents Shake Their Heads at Having To Buy Rat Poison That's More Expensive Than the Markets
In Saebyul County in North Hamgyong Province, the authorities forced residents to take three bag-fulls of rat poison at 150won each “to prevent an outbreak of hemmorhagic fever. But at the market, each bag costs 100won. The residents are confused at why they have to pay more to buy from the government. Some are shaking their heads, complaining that the government, which should be helping, is actually hurting the people and caring only to line their own pockets. Kim Kyung-oh (45 yrs. Old) says, "Even looking at minor matters like this, you can tell that this country is not designed to serve the people but something else."


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. 127

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

North Korea Today 127th Edition May 2008
People Starving to Death in Most South Hwanghae Province
Weakened Immune Systems Cause s Sudden Deaths
70-80% of Youth Stopping Schoolwork, South Hwanghae Province
People Busy Discussing Food Alternative
Grandmother Committs Suicide over Her Grandson’s Death
A Nursing Home in Shinpo County Seen 8 Deaths in One Month
Grave Concern for Mass Scale of Death within One Month
“Government Released Its Own Fund for the Last Time”
“Still Capable of Sustaining Ourselves? Far From It”
Government Is Aware That People Will Starve To Death”
A Rapid Increase in Crimes Committed by Discharged Soldiers
Table 1. Fluctuation of Grain Price at Pyongyang in the period of April - May, 2008


“Research Institute for North Korean Society of Good Friends, in order to bring news of the food crisis in North Korea more accurately and quickly, will increase its e-newsletter frequency to more than one issue per week. As such, the release dates might shift. Thank you for your understanding and attention to this looming crisis. We at Good Friends hope to be a bridge between the North Korean people and the world.”

People Starving to Death in Most South Hwanghae Province
In 20 cities and counties in South Hwanghae Province, with the exception of 1 or 2 places, cases of people who are dying of starvation are starting to emerge.

The lack of food supplies in farming regions is severe enough that its reputation as grain basket put to shame. South Hwanghae Province’s grain harvest has been drastically reduced because of the extensive damage caused by last year’s flood and because members of the military are personally watching over the supplies of rice reserved for military use.

The amount of rice that farms much reserve has increased, leading to a severe shortage of food available for farmers. One official said, “Usually, the region with the most pressing need for food is Kangwon Province, but right now it is Hwanghae Province. This is something that has not happened before. They used to say that the area facing the most difficulties was North Hamgyong Province but North Hamgyong Province is doing the best.

There is still news that people in North Hamgyong Province are starving to death, but because the food situation in other areas has become that much worse and there has been a substantial increase in the number of those who are starving to death, North Hamgyong Province has the highest standard of living.

South Hwanghae Province was affected the least during the Arduous March, but now, it is responsible for most of the deaths that are being reported. As a result of this, the government is planning to plant potatoes nationwide. The government is hoping to restore the faith and loyalty of the people by planting potatoes, which it says grows the quickest and has the highest amount of nutrients, but the problem is that they do not have any seeds.

There is a lot of discord because without any seeds, they can’t plant anything, but even if they had seed potatoes, the government would make fuss that the farmer has rebuke on the orders from the government. The official went on to say that “there is continued unrest and resentment among the people because the government is not doing anything while it still continues to make demands like these.”

Weakened Immune Systems Cause s Sudden Deaths
Amidst the increasing numbers of people who are dying from starvation, doctors are unanimously voicing their concerns that the immune systems of the populace have become dangerously weak. Jung Gwang-hyuk, a doctor from Sariwon, worried that “because everyone’s immune system is weak, even those who are breathing right now face the immediate danger of dying.”

Sung Ryung-hyae (53), a doctor from Haeju, said “If you look at the general case of South Hwanghae Province, there are 8 or 9 people out of 10 who are subsisting on nothing more than porridge water. The porridge itself is not properly made because of the lack of food, and even though people mix in things such as grass, the nutritional value of the porridge is quite low. As a result, people can faint or die without warning. Unlike older times when people got weaker before dying, now, there are many people who suddenly faint and die. This is the frightening consequence of a weakened immune system.”

