GoodFriends: Research Institute For North Korean Society

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North Korea Today No. 154

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


North Korea Today 154th Edition June 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.”


Children Killed By Eating Toads
Children in Daehongdan Die from Eating Azalea
Soldiers in Ryanggang Province Eat Cooked Leather Belts
Kkotjebis Suffocated While Trying To Pilfer Potatoes in Storage Caves
“He Died While Tightly Holding Potatoes In His Hand.”
Daehongdan County, Famous For Its Potatoes, Is the Gathering Site for the Kkotjebis
Sudden Opening of Reservoir Dam Gate Drowned Kkotjebis
The Last Gift of Yeon-shil’s Grandma
[Opinion] Starving Children Are Innocent Victims


Children Killed By Eating Toads
In Sambong District of Daehongdan County, Ryanggang Province, there has been an increase in the number of children being killed by eating toads. Children used to catch and eat frogs that hatched in the marsh regions along the Suhdoosoo River until the number of frogs declined noticeably. Presently, toads are hatching. Old wives tales tell of toad’s poisons being used as medicine in cases of cancer. But toads can also kill if eaten without being treated to get rid of the poison, especially weak children whose immunity have been compromised already by malnutrition.

Han Myung-sun (43 yrs old) of Sambong District, Daehongdan County, says, “Frogs that are just hatched don’t have any poison, but they start to develop them just when the tadpoles begin to develop legs and tails. Kids can’t wait till the tadpoles grow into frogs and eat the tadpoles by scooping them up with screens but some died last month through food poisoning. Now we no longer have frogs but have toads. Kids think that they are the same and eat them by roasting them. They ate the toads with potatoes, which also are poisonous when they start to sprout. So 5-6 kids were killed eating toads and potatoes in one night. The whole place was overcome with a sense of foreboding when we had to take care of these little bodies.” Choi Seung-chul (42) also agreed, “Kids thought that they could cook toad meat with corn power into some type of porridge but instead they roasted it and ate, and died.” One class in Sambong Middle School lost over 10 kids in just two months out of a class of 36 to starvation or food poisoning.

Children in Daehongdan Die from Eating Azalea
There are children who died after eating azalea in Daehongdan County. In Sambong Middle School, 9 students were dead from azalea poisoning. Adults know what to eat and what not, but young children can’t tell and just put anything in their mouths because they are hungry. After eating three or four potatoes, they are still hungry and they run up to the mountains and pluck anything to eat. This spring, they ate fistful of azalea petals several times and they died of poisoning. Chang Mi-oak (38) says, “They pick basketful of azalea petals and eat them, but if they eat too much at one time, it causes gastrospasms. If they eat them when their stomach is empty, they will die foaming in their mouth. I suffered gastrospasms when I ate azalea. Adults like me cannot control (the hunger); it is needless to say in case of children.”

Lee Sung-ja (37) says, “I warn my older child everyday. The older one would not do, but my younger one may eat flowers while I am not around. So whenever they go out together I admonish the older one, ‘don’t let your brother eat flowers’ several times. My older one tells me that many of his classmates die and asks me, ‘Mother, what can I do?’ It pains me greatly. Children who have no parents die so easily.” Watching the children die makes her recall the suffering of the Arduous March(고난의 행군) and she shakes her head thinking of the horror.

Soldiers in Ryanggang Province Eat Cooked Leather Belts
In early June, the commander of a unit stationed in Ryanggang Province was arrested upon inspection. The charge was that he sold army uniforms in the market. The Army had neither rice nor money and the enlisted men cooked their belts to eat. On May 28th, he had witnessed the enlisted men boiling their leather belts in a hope to drink the liquid. He asked them, “What are you doing?” They answered, “We were too hungry.” Shocked and horrified by that answer, he sold the winter uniforms in the market. He bought rice with the money and fed the men once or twice, but caught during the inspection. “Right now the men are drying. I had to sell the uniforms to feed them,” he explained but they did not allow for the extenuating circumstances.

Kim Chul-seung (38) said all the leather belts distributed to the soldiers last March had disappeared completely in his unit. “(The liquid from the boiled leather belts) I even tried. It fills your stomach and you feel better. Boiled cow skin tastes pretty good. You cannot eat leather by itself but once boiled in the water, the taste of meat soaks out in the liquid and you drink it. The drums, made of pig skin or cow skin, have all gone without a trace. Even in the time of Arduous March, we did not dream of eating leather belts. But, now everything that was made of leather is cooked for food. Some soldiers can’t wait and rush to chew leather from the drums. Now is tougher than it was in the mid 90s.

He begged for anything to eat, saying, “What have we done in our previous lives to suffer like this? How resentful are those soldiers that eat even their leather belts? They were all our children, drafted to the army. They were forced to, knowing that they may die of hunger in weakened physical condition. Please find some food to feed them.”

Kkotjebis Suffocated While Trying To Pilfer Potatoes in Storage Caves
Daehongdan County of Ryanggang Province has a reputation for being a place where one can eat potatoes that cover the streets. That’s how well the potato crops do here, although it’s too high in altitude for corn to grow well. The first potato crops come in around August 20th. Right now, June and July are the most difficult time of the year for food. They store the potatoes in large storage cave over the winter. When April rolls around, workers cut off chunks of the potatoes with the bud attached and plant them. The rest of potatoes are given to the farm workers, which amounts to less than half of the original volume of the stored potatoes.

The potatoes are stored in underground chambers that can measure up to 40 meter on each side. The air is filled with the poisonous vapor from potatoes. There is a lid every three meters for ventilation and the potatoes need to be turned over to prevent rotting. It takes one whole day to fully ventilate the storage chamber, and only after that workers get in to remove potatoes that have rotted

This year, there are many kids who die by suffocation as they tried to sneak into these underground chambers and pilfer potatoes. Although there are guards they are inside the post and the kids sneak by and enter down through the lids and close them behind since they don’t want to get caught. In this state, the kids soon gag on the poisonous vapor and die due to lack of oxygen.

Kwon Soon-young (35 yrs old) says, “This past May and June, there are many kids who suffocated to death as soon as they entered these storage sheds. You have to have oxygen tanks, but obviously kids don’t have that. Probably less than one out of ten kids succeed in stealing potatoes. But the hungry kids still try out of desperation.”

“He Died While Tightly Holding Potatoes In His Hand.”
Last May, Kim Dong-suk (age 17) lost his friend when he and other Kkotjebis (homeless children) friends went to the potato storage cave. He says, “Sang-hak (friend) went inside and I was on the look out. He closed the lid after he got in, but for a long time, he didn’t come back out. There were many friends there, but none dared to get in. I myself couldn’t get in as I feared I would die.” Crying, he said, “After 15 days we were able to get him out, and we had a funeral. He died tightly holding potatoes in his hand. As I wanted to live, I didn’t even think of getting Sang-hak out, but Sang-hak died while tightly holding potatoes in his hand.” Sang-hak had homeless friends who gave him a funeral. However, many other homeless kids who died in the same way had no one that knew their name or address and their body were simply buried. They came from all over the country and they died nameless death.

Daehongdan County, Famous For Its Potatoes, Is the Gathering Site for the Kkotjebis
Because it produces a lot of potatoes, many Kkotjebis (homeless kids) gather in Daehongdan County, along the border area between Daehongdan County, Ryanggang Province, and Yeonsa County, North Hamgyong Province. The area has swamps and Suhdoosoo River(서두수강), where they can catch frogs and fish, as well as mountains where they can dig out some edible grass. This is the reason they have continuously poured into the area although authorities have tried to chase them out. As a result, there are many straw-thatched huts along the river. A police officer states that the number of Kkotjebis has rapidly grown this year. He worried that, “The Suhdoosoo River area is jammed with straw-thatched huts built by the homeless. I do not know where they are coming from. They say that the homeless kids steal potato seeds to survive but I don’t know how long they are going to survive when even farm members can’t go to work because they had noting to eat.”

Sudden Opening of Reservoir Dam Gate Drowned Kkotjebis
In Sambong District of Daehongdan County, Ryanggang Province, on June 17th, twelve Kkotjebis were drowned to death while they were fishing when Wonbong reservoir dam gate was opened suddenly. Homeless children in this area usually fish here in this season from 9 pm to 3 am. Those who were dead in this accident were children mostly from Sariwon, North Hwanghae Province.

Lee Jong-chul (18), a leader in a group of Kkotjebis, said, “If we can catch some fish, we can make some fish soup. Because we have to fish all night, we divided into a few group and took turn. But some adults approach and beat us. They are strong and they want to steal the fish we caught. So to deal with those adults, we had to send all 12 children as a group. All 12 children who were catching fish died. We did not know when the dam gate is to be open; we couldn’t do anything and they died.”

The Last Gift of Yeon-shil’s Grandma
Yeon-shil’s Grandma lives in Daehongdan County of Ryanggang Province. She lost her husband and children during the Arduous March. She is a very diligent person who busily cultivated her small plot of land and raised a chicken. Whenever a chicken managed to lay an egg, she would exchange it for corn powder among the villagers and take care of her meals that way. Because of this, she used to call the chicken her “Golden Goose.” But since the food crisis hit the whole region, she’s been suffering also. She lives deep in the mountain where there is no train station, very few cars, and no regular markets held. The food crisis had gotten worse and there came a time when she had to kill her only property, the “Golden Goose.” Even then, she didn’t eat the meat but put the chicken inside a Gimchi earthenware pot and cooked it and warmed up a little bit of watery soup to drink. Even that watery soup she had only when she couldn’t stand the hunger any longer, thinking that “When this soup runs out, there’s no more to eat and I am going to die.”

On June 21st, Grandma called over a neighborhood kid whom she used to think of as her own grandson. The kid lived with his younger sister and was having a difficult time surviving after his parents had disappeared about a year ago. She said, “Soo-myung, take this and eat,” and gave him the chicken soup with some meat still in it. The kid was only too glad to oblige and went home happy. He and his little sister gorged on the greasy chicken soup. The next morning, he went to see Grandma as he wanted to have some potatoes with her, but the chilly air in the room shocked him. The grandma, wearing the prettiest garment among her worn-out clothes, was lying silently on the floor as if sleeping. Grandma thus ended her suffering life after giving the chicken soup, too precious for her to eat, as her last gift to the neighborhood kids.

[Opinion] Starving Children Are Innocent Victims
Seventeen-year-old Sang-hak went to a potato seed storage cave with his friends to steal potatoes. He asked his friends to be on the lookout and entered the storage, but he failed to come out. He had heard that it’s difficult to breath inside the storage due to poisonous vapor. Nevertheless, he thought that it would be okay if he grabs the potatoes and get out of the storage right away. That was a miscalculation. His dead body could only be recovered 15 days later. Sang-hak was tightly holding potatoes in both hands.

In the swamps along the Suhdoosoo River, frogs were decimated because people caught every one of them to eat. They couldn’t wait for the tadpoles to mature, so they scooped the tadpoles up in a mesh dipper. Then children died from tadpole poisoning. Now toads replaced the vanished frogs. The children that thought they could eat toad just like they ate frog after roasting died of toad poisoning. In Sambong, six friends together caught toads, ate them, and all six of them died overnight.

Fourteen-year-old Soo-myoung cried for a long time because he missed the old lady next door who was taking care of him and his sister after his own parents left them to earn some money. Yeon-shil’s grandma was like his own grandmother to him and his sister. Soo-myoung said he found the old lady dead when he went to her house to give her a few potatoes he kept for dinner in return for the chicken soup. The night before grandmother gave him chicken soup with some meat in it and he ate that delicious soup with his sister. Soo-myoung and Soo-jin could not stop crying because of the shock of losing someone they trusted and depended on.

What crimes did the children commit? Being born in a poor country and starving could be a crime? These children dying out of hunger need food now. I want to ask you: Should we help these children? Or should we not help them? The children committed no crime. Why should we sacrifice these children for the fight among adults and for the sake of unjustifiable ideological battle between the South and the North Korean governments?

Some say our information is exaggerated. Others say that there is no famine because their ability to survive has improved. We truly wish that is the case. We sincerely wish that what they say is right and our information is wrong. If what they are saying is true we won’t have to make a plea which nobody is paying attention to. However, we just cannot give up because we cannot ignore the heart-breaking images of Sang-hak, who died holding potatoes in both hands and Soo-myoung and Soo-jin, who will have to live with the memory of the chicken soup the old lady next door gave them. We will not stop our cry for help on behalf of these children until we can no long speak and shout even though our plea for help cannot be heard to the closed mind of the South and North Korean authorities.

Please save these innocent children. Even saving only one child would be worthwhile. Time is running out. These children cannot wait until food can be delivered from China and the United States of America. Please join our relief effort. The starving children need to be fed. The South and North Korean authorities should work together and save the children first. Please do not let the children pay for the crimes adults have committed. The starving children committed no crime.