Jang Hwa-sun (52), a physician from Wonsan, echoed this sentiment. “The majority of the people who are dying are farmers. During the Arduous March when there was no food, people died after being bed-ridden for one of two years and did not die suddenly. However, because of the weak state of people’s immune systems, even if they are able to eat, they face the risk of dying suddenly. Recently, a patient who suffered from malnutrition came to me. I gave him some maize-rice that I found with some difficulty, but he soon suffered from indigestion. Because his digestive functions were impaired, the patient suffered even though he had eaten and died shortly thereafter. I was shocked when I saw that.”

70-80% of Youth Stopping Schoolwork, South Hwanghae Province
In South Hwanghae Province, the effects of the food shortage on the education of young children are becoming evident. According to one official in South Hwanghae Province, “In areas where food supplies have fallen, there is a corresponding drop in the rate of school attendance among children. The rate of school attendance among children of military families in Haeju is clearly higher than other areas. In contrast, school attendance among children living in farming areas is only 20-30% while some children receive a certificate to transfer schools.” Even though children receive a transfer of school certificate, the vast majority of children do not report to their new school. Instead, they go to the mountains with their grandparents and dig up grass roots and greens to eat.

Kim Hyung-jin (12) of Bongsan-ri, Byuksung County in South Hwanghae Province, said that he is comfortable not going to school. Hyung-jin’s mother said that she is also more comfortable now because she does not have to deal with the many demands for items made by her child’s teachers, and the fact that her children are berated in front of class when he is unable to bring the requested items. “I feel so sorry for my child as it is because he has become so thin because of the food shortage, it is better not to send my child to school,” said the mother.

People Busy Discussing Food Alternative
It is literally true that even in Whesur-ri(외서리), Sungkan County(성간군), Jagang Province, most of the residents are living off grass porridge. Many families cannot afford to send their children to school and adults feel tired to go to work because of their malnutrition. Once people get together, they talk about fear for starvation. They are busy discussing what should be their food alternative. Park Sang-hee (45) even went up to Hoeryong city in the North Hamgyong Province looking for food believing it is no use only to sit and talk about bad food situation. She said she left home for food thinking she could get some corn from her aunt in law. She was sort of afraid of leaving her hometown where she has never left before, but seemed to be determined saying as long as she could get some food, being afraid does not matter at all.

Grandmother Commits Suicide over Her Grandson’s Death
Choi Sang-pil (23) who was a worker at a ceramic factory in Onsung, North Hamgyung Province had to return to home 3 months after being drafted to Sungun Youth Power Plant(선군청년발전소) in Mount Bakdu for one year working project. While working there, he was not well fed and finally his lung disease recurred. Not long after he returned to home, he died of the disease without any proper medication. At his funeral, his grandmother grieved for his death saying he could not eat, nor be dressed, nor be treated well for his disease. She would not let his cascade be buried gabbing it and saying “How can a youth go away before this old woman? I am the person who should die instead of him.” People around her were moved to tears seeing this. Even after the funeral, she visited his grave and wept bitterly for days. One day, her son found her dead at the grave. She drank caustic soda to kill herself. At this news, all the families and neighborhood were frustrated. They were lamenting deeply over their desperate living situation causing people even to kill themselves.

A Nursing Home in Sinpo County Seen 8 Deaths in One Month

It is already more than 8 people who were starved to death in a nursing home in Yanghwa, Sinpo County, South Hamgyong Province for last month. Those elderly were fed only with low grade corn or porridge made of it, which made their health dramatically deteriorate. However, there is no solution to this because food has been already run out. The nursing home was once regarded as one of the best nursing homes in the country, not any more though. One high official regretted that those elderly would die of starvation because of food shortage.

Grave Concern for Mass Scale of Death within One Month
People often compare today’s starvation to that of ‘Arduous March(고난의 행군)’. Ju Mi-young (44), a trading in Sariwon said, “At that time, people could not but die because the food distribution stopped abruptly. But, now we have been living without food distribution for 10 years and we know how to survive without food distribution. At that time, we even ate soil. But, it is not as bad as then. Now, people can get some food by doing business or eating grass roots. I even eat rice root.” One official in Sariwon said, “Sometime ago, the government we funded to cities and it worked out for those areas, but the rural areas are still dying. If we do not provide food, people will die in large number. We estimate that people will be dying from May. Even now, we often see people die on the streets in rural areas. The number of death of young and old homeless are increasing. Of course, it is not as many as that of Arduous March, but seeing the increasing number of homeless, the possibility is getting bigger of facing group deaths. Children in rural areas are spilling over onto streets. This is the reality of rural areas.” He explained the hardship of rural areas in this way.