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. 153

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


North Korea Today 153rd Edition June 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.”


A Growing Number of Returnees Attempting to Defect from North Korea
A Woman from Hamheung City Caught in Chungjin Defecting from the Country
Eunduk County on Full Alert for the Prevention of Female Escapees
Complaints from Visitors Abroad: Too Many Restrictions are Imposed
Mountain Fire Caused by a Student’s Carelessness; Parents are Punished
The Public Prosecutors’ Investigation of Kyongsung Pottery Factory


A Growing Number of Returnees Attempting to Defect from North Korea
With serious food shortages sweeping North Korea, there are many returnees (귀국자,북송교포) who are trying to go back to their relatives or parents in Japan. As an increasing number of returnees get caught attempting to escape North Korea nowadays, the National Security Agency is reinforcing surveillance and keeping a close watch on returnees returnees and their families. Especially when issuing travel permits, they thoroughly examine returnees. However, in most cases travel permits are not even granted. A 58 year-old Kim Myoung-hum living at Sapo District of Hamheung City says in sympathy, “Even though attempts to defect from North Korea can be life-threatening and ruin one’s life, many returnees try every way to escape from North Korea. Why wouldn’t they hope for humanitarian life, getting out of the extreme hardships of living here? If I could, I would also take all my family out of this country.”

A Woman from Hamheung City Caught in Chungjin Defecting from the Country
On June 4, a middle-aged woman living at Sapo District of Hamheung city was caught at Chungjin Station while attempting to escape from North Korea. She had been preparing to make her escape with money she got from her brother, who defected from North Korea, via a 47-year- old man, Lim Hyuk-soo living in Hoeryong. She headed to Hoeryong with the fake identification card and a travel permit that she had made by searching for a woman of her similar age. She left the station, and before long passengers started to be inspected. She was so tense during this process that she was suspected by the National Security Agent. When she was consecutively asked about the purpose of her trip to Hoeryong, the names and job positions of her relatives, and how many times she has visited them so far, she answered was flustered and she replied that she was on her way to get food, while secretly handing over 300,000 won to the agent. Unlike her expectation that the bribe would work, she got handcuffed and was taken to the inspection room for a thorough, strict review. Unable to resist agents’ tenacious, consecutive questions, she confessed everything that she had gotten money and a letter from her brother through Lim Hyuk-soo living in Hoeryong and that Mr. Lim was supposed to guide her to cross the river to China once she arrives in Hoeryong in time. The National Security Agency arrested Lim Hyuk-soo on June 10.

Eunduk County on Full Alert for the Prevention of Female Escapees
Nowadays, Eunduk County seems to be on high alert to prevent women from defecting to China. A couple of days ago, the Leading Secretaries of the County Party, the Heads of Police Station, the Division Chairmans of the People’s Committee, the Officials of Security Agency, and Members of Safety Committee held a meeting to address the problem of women who have recently attempted to cross the river to China. The agenda was to discuss what measures they should take in order to appropriately deal with and prevent women attempting to defect to China. The Chief of the Democratic Women’s Union(DWU) said, “We must strengthen our supervision and control over the members of the DWU, make them all attend the weekly normal and document-based study classes without any exception, and make sure that no female members fail to fulfill the organizations’ guidance including general life meetings (생활총화).” The Chief also ordered, “Women should be made to get so busy not as even to think of escaping to China.” According to these measures, a document-based study meeting has become Eunduk County’s daily routine that urges women not to go to China. However, people are on the verge of bursting with complaints that they are being overtaxed, treated like inmates because they are already so busy due to nowadays’ farming support mobilization.

As a matter of fact, it has been reported that 31 women between the ages of 20 and 40 have disappeared in the last two months in the second workers district of Obong coal mine, Eunduk County. The police of Obong Coal mine are taking a thorough assessment of the number in the household as well as daily check-ins on the whereabouts of women who can potentially defect from the country. In addition, the police are stressing that human traffickers who trade North Korean women to China will surely face a firing squad. In the afternoon on June 13, Kim Gyu-tae, convicted of human trafficking, was killed around the market in a public execution. He had been charged with trading four Chosun (North Korean) women, each for 100,000 won, thus collecting 400,000 Won.

Complaints from Visitors Abroad: Too Many Restrictions are Imposed
Those who go abroad to visit their relatives or to trade are expressing their complaints that they go through such complicated procedures that it is extremely difficult go abroad; moreover, even when they get travel permits, they are ordered to abide by too many restrictions. They also report that it does not make any sense to require them not to contact or experience the culture abroad when this is impossible. You, when staying abroad, cannot help but to be exposed to the real culture of the country including contacting its mass media everywhere. One official of the Central Party’s Organization criticizes the policies of the authorities, “It is particularly difficult to go abroad since representatives or visitors going abroad are strictly limited in number. Even though they are allowed to go abroad, it is the norm that they are under surveillance and followed after. This is a ridiculous practice that foreign people would definitely laugh at.” He also adds that whoever is granted the opportunity to go abroad has been thoroughly examined based on their favorable conditions like social/birth backgrounds, loyalty to the Party and so on. Yet it is hard to understand why the Central Party cannot let go of their worries and distrust of the people who are allowed to go abroad. From this restricted and confined social atmosphere a growing concern is arising that North Koreans will end up becoming blind fools like a big frog in the pond that knows nothing but the “Ideology of self-reliability,” mired in its own unique socialism while denouncing all the others.

A 47-year-old Kang Tae-sung says, “It is also prohibited to merely talk about developed foreign cultures and their realities; moreover, once you mistakenly make comments on foreign scientific technology and its management, you are highly likely to be condemned as a reactionary beautifying and pursing foreign lifestyle. It is never ever forgiven to compare the political system of my country with that of others. Propaganda-focused lectures are held all the year around that advertises the system of my country as the best, right, and unique to us. Considering this propaganda, I become suspicious if it is legitimate for the government to keep under surveillance coalmines, factories, institutes, neighborhood units, and farms nation-wide through the National Security Agents stationed at each village. Is this a legitimate way of protecting human rights? The government says we should protect democracy and freedom, but isn’t it the government that violates it?” Mr. Kim speaks with emphasis that this is not only his opinion.

Mountain Fire Caused by a Student’s Carelessness; Parents are Punished
A huge fire broke out on May 17 in Kapsan County of Ryanggang Province (량강도). The fire spread through two big mountains. One student mobilized for rice-planting got hungry even after lunch, so he caught several frogs from the rice paddy and went up to the mountainside to grill them. After grilling and eating frogs, he fell asleep; in the meanwhile, the fire restarted, caught dry grass, and thus spread to wind in an instant. People planting the rice rushed to put out the fire, but containing the blaze was beyond their capacity. Not until two mountains got burnt up, did the fire become naturally extinguished. As the student was a minor, the court sentenced the student’s parents to 6 years in prison. Having no money, they could not afford to bribe officials for mitigation. The enraged father harshly beat his son crippled, and people watching them felt so sorry.

The Public Prosecutors’ Investigation of Kyongsung Pottery Factory
The provincial public prosecutors have started to investigate a pottery factory in Kyongsung County of North Hamgyong Province. This investigation has been triggered by a rumor that fake, home-baked potteries by the laborers of this factory have been traded over China even to South Korea. Public prosecutors are investigating this case in detail by asking laborers on what they made with what kinds of design.



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

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

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

What Does Good Friends USA Do?

Please become a good friend of the Good Friends

Good Friends- An International NGO for Peace, Human Rights and Refugees

Good Friends provides relief works for international refugees to become all lives’ friends, peace movement to fundamentally resolve disputes and conflicts that human beings face, and human rights movement to protect human rights.

Good Friends has been providing information on food shortages in North Korea, raising funds for humanitarian assistance, dispatching activists to national border areas between China and DPRK and having them investigate local situations, and publishing reports on food shortages in North Korea.

Currently, Good Friends is making efforts to improve humanitarian and human rights situation of North Korean people and to inform this situation to the international community by:

1) Collecting information on food shortages, public health conditions, education, the basic necessities situations and inform humanitarian organizations so that they can support North Korean people effectively.
2) Reporting the current human rights situation in North Korea where rights duly protected by law are being violated; assessing incidents of human rights violations in the process of arrest, punishment, and imprisonment and informing international communities; and requesting that the North Korean Government act to improve human rights.
3) Investigating the current situations of North Korean refugees in China, and providing protections and aid for them and their children in particular.

For these purposes, Good Friends USA publishes the weekly newsletter North Korea Today to inform the international public.

North Korea Today No. 152

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


North Korea Today 152nd Edition June 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 of Bird-Flu and HMFD
Public Criticism on the Chickens Dying Even After Quarantine
Siniju Secures Preventive Measures against Bird-Flu
Executives at the Emergency Committee on the Epidemic Prevention Meet to Respond on the Epidemic of the Bird-Flu and the Hand-Foot-Mouth Diseases

Worries about Crop Damage Caused by Disease and Insects at Areas along the Border
Excluding Border-Crossers from the General Amnesty on the Occasion of Anniversary of Foundation of Korea Worker’s Party Criticized
Families Got Busy to Take Advantage of General Amnesty



[Epidemic of Bird-Flu and HMFD] Public Criticism on the Chickens Dying Even After Quarantine
Early June, officials from the Public Health department took preventive measures for livestock against bird-flu in Onsung County of North Hamgyung Province. However, chickens have begun to suffer and die from diarrhea, which has been raising public criticism regarding the measures. It is still unknown whether the chickens died from the measures or from another cause.

[Epidemic of Bird-Flu and HMFD] Siniju Secures Preventive Measures against Bird-Flu
Siniju is yet to experience any official outbreak of contagious diseases. However the city has been preparing for every possible preventive measure because it is constantly flowing with outside visitors and neighboring areas including Gangwon province have been already hit with the bird flu. There are signs saying, “Prevent Bird Flu,” or “Drink Boiled-Water,” on the door of each household. Public lectures have been given to educate residents to immediately report any outbreak of a contagious disease to the Emergency Committee on the Epidemic Prevention.

[Epidemic of Bird-Flu and HMFD] Executives at the Emergency Committee on the Epidemic Prevention Meet to Respond on the Epidemic of the Bird-Flu and the Hand-Foot-Mouth Diseases
June 18, a meeting was held at the Emergency Committee on the Quarantine of City of Chungjin, North Hamgyung province, for counter-measures against the ‘bird-flu’. Present at the meeting were the physicians of the Epidemics Prevention Centers at cities and counties where the bird-flu virus 71 was detected. At the meeting, criticisms were leveled against the physicians of the cities and counties where many children with two to seven years of age died of Hand-Foot-Mouth Disease (HFMD;수족구병) and the counter-measures were discussed.

Gimchaek, North Hamgyung Province is the city where the most deaths from the HFMD occurred. A total of twenty two children died between April and June. Deaths in the other areas of North Hamgyung Province are seventeen at Chungjin, ten at Hoeryong and twelve at Musan. There are other areas from which unconfirmed deaths were reported. The Executives at the Emergency Committee on the Epidemic Prevention criticized those health officials in charge of the areas where the HFMD deaths occurred.


Worries about Crop Damage Caused by Disease and Insects at Areas along the Border
The farms at Saebyul County, Onsung County and City of Hoeryong, North Hamgyong Province, and other farms along the national border are in deep worries about the crop damage caused by disease and insects. Five or six young green leaves growing in each corn stalk started to turn yellow around the middle of June. Only one or two leaves are remaining. Agricultural experts started visiting each farm to investigate and determine the cause whether it is a problem in the seeds or any disease or insects. The farmers say it is a rare phenomenon considering the size of the area with crop damage. However, only thing they could do is to sigh with despair, saying they cannot afford any chemical fertilizer and any insecticides. A farmer, Shim Kyu-seob (age 51) at Saebyul County is really worried, lamenting “Our farming depends only on the changes of the sky and consequently there is no confidence in this year’s crop.”