“Government Released Its Own Fund for the Last Time”
As the food crisis worsens, in certain areas of the country, the high ranking officials seem to try to get the feel of how the people are living. According to some Central Party officials, they are tensed with the concerns that social unrest might occur without any food aid toward the people. A party official said that the concern was the reason why the party fund was released for the purchase of food in the cities to prevent potential disturbances. He continued that even though the party fund was released abruptly this time, it would also be the last time. The obvious reason is that not only does the party not have much fund to spare but also the needs of the party are in other objectives too. He claimed that the whole country would be in turmoil and that no industrial products are expected to come out without the party fund. He continued that the country has lost the capability to break through the food crisis.

“Still Capable of Sustaining Ourselves? Far From It”
A party official familiar with the news from the outside world said, “News from South Korea says that North Koreans developed the markets after the ‘March to the Hardship’ and therefore are capable of sustaining themselves. But we see it differently. What if we learned how to survive? The long-term malnutrition has severely weakened the immune system in our bodies. Even ordinary people pick up everything edible from the ground. People are not hesitant to steal anything edible they locate. We are not surprised to find that people pluck grass from the ground. There are areas where no grass exists. In those areas, there is ration of powder made of dried roots of rice plant. Sometimes a little amount of corn is added to the powder. Even the party officials complain about the hunger. Party officials used to say after their meals ‘Stomachs are full’. These days, they wipe out their dishes at meals and still they complain they are hungry. It is not so difficult to figure out what the situation is like. Just look at the party officials. Everyone is looking for something edible anywhere.

If someone thinks the situation in North Korea is better now than during the ‘Arduous March’, the person does not know what is going on in North Korea. In those days, deaths from the starvation started during winter and there was nothing anyone could do. Now is the springtime when there is grass on the ground and powder of roots of rice plant, and people seem to barely survive. Already deaths are occurring. How many more will have to die? It would be more honest if people frankly say they do not want to provide food aid. These people blame our government for not helping its own people and then say that therefore they should not provide food aid. What is the difference between these people and our government?”

Government Is Aware That People Will Starve To Death
The government officials are worried about the food shortage, but their priority always is on the security of the country precedes everything else. A Central Party official declared, “Our government is aware and ready for the fact that people will starve to death. Deaths of people will not bring down the entire country, that is our position.” He continued, “Last year, it was insisted that the damages from the flood should have been publicly revealed. But that only created a lot of arguments. The public revelation, after a lot of agonies, was expected to have led to some solution to the problem. But nothing happened. Now those who insisted on the public revelation were kicked out. The current environment is completely different. Nobody wants to speak out. In old days, there were people who tried to request some aid from South Korea informally, but there are none now. The new government in South Korea hurt the feelings of our government, and nobody dares to speak out. A review process will start in June throughout the country. Any aid from a foreign country will be the subject of the review. A review will be made on who the contact was, where the contact was and with whom, and how the aid was made. Because there were so many contacts made without the government approval, a detailed review will be conducted especially on who the contact was and how the contact was made.”

A Rapid Increase in Crimes Committed by Discharged Soldiers
Investigation of crime cases in Pyongsung during the last April and May reveals that the crime rate of discharged soldiers has been remarkably increasing. Discharged soldiers have been experiencing difficulties in getting a job or work because they stayed in military for a long time separated from society. As a result, they are getting more destitute. With food prices soaring, they tend to get involved in committing crimes. Robberies are the most frequent crime type occurring. They threaten and rob residents of money, stuffs, and food. Residents of Pyongsung report that all sorts of goods worth selling are stolen even in broad daylight, and the arrested turn out to be discharged soldiers in many cases. Furthermore, increasing is the number of crimes conducted by soldiers on service as well as discharged soldiers. It is frequent that soldiers took female to hills and rape even in daytime. Kang Hyeong-kuk (43) said, “The rise of food price seems to drive more discharged soldiers to Pyongsung. Women are victims of this concentration of strangers from other provinces. Female sellers are most vulnerable to robberies and young girls are main targets of rape crimes. So a glimpse of a man in military uniform scares women in this area.”




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.126

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

Korea Today126th Edition May 2008
Where North Koreans Stand: Family Members Are All Dying of Hunger
People Are Driven to Despair and Suicide
“I Should Die First Before Seeing My Kids Die of Hunger”
Regret, Too Late, for Starving Father’s Suicide
Murder-Suicide Due To Hopelessness in Providing For Two Children
Severe Cooking Problem In Addition To Food Shortage
Now Young Men Are Willing To Become Ice Cream Street Vendors.
Hard To Find Meaningless Jobs
A Unanimous Voice of Southern Sinuiju Residents, “We Are Nothing But Men of Mean”
Troubled Tap Water at Mangyongdae District in Pyongyang
Outcry of Residents from Intensified Ideology Education
No Solution over the Increase of Homeless
[Opinion] The South Korean Government Should Resume Food Support Right Away
“Research Institute for North Korean Society of Good Friends, in order to bring news of the food crisis in North Korea more accurately and quickly, will increase its e-newsletter frequency to more than one issue per week. As such, the release dates might shift. Thank you for your understanding and attention to this looming crisis. We at Good Friends hope to be a bridge between the North Korean people and the world.”
Where North Koreans Stand: Family Members Are All Dying of Hunger
The combination of malnutrition and various kinds of diseases create heart-breaking tragedies: it not only leads to every day’s deaths but it also expands to the death of an entire family. The cases of family deaths by hunger are readily increasing. In early May, all the members of a household in the Dongheung mountain district (동흥산구역) in Hamheung City, South Hamgyung Province, died of diarrhea. After a period of being underfed, the family members filled themselves with grass soup and polluted water; this caused intestinal problems. Initially, young children suffered from diarrhea, which accompanied dehydration. As the dehydration became severe, young kids eventually died. And next day, the father was dead following his children. Shortly after, the mother who grieved over her family’s deaths, could not overcome it and died as well.

Meanwhile, families of workers at a munitions factory in Nampo City are also at risk of family deaths. Examinations of families who were sent to emergency rooms, according to doctors, reveals that they were all suffering from serious undernourishment and most of them die shortly thereafter. Lee Hee-seung, a 53-year old doctor who witnessed three family members who were dying together said that” it is no use to give them medicines, no matter how good medicines are, when people are underfed. It might be better to die together so that they won’t be lonely; this is how I console myself,” she deeply sighed.

Doctors mentioned that most cases of family death are caused by long-term starvation and there is no concrete way to prevent it. People who are relatively well-off still have some emergency food. Yet, the poor have run out of food and have already been starved for about 2-3 months; most of them lack energy. Song Chang-guk, a 47-year old male resident who held a funeral for a family who lived in the same unit said, “As the overall situation is getting worse and people’s lives are becoming miserable, we cannot even afford planks to make coffins. As a result, bodies are now wrapped with plastic sheets and are then buried.”

People Are Driven to Despair and Suicide
A series of suicide cases continues to take place across the country. There are people who are trying so hard to survive by reminding themselves of having gone through the last ten-year hardship. On the other hand, however, the endless food crisis drives more people into despair. Those who are poor and vulnerable already, face starvation and are becoming the first group of victims of the food shortages; these desperate people beginning to lose their lives.

“I Should Die First Before Seeing My Kids Die of Hunger”
Kim Sang-hee, a 35-year old female resident of Anju City in South Pyongan Province, recently committed suicide due to her struggle in surviving. Because of the age restrictions on market activities, she had lost her means of living. As a result, she had to sustain her life as well as her children’s, only with diluted grass soup. What is worse, she ran around to obtain food to save her kids who were being famished to death but could not find any. When she found that there was no way to feed her children, she eventually killed herself by eating poison material. Reportedly, Kim used to say that “I cannot watch my poor kids die of hunger.”

Regret, Too Late, for Starving Father’s Suicide
Park Geum-chul (69) in Sungchun County, North Pyongan Province committed suicide in early May. He did his utmost in raising his only son. After getting married, his son started his own household. Father and son have quarreled often on matters of caring for the father. Early this year, he ran out of food and his wife died. He asked his son several times to let him move in with his son’s family. He barely survived on meals of porridge of grass roots. A few days before his suicide, he saw his son buy half a bottle of soy oil. His craving for the cooking oil made him ask his son to spare some, but his son refused. An argument started. He got so angry as to declare his son to be worse than a dog and that even a dog would not have treated his father this bad, and went back home. At home, he cried over the sorrows of losing his wife, the treatment by his son and his starvation. He ended up killing himself by hanging. Upon hearing about the death of his father, his son wept bitterly pounding on the floor. He said his situation reflected the old saying “Charity comes from the granary.” And he could not help it because he could not let his children starve. He continued that the death of his mother broke his heart and he had his heart broken whenever he heard his father complaining about his hunger. He kept hitting his head against the wall and said, “I should have provided even a little to my father. I hate myself.” His head wound required an emergency treatment, but he recovered soon. He looked dazed and blank. Those at the funeral were in tears and said all these divorces, suicides and other deaths were due to the severe food shortage.