Excluding Border-Crossers from the General Amnesty on the Occasion of Anniversary of Foundation of Korea Worker’s Party Criticized
A general amnesty on the occasion of the sixtieth anniversary on October 10 of foundation of Korea Worker’s Party is anticipated. However, instructions came down that the illegal border-crossers would be excluded from the amnesty, and this caused a huge turmoil among the residents. Along the border, there are a large number of families whose members got caught when they attempted illegal border-crossing in order to resolve the food crisis. These families complain that the exclusion is unjust. They ask that the crimes such as robbery, theft, personal assaults and border-crossing have all occurred due to poverty and economic crisis, but then, why is the border-crossing alone treated as a political felony? Hyun Jin-such (age 49) says, “In foreign countries, general amnesty applies even to those who are against the current regime. Our country treats those who crossed border because of economic difficulties as political felons. Therefore I am confused about what really is a political felony.” Han Her-in (age 39) at Gimchaek appealed. “As crossing the river occurred in order to find something to eat, I want the government to consider the situation. It would be unjust for the government to treat all the border-crossers as traitors to the country. During the war we kill each other, but the prisoners of war are treated humanely and eventually released. Then is it not possible to treat the border-crossers with leniency when all they wanted to do was to earn a little money or get some help from relatives”

Families Got Busy to Take Advantage of General Amnesty
Throughout the country, it is beginning to appear that the families of the common criminals are visiting their acquaintances of any influence and are trying to illegally bargain to take advantage of the general amnesty. Park Bong-il, an elementary school teacher at Yungwon County, South Pyongan Province, is busier than ever to get his father who had been jailed for 3 years released from the prison. His father was an engineer in charge of construction of apartments. An apartment he had built collapsed and caused two deaths. It was found that using poor construction material caused the collapse. He was fired from his job and was sentenced to seven years in prison. Despite his compassionate character and excellent professional capability, this catastrophic event happened and the whole family has been living with constant worries ever since. Mr. Park has felt as if part of his heart was being cut off whenever he sees his father getting paler and thinner at prison. The four sons including Mr. Park are determined to have their father to be released or the sentence reduced at any cost, including selling the house. Especially Mr. Park, the eldest son, has been trying his best making contacts with any acquaintances of any influence.



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. 151

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


North Korea Today 151st Edition June 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.”


Fig 1. Famine Area Increase

South Hwanghae - Jangpung, Bongchun, Baechu, Gaepung, Yonan, Haeju, Sinwon, Ongjin, Byuksung, Yongyon Jangyon, Anak
North Hwanghae - Goksan, Singye, Pyungsan, Gumchun, Sariwon, Hwangju, Suheung, Sooan
South Pyongan - Yangduk, Sinyang, Moonduk, Gangsuh
North Pyongan - Uiju, Siniju, Ryongchun
South Hamgyung - Gowon, Hamheung, Hamju, Sinpo, Bukchung
North Hamgyung - Musan, Heoryung, Onsung, Eunduk
Gangwon - Pyunggang, Tongchun



A Nation-wide Ban on All Long-distance Calls Due To Information Leak Problem
Contraband Corn Increases in Sinuiju
“I Don’t Have Any Energy for Weeding Work.”
Soldiers at OOth Military Training Division in Gangsuh County Complain About Food Sortage
Wedding Ceremonies Shortened Due To Food Shortage


A Nation-wide Ban on All Long-distance Calls Due To Information Leak Problem
Beginning June 15, with the exception of Pyongyang city, all long-distance calls from homes are banned throughout the nation. The only place long-distance calls are allowed is at the post office. However, the destination of the call, frequency, and call duration are recorded for all long-distance calls made at the post office, and it is assumed that the calls are likely to be wiretapped. The reason for this crackdown on long-distance calls by the authorities is due to the problem of information leak to the outside world. The Party claims that despite the controls imposed on the migration of people during the all-out farming mobilization period, news of the famine and severe starvation of the people are being leaked to the outside world rapidly through long-distance calls. The authorities are acutely concerned about the reality of domestic problems being known to the outside in such detail. Moreover, they are cracking down on information transmission in fear of potential commotion in case of the news of starvation is being spread to other domestic regions. The ban on long-distance calls is a part of this effort to stop the spread of information. As the crackdown becomes more strict people are reluctant to talk and share any news, saying nobody can be trusted except for their own siblings.

Contraband Corn Increases in Sinuiju
The amount of contraband corn coming into Sinuiju has increased drastically. The corn comes in at $380 per ton and it is used for distribution to workers at special public enterprises located in South and North Hamgyong Provinces. The plan is to import 500 MT each month. Numerous trucks can be seen waiting for loading of the food in Sinuiju.

“I Don’t Have Any Energy for Weeding Work.”
The Democratic Women’s Union in South Hamgyong Province is mobilizing housewives for weeding work in the field. However, many women are saying they cannot participate any more. They are saying that although they go out to the cornfield to do the weeding work every morning, it is very difficult to do the work because they have not eaten enough to have the energy.

Soldiers at OOth Military Training Division in Gangsuh County Complain About Food Sortage
Soldiers of tank squad and machine gun squad at OOth training division stationed at Gangsuh County in South Pyongan Province are supposed to receive 750g of food everyday. However, they are not getting the ration due to food shortages. The soldiers are collecting mugworts, lettuce, dandelions, various wild vegetable and grass from the mountains to mix them with corn to make gruel. As a result, many of the soldiers, including officers soon to be discharged, are suffering from mal-nutrition. They all complain that they can no longer perform military service with this lack of food and nutrition. Now the food shortage problem is greatly affecting even the soldiers.

Wedding Ceremonies Shortened Due To Food Shortage
The wedding ceremony is one of the happiest and most celebrated events in one’s life. Nevertheless, under current circumstances in North Korea the wedding ceremony has become a big burden and something to worry about for young people and their families. The opening remarks, greetings of the families, gifts, and wedding reception are all required for a wedding. No matter how hard you try to save money it costs at least several hundred thousand wons. It is very rare to see families who have the money saved for a wedding. While there are many families simply skipping the wedding ceremony due to food shortages, many other families have managed to have wedding ceremonies with borrowed money for the sake of formality. However, often the opening remarks and greetings of the families are combined together and the exchange of gifts is removed from the ceremony. Families who cannot afford to prepare drinks for the wedding ceremony substitute it with water or colored beverage filled in Chinese or North Korean wine bottles. Other types of food needed for a wedding ceremony such as fruits, candies, snacks, and seafood are rented for a few days from merchants or fake food is used.

Mr. Kang Hwa-sun (58 years old), who recently held a wedding ceremony for his child says, “How can I describe the bitter feelings of the groom and the bride and their families? It is rather fortunate that we were able to have a ceremony just for the sake of formality in this kind of miserable situation. Whom can they blame? They may blame their destiny of being born in a poor family or they can blame their parents. All that is left after the wedding is a debt for our family. I don’t know when we would be able to pay off the debt. I am in a better position compared to those who live on grass gruel. However, I cannot sleep at night whenever I think about the debt”.



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. 150

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


North Korea Today 150th Edition June 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.”