Murder-Suicide Due To Hopelessness in Providing For Two Children
Choi Myung-hee (32) in Onsung County, North Hamgyong Province has been barely surviving with her two children, aged 8 and 4. Her husband is serving a fifteen-year sentence in jail. He was convicted four years ago on a felony for helping those border-crossers from South Hamgyung Province who intended to eventually defect to South Korea. Her husband was arrested three days after the birth of their second child and she had to immediately begin providing for her family right away without proper care in child birth. She borrowed money and got involved in peddling some things or helped someone in farming to make a meager living. This year, however, the prices of grains rose sharply and she could not make even a penny for many a day. Without any money, she had to roam around the mountains and the fields to gather up some grass roots for cooking porridge, and this caused damage to her health. She has been suffering from many diseases due to malnutrition in addition to the inadequate care after her child birth. She could not move around physically and consequently could not even afford a meal of porridge of grass roots. Some good neighbors provided some help, but they ran out of food themselves. She felt she had no hope. She fed her two children with poison and then she drank it also. She left a will that said she felt guilty about taking the children and bitter about her husband.

Severe Cooking Problem In Addition To Food Shortage
The food shortage is not the only problem that residents suffer. Cooking has become a problem as well because of a shortage of fuel. Poor households are using dried grass for cooking instead of expensive firewood or coal. Heat from the burning grass is so weak, it takes more time to steam corn for making porridge for just one meal. Moreover, there is a shortage of tap water. To compensate, people are forced to draw water from the river. The collective shortages of food, water, electricity and the cooking problems are making the lives of North Koreans very difficult. With these hardships, the various taxes imposed on the residents become a larger burden. If we take some imposed goods for granted such as rice for the loving country and military, comforts, goods for celebrating holidays, the payment for electricity, water and land has begun to be imposed again. Though these burdens are called ‘voluntary’, they are basically considered ‘mandatory’. Residents make cynical remarks that “The authority says that it has nothing to envy. But a country in the same situation as that of North Korea does not exist.

Now Young Men Are Willing To Become Ice Cream Street Vendors
To survive, men are changing because of hunger. Men are willing to accept any ‘loss of face’ by becoming street vendors, considered a very demeaning occupation. Once a train leaves Chunjin station for Pyongyang, sales wars begin in flag stations as vendors desperately attempt to sell their items to passengers in order to earn enough money for their meals each day. The stations are crowded not only with children and women vending, but also with new young men vendors. This was noticeable by the beginning of the New Year. Saleswoman asks customers loudly whether they want to buy some food or ice creams(까까오;빙과류). Train security guards and train guides attempt to regulate the sales activities, but it is beyond their control. Sometimes when guards and guiders catch and throw out ice cream vendors, it causes quarrels. The safety guards try not to confront young male vendors in order to avoid quarrels. Because these confident male vendors are different from the other vendors who are easily awed into obedience, some safety guards implicitly allow them to sell the items in a specific zone in return for bribes.

Choi Hyeun-tae(28),who sells ice cream in Chungjin station, said that he had no choice but to become a street vendor in order to support his parents and younger brothers and sisters. Believing he would lose face to his friends and future wife if he engaged in street vending, Choi changed his mind as he was running out of food. According to Choi, “most households at Punggok-dong in Ranam district sustain their lives by eating porridge. As food prices skyrocketed between February and May, the residents have had difficulties to maintain daily lives. Many households eat porridge made of the ground corncob(옥수수묵지가루) and many Kkotjebis (homeless children) are easily found on the streets. Every morning, homeless children beg for food at each house, including my own. Recently, their numbers seem to be increasing. As long as I know, 60% of Pungok dong residents rely only on porridge. They have to sell anything to drink porridge water. There is no more shame in selling ice cream.” Choi says now the goal is to buy one or two sacks of corn through selling ice cream.

Hard To Find Meaningless Jobs
In downtown Sinuiju, penniless people wait for shoppers who come back home and help shoppers carry their shopping bags with their hand carriers and sacks. They can usually earn 500won up to 1000won per trip. They can earn 3000won a day and even up to 5000won if they meet a generous person or during a celebration season. Mainly middle school female students and women over 50 take the job. Men are hesitant to take part because customers do not trust men due to the frequent robberies by men bag carriers. The jobs have become rare after restrictions were placed on shopping times since farming mobilization began. Yet, there are always crowds of people waiting for the customers because they do not have other jobs to earn money.

A Unanimous Voice of Southern Sinuiju Residents, “We Are Nothing But Men of Mean”
Southern Sinuiju residents scorn themselves that they are nothing but men of mean.
Though they do not live far from Sinuiju, their living conditions are so poor, the supply of electricity as well as tap water are in trouble. Southern Sinuiju does not have access to water though it is prevalent in Sinuiju. Following the teachings to build 50,000 households left by the late Great Leader Kim Ii-Sung, brick apartments for 30,000 households has been constructed in the last 20 years, but do not have water pipes. Because Southern Sinuiju is a hilly area, electrical power is needed to draw water up to the region. And so, it is natural to lack water where electricity is not available. In relation to the close proximity of Sinuiju, the residents of Southern Sinuiju have a growing sense of isolation as electricity and water have not been continuously provided in addition to the food crisis.

Troubled Tap Water at Mangyongdae District in Pyongyang
There has been an increasing outbreak of water borne epidemics as the quality of the tap water supply has deteriorated due to the continuing electrical shortage. A doctor in Pyongyang says” It is unknown how many water borne epidemics occur each year because of the water. Though medicine is important, prevention should be the main focus. It is not predictable for certain accidents while people draw up their own water from wells that they dig out at their risk with no preventive treatment of water hygiene. Pyongyang is not a safe area anymore. 20 villages are directed to use water from a pumping station, which was designed to provide water for only for 6 villages in the Mangyongdae area, located on Kwangbok Street in Gumsung-dong district. In addition to the severely limited water supply which operates less than once a month, water pollution is serious as preserved water is stored in homes. The trouble is more serious at high rise apartments. People are distressed from the water shortage and pollution lamenting that “there is no ultimate solution; in spite of taking precautions by drinking only boiled water, the number of malnourished patients and diarrhea patients have been increasing due to the polluted water problem. Residents in the high rise apartment buildings in Gumsung-dong fight for water everyday. Han Suk-ho (43) said “As you know, there are many buildings that have more than 25 or 30 stories in this district. People who live on the upper levels are desperate for water. High level officers who already know about the water issue do not live here.” One officer said “In order to fully supply tap water to this district, 4 water pipes are needed. However, only 2 water pipes were built because of a shortage of construction materials. Moreover, Gumsung 1-dong, 2-dong, and 3-dong are located on the remote corner. The water comes from Kwangbok Street so it is difficult for water to be delivered to the houses in that area. So far water has been tapped once or less a month. Not only in Mangyongdae area but also in every city where water is not supplied properly because of the lack of supply facilities; the shortage in resources is a cause of the poor status of the water pipes when the facility was constructed.

Outcry of Residents from Intensified Ideology Education
Ideology education has been intensified even at the current food crisis. Residents’ state that they are going out of there minds because of the ideological education that is taking place from the moment you wake up to the time when you fall asleep. This is a reality all over the nation. The Anti-Socialist Conscience Investigation patrol operates year round stressing that” As the only remained socialist nation in the earth, ideology is vital. If it changes, socialism will perish. There are increasing outcries from the suffocating investigation that is taking place at every organization, work place, household, and even the Democratic Women’s Union.

Go Gum-ie(38) in Nampo said “North Koreans laughed loudly when South Korean Im Su-kyung, who participated in the 1989 Pyongyang Youth and Student Festival, said in a press interview that South Koreans draw North Koreans in red with hickory horns because of the false propaganda continuously heard after elementary school days. But, now we are listening to those kinds of false propagandas.” North Korean authorities emphasize the following points throughout the meetings and lectures, “American and South Korean puppet armies cannot compete with ours in military power, so they attempt to make our democratic republic break down internally by taking advantage of the poor economic condition. They especially manipulate all kinds of smugglings, circulate illegal films and broadcast anti-North Korea propagandas though Radio Free Chosun, aiming to collapse our ideology. To make the people to listen to the advertisements, they are selling small-size semiconductor radios at a low price on a large scale. Economically they are going to penetrate Dandong district, which is adjacent to the national border area, under the name of legal or illegal aid though North Korea aid organizations. Raise your tensions and be awakened to win the psychological warfare and overcome the collapse of our strategy.”