[Special Report 5] Increasingly Open and Candid Lectures on Agriculture for the Officials and the Public

In April 2008, the North Korean government issued a report nationwide on the farming conditions of the country. One official said that he received a tremendous shock when he saw the report for the first time. According to the official, although many government reports have been issued in North Korea since the founding of the country, there has been no reports as open and candid as this one. The official said that he believed the Central Department of Propaganda and Agitation (중앙선전선동부) was the agency that issued the report, and went on to say that he was able to surmise just how serious the current conditions are after reading the report. He went on to say that the report shows that

“the government already anticipated that people would die from starvation in the spring, and that this lecture was devised in order to enhance the internal congruency”.

The report contains candid and open references to the current situation’s unprecedented nature. The ‘North Korea TODAY’ will present the government report entitled “Everyone Needs to Work Together to Ensure a Good Harvest” in the next five issues.


[Special Report]
“Let’s All Come Together As One This Year To Bring In A Great Harvest

Grandmother's Tears at Her Grandchild Being Treated as a Kkotjebi to Be Controlled
The Rampancy of Theft: "Starving Tigers Do Not Recognize the Lord"
A Rise in Customs Duties Strikes a Blow at Side Business Ship
A Mother Who Abandoned Her Daughter to Get Remarried
Overturn of a Military Car in Chungjin-Rajin Raksan Hill (Kwangju Ryung)
[Commentary] It Can Be Summarized In One Word: You Are On Your Own


[Special Report] “Let’s All Come Together As One This Year To Bring In A Great Harvest
As such, we must the policies of the agricultural revolution and stand tall on the precepts of scientific and technical farming to create the right action plan to move forward as one. We especially have to take advantage of the recent research in the various highly-performing seed stocks for rice, corn, beans, and other crops and use the policy of ‘right location, right seed’ and ‘right time, right seed’ to maximize the yield. We especially have to accept and implement as soon as possible those advanced farming methods with proven effectiveness, such as Growing the Modernized rice seedling(현대모기르기), Nutrition Cold-framed rice seedling Nurturing (영양랭상모기르기), Pot-raising Seedling (소식재배 방법), Pot-raising Seedling (심층시비방법), and Stream Cultivation Method (물결재배방법). What we have learned from last year was that we could actually hurt farming if we don’t accept and implement the latest farming techniques according to the conditions that we face. For example, in some farms last year, we saw fertilizers being wasted and rice rooting taking place later because of delays in proper watering in rice plantings, ploughing, and furrowing. This year, everyone has to be on their highest alert to make sure we follow the scientific demands for proper and effective farming.

We also have to push forward with our efforts to raise the quality of our soil. We have to engage in a battle to raise the level of the self-fertilizers so that the second crop yield in the double-cropping field does not drop off. Like the saying goes, “where manure piles go, rice sacks follow,” we need to maximize our self-production of fertilizers. Along with this, we also must prevent valuable plots in collective farms from being tied to other uses. This was one of the reasons that we couldn’t farm as much as we could. Every single farm must make sure that it absolutely maximizes the yield so that we get one more grain of rice and one more ear of corn at the end of the day. Make sure that the party’s instructions on bean farming are being followed to the letter. In the case of double-cropping, we have to actively accept and implement bean farming in the spaces in-between and behind wheat, barley plants to maximize our use of farming space.

All the farm workers and laborers must invest all their passion and strength to bring about a revolutionary transformation in this year’s farming results to resolve the food situation of the people and make the upcoming 60th anniversary of the funding of the Republic a truly meaningful one.

Grandmother's Tears at Her Grandchild Being Treated as a Kkotjebi to Be Controlled
On June 5, a child from a normal household was almost taken away by a Kkotjebi (homeless child) control officer in Wonsan market in Kangwon Province. A Kkotjebi control officer saw an 8-9year-old boy being alone some distance away from food stands and attempted to drag him away. The stunned boy started shouting that "My grandmother told me to wait for her here. I don't want to come with you!" and struggled to escape. The officer who was grabbing the boy's wrist and forcefully dragging him said that "Stop bagging people here. Go to a farm and work. Many other kids are there, too, and you will get food as well if you go there!" and hysterically hit the boy's head with a book. The grandmother who found her grandson being taken away rushed to claim the boy and confronted the officer, "Where are you taking my grandson away?" She held the boy tight and continued to accuse the officer of dragging her grandson. The officer who felt embarrassed said that he thought the boy was an orphan. The little poor boy was so scared that he cried hard in his grandmother's arms once the officer left. She didn't even know what to say about this outrageous happening. Shortly later, however, she scolded her grandson that "Why did you get your clothes dirty with mud? That's why people got confused you're a parentless child!" Then, she held him again and burst out crying. The scene that the boy and the grandmother were holding each other and crying was so heartfelt that even people who were watching it teared. Seo Mi-hyang, a 37-year old local resident, showed her sympathy toward them, "Indeed, it's hard to distinguish a boy wearing worn clothes from a Kkotjebi, a homeless orphan. That is just a pain for innocent children from poor households. He must have been so scared."

The Rampancy of Theft: "Starving Tigers Do Not Recognize the Lord"
In addition to the food crisis, the insecurity caused by an increasing number of crimes, including theft, rubbery, murder, just reminds people of the Arduous March. Cho Dong-hyuk, a 48-year old resident of Singye County (신계군) in North Hwanghae Province, said, "Nobody feels secure because of the rampant theft. It seems that the number of thieves is increasing every year. Even when military personnel and security officers come to stay in a village and park their cars on a street, they send out or leave at least one officer to protect their vehicles from potential theft, particularly when it becomes dark. It is because the cases of auto accessory theft, such as tires, have been rapidly increasing. This is exactly the kind of a situation that a Korean old saying, 'a starving tiger do not recognize the lord' talks about [when people are so starving, they forget their discretion; in other words, when people suffer from hunger, they will do anything to survive]." Cho deplored the reality that his country is facing. Moreover, he also voiced his strong dissatisfaction of [corrupt] high-ranking officials that although big thieves are out there, they rarely get caught. Cho went on to say that "Due to the serious food crisis, people are almost starving to death. Despite such a horrible reality, some high-ranking officials are sitting on their hands and only seeking their self-interests. While there are generous and warm-hearted officials who use their own money to buy corn and give it away to their people, most officials keep food rations for themselves and search for a way to raise prices in markets. Like a saying that good people get rewards, bad people get punishments, there will be a day in near future that those corrupt officials would pay the price for what they did," and he concluded by saying that he was disillusioned with those leaders.

A Rise in Customs Duties Strikes a Blow at Side Business Ship
A recent rise in customs duties has significantly affected workplaces(기관;직장) and enterprises that are engaged in the Side Business Ship(부업선) in East Cost District (동해안지구) as well as the fishing industry. Due to high gas fees and an increasing number of taxes, many organizations and enterprises have found that their regular income does meet the expenses; some of them are even about to close their business. Like a saying that 'an innocent bystander gets badly hurt in a Titanic struggle,' fishermen who are most venerable in this fishing industry are likely to become the biggest victims of this recent side business ship industry crisis. As the jobs at these organizations and enterprises are a main source of income for most fishermen, many of them are in fear of loosing their means of living, particularly those who are working at the organizations that are about to close.

A Mother Who Abandoned Her Daughter to Get Remarried
Lee Sun-ok, a 31-year old resident of Danchun City (단 천시), South Hamgyong Province, had been living with a 6-year old daughter after the divorce from her husband because of the hard living. As she found difficult making a living by herself, she had been trying several times to remarry a man who has a secure job. All her previous attempts of remarriage, however, ended up in failure because she has a daughter. As the food prices have been skyrocketing, starting this year, she could not even afford a diluted rice soup, which has been her family's staple food. As a result, the number of times of their daily meal gradually decreased; she and her daughter used to be able to have the diluted rice soup three times a day but they barely got to have it twice or even once a day. As the life became more and more miserable, she feared that both of them would die of hunger soon. Thus, she finally decided to abandon her daughter for her own survival; she left her daughter deep in a mountain and returned alone. The little girl who was left alone began to wander the mountain to look for her mother who had suddenly vanished. Later, the little girl was found by residents who came to the mountain to pick wild (edible) greens; at the time she was fallen on the ground, her clothes got worn out, and her body was full of scars and bruises. She must have fallen in a faint after a hard journey to search for her mother. As soon as discovered, she was sent to a nearby hospital. Shortly after, however, she eventually died; while her immune system was already very weak, she spent a night on the mountain in cold weather and the psychological shock of her mother's missing deteriorated her overall health condition. Lee who got caught by authorities denied the abandonment of her daughter but she confessed it later after a series of interrogation. People who have heard of the incident accused Lee of being a heartless mother. Song Young-Deuk, a 72-year old mother of eight children who had lost three kids during the Korean War and another three during the Arduous March said that "No matter how miserable your life is, a mother should not be so heartless. How difficult her life was to make her abandon her own kid! I have some sympathy toward Lee. Still, even if ten children of yours died and you still have other children who are alive, you should try hard to feed and protect those remaining children until you die. That's what the mother does!" and Song's message touched young mothers' hearts.

Overturn of a Military Car in Chungjin-Rajin Raksan Hill (Kwangju Ryung)
Last June 3rd, an overturn of a military car took place at Raksan Hill (Kwangju Ryung) located at the gateway from Chungjin to Rajin in North Hamkyung Province. A charcoal engine car that belonged to the 278th in the 74th Brigade of the 9th Corps Headquarters fell over a precipice of a mountain due to a braking problem. There were one driver, two soldiers, and 6 citizens in the car. Two soldiers survived the accident because they jumped down, and so did the driver because he was grasping a wheel. But 6 citizens in goods compartment tumbled over with the car. Two people among those citizens died on the spot, the other four were sent to a provincial hospital. One person died during the treatment, but the other three are still in a coma. The citizens in this accident were female merchants on the way home after purchasing goods for sale at Sunam Market in Chungjin. One was a student, and the other five were house wives. They had to leave for a market in the evening because they worked during the day in the general mobilization period. It was reported that they paid 1,500 won per person for getting on the military car to get back home because it was so late at night. It was not until the next day, June 4th, the news was delivered to the bereaved family. On that day, this local hospital was a pandemonium itself due to the bereaved family members who were looking for their daughter, daughter-in-law, mother, and wife. One old woman fell into a faint, and all others seemed to be stupefied at the staggering piece of news of such an accident.

[Commentary] It Can Be Summarized In One Word: You Are On Your Own
The North Korean authorities in effect asked all the different levels of societies in North Korea to rely on their own resources and solve their own problems as they relate to food, essential items, labor, and support for the farm workers. It ends with the exhortation to follow the party’s policies on revolutionary farming, which belies the fact that all it contains are old and tired guidelines.

All the so-called modern and advanced farming techniques itemized in the policies require prerequisite conditions: plastic sheeting, seed stocks, and fertilizers, to name a few. Fertilizers, especially, are sorely needed. Without it, all the nice-sounding advanced farming methods are useless. The North Korean authorities obviously are aware of this by the fact that, in the second paragraph, they specifically instruct the people to engage in a battle to turn out as much self-produced fertilizers as possible for the double-cropping fields. They fully realize that fertilizers have to be available to expect any result from this year’s farming efforts regardless of any advanced farming techniques that may be implemented. Especially, a technique like the plowing of fertilizers deep into the soil to raise its yield quality can only be done effectively by using a tractor to plough deeply into the lands. Using oxen’s just will not do it. But with the ageing fleet of tractors along with high gas prices will not make this any easier, which leads to the conclusion that it won’t be easy to elevate the quality of the soil even with the best efforts.

One farm official says, revealing the depth of his troubles, “It’s just empty rhetoric to tell us to follow these policies without giving us any resources such as fertilizers and gas. We have many farm workers who can’t come to work because they are too hungry and weak. Gas prices are high, fertilizers are absent, equipments are dilapidated, and there is no one to ask for help. We are at death’s door. We don’t know how much the yield will be in this year’s harvest. Who could have a solution to this problem?”

The North Korean authorities warn of food crisis and exhort every member of society to tackle this issue head-on as they conclude their speech. But this long speech can be summed up by one expression: “You are on your own.” It leaves all the problems such as farm equipment, labor, support for farm workers, and other issues to each locality while concluding that this crisis can only be solved by everyone tackling this issue as if it were his or her personal problem. This could be the only and desperate solution that the North Korea authorities could come up with. But to the people, these exhortations have a hollow ring of repetitiveness. As such, they relegate these exhortations as clichés and retort how they can solve these problems on their own when they have enough trouble eating three meals a day. It’s not that they don’t want to do it, but they can’t do it. And they are at wit’s end on how to do something that they couldn’t possibly do. In short, the so-called national policy is absolutely unrealistic.