From the moment eyes open, they are forced to have education of political ideology and to visit the building for class education(계급교양관) by illustrating arrest cases such as an arrested person who was given an espionage task by the South Korea National Intelligence Service after being persuaded by the agency while taking private trips(사사려행), and arrested defectors who were bought off by the agency, sent back to the nation, but were caught inside North Korea. They stress the confidentiality because they think documents of trivial facts of people’s lives can be used to criticize socialism policy and will ultimately be leaked. Revealing other cracked down cases such as the illegal cell phone hand over, cell phone usage, memory card containing photos hid inside dried squid that was caught at border customs, they emphasize at every lecture, that “though we have a hard time now, soon the gate of the great nation will be opened. So we have to defend socialism by strengthening our ideological struggle.”

No Solution over the Increase of Homeless
Compared to last year, the number of Kkotjebi (homeless children) has increased dramatically this year. Kkotjebis are heading mostly to major transportation cities in each province, such as Chungjin in the North Hamgyong, Hamheung and Known in the South Hamgyong, Pyongsung in the South Pyongan, or Haeju in the South Hwanghae Province, where they are easily seen hanging around. These cities are seeing an overwhelming increase of Kkotjebis, more than any other cities. Hoeryong, Pyongyang and several other cities are seeing a relatively small number of Kkotjebis, but this is not because they really have small number, but because their intense patrolling makes the Kkotjebis hard to expose to the public. In each county, from 30 to 50 Kkotjebis form and act as one group. These groups steal food in the markets, or beg by visiting every household. There is not one single area that does not have Kkotjebis. Nonetheless, it seems that the Party cannot afford to take care of the orphanages or homeless people.

The Party is barely managing this problem by organizing 9.27 Anti Socialist Inspection Team (9.27 그루빠). Young Kkotjebis are sent to orphanages(애육원) or childcare centers(육아원) and adults are sent to where they originally came from. However, even these tasks are not being performed well, because of the recent overwhelming increase of the homeless. Even 9.27 Anti Socialist Inspection Tem are taking them up every day, there are still more homeless people spilling out. Some are even sent to Welfare Institution(구제소), where it is useless because they quickly run out. Naturally, Welfare Institutions, orphanages and childcare centers are feeling much more pressure than before. They can’t manage all the enrollees including newcomers based on their limited food resources. The relevant Neighborhood Unit(인민반) even appeased them by promising that it will give them more money, but they do not believe it because it is obvious that the Neighborhood Unit cannot take care of homeless people while they can’t even feed ordinary residents. Mr. Huh Chung-hyun (48) in Kowon, South Hamgyong would rather not think about this issue. What should we do for something that even the government cannot take care of? There are too many who are starving and I even cannot feed my children well. How can we help those homeless?” His opinion expressed that there are not many things that can be done for the homeless when the government cannot even care for them.


[Opinion] The South Korean Government Should Resume Food Support Right Away

It is so frustrating to see North Korea today. People who don’t have anything to eat are starving to death by only eating weed porridge and the number of homeless people overcrowd each city. The suicide rate has gone up, but it is hard to get cascades. It seems very similar to situations of the Arduous March(고난의행군) 10 years ago.

Why are we not hearing the cries of the North Korean people? Why are we turning our back as if they are not our people? Is this really the step that we wanted to take to improve the relationship between the North and South? Is this really of help to the policy for improving the life of North Korean people? Rather, we are driving them into death.

It is not too late. The South Korean government should resume food support to the North Korean people as soon as possible. Until potatoes are harvested, the starving rate will continue to increase and so, this is the right time to support food aid. It is better to talk directly to the North Korean regime rather than giving food indirectly through international organizations, following the recent American 500,000 ton food supply.

Waiting for the North Korean regime to respect us is not a way to keep our pride. Saving our North Korean people with humanitarianism is the way to reinforce our sense of justice and pride, and even to improve the relationship of both governments. Additionally, by helping the North Korean people, we can win the support from the North Korean people and this popular feeling could put pressure on its regime to de-nuclearize. This strategy would definitely fit the South Korean government’s goal in the relationship with 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)
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