“Although the season for fertilizers is past, we can still use them even now. Fertilizers, food, etc. we basically need everything and anything that we can get our hands on. We lack everything. We can’t ask the South for anything but this is what we are facing,” admitted one North Korean official. It’s not enough to criticize North Korean policies as unrealistic but these desperate times call for cooperation to look for ways for come up with realistic solutions to this crisis.

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. 149

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


North Korea Today 149th Edition June 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.”

[Special Report 4] Increasingly Open and Candid Lectures on Agriculture for the Officials and the Public

In April 2008, the North Korean government issued a report nationwide on the farming conditions of the country. One official said that he received a tremendous shock when he saw the report for the first time. According to the official, although many government reports have been issued in North Korea since the founding of the country, there has been no reports as open and candid as this one. The official said that he believed the Central Department of Propaganda and Agitation (중앙선전선동부) was the agency that issued the report, and went on to say that he was able to surmise just how serious the current conditions are after reading the report. He went on to say that the report shows that

“the government already anticipated that people would die from starvation in the spring, and that this lecture was devised in order to enhance the internal congruency”.

The report contains candid and open references to the current situation’s unprecedented nature. The ‘North Korea TODAY’ will present the government report entitled “Everyone Needs to Work Together to Ensure a Good Harvest” in the next five issues.


[Special Report]
“Let us Unite in the Fighting of Farming”

Grain Prices in Mid June, Reduced Down on the same level as the end of April
Distribution of Maize Resumed in Heungnam
Pyongyang Distributing One Month Worth of Food
People With No Food Distribution, Deaths From Starvation Keeps Increasing
Rural Students Not Starving Thanks to Their Parents
Only Way to Survive is through Self-Determination
[Commentary] Let not a single life be wasted


[Special Report] “Let us Unite in the Fighting of Farming”
Farmers and officials should do your best in this year’s farming. We are the ones who have to take the initiative in the fight we are facing today. Even if the Party is helping farmers, it is useless in harvesting unless we are not doing our best. We have to cling to this fight ideologically with patriotic passion and firm determination. It is true that our farmers suffer the shortage of food and farming materials.

Particualarly during this difficult time, don’t depend on others, but do your best by following the words of our Leader that we have to survive on our own. Don’t give up, but improve the agricultural system and political enterprise. Farmers should take every step of farming seriously- even when transplanting young rice plants and Maize seedlings in pots. Every plant and seedling should be transplanted carefully with the belief that they could be farming heroes.

Let us engage in this fight as the way the Party intended. Last year, we saw that the results depended on our determination and mental strength. Every Collective Farm should take care of farming tools and machines to prevent any disruption of farming, and take care of farming cows for plowingwhen there is not enough petrol to use machinery. We should organize teams in a way that every farmer is fully engaged in farming. Don’t leave farming to people who do not know how to farm as we did last year.

Grain Prices in Mid June, Reduced Down on the same level as the end of April
Price of rice at the end of May was on the 4,500won per kilogram on the average in South Hwanghae province and while in other regions were on 4000won. However, in June the prices are gradually reducing down that on the June 10th, Heoryung, Chungjin in North Hamgyung province, Wonsan in Gangwon province,Siniju in North Pyongan, Ganggye in Jagang, Gangsuh in South Pyongan and Haeju in South Hwanghae provinces are sold dramatically reduced price ofat 2,500 -2,700 won per kilogram.

The reasons for the dramatic reduction is that there are increasing amount of imported grains. As the price of rice is because as the price of rice inflated the border smuggling trade became more active and that the Chinese government permitting to export for 100,000MT. Some of these imported grains have then been on the PDS as the food rations – working as the major factor to affect on the price of grains in the markets.

Another main factor is in the ‘word of mouth’, that the United States humanitarian food assistance is on its way and spread in the all of the markets in the major cities. Although there are some dramatic reductions of the food prices, it is still 3 times more than that of the last year’s price, which would mean that it is still out of reach for the ordinary population to access food.

In the rural area,where there are hardly any cash in the community, the people who are dying from hunger is showing steady increase.


Distribution of Maize Resumed in Heungnam
June 12th, rice and maize, and nutritious powder have been imported into the Port Heungnam, Heungnam City. The maize distribution has resumed on June 13th, but rice and nutritious powder has not been distributed yet. The distribution price is 800 won per kilogram , but the distribution covers the family members of workers. At least 19kg can be distributed to each household. People are welcoming this maize distribution since the symptoms of grass-poisoning was wide spreading out of eating only grass porridge. However, there are households who can afford the maize distribution because of the high price. Even if it is much cheaper than market price, it is still extremely expensive compared to 300-350 won per kg last year.

Pyongyang Distributing One Month Worth of Food
Pyongyang has been distributing 2kg of rice, 7kg of maize, and 5kg of long-grain rice for the food ration of late June and early July. There were many who could not work because of hunger on the outskirts of the central part of Pyongyang, but this 14kg of rations made it little easier for the people.

People With No Food Distribution, Deaths From Starvation Keeps Increasing
The Party are distributing imported food to the workers in major cities such as Pyongyang, Hamheung, and Chungjin first. There are people who can avoid starvation due to this distribution, but still there are people who can’t afford this distribution. The price of distribution is 2 times higher than that of last year. Even cities have deaths from starvation, and it is too obvious that rural areas have increasing deaths from starvation.

Rural Students Not Starving Thanks to Their Parents
In Yonjin middles school in Chungjin, students’ parents are preparing lunch boxes for students during the mobilisation for transplanting season모내기동원기간. They are taking turns, and rich parents contribute 30,000 won and poor parents contribute nominal amount. Students are waiting for luch time desperately. They eat lunch very pleasantly. However, parents are happy to see students eat lunch like that, they feel significant pressure for preparing luch boxes becuas of recent food crisis. Their economic pressure is getting bigger and bigger as they try to prepare nicer lunch for their children.

Only Way to Survive is through Self-Determination
The North Korean authorities have announced measures to tackle the problem of food shortages: first, secure farming materials; second, secure the labor force needed for farming; third, ensure all laborers and workers help farmers with their life. Today they proposed another measure as the fourth solution to food shortages, calling on farmers and laborers to take the mission of farming in their hands as if they were dealing with the War of Ideology. It reads, “We must be clearly conscious of the importance of our mission and ideologically tackle this year’s first battle of farming with heroic determination and with patriotic fervor.” This is the first time that the expressions like “heroic determination and patriotic fervor” and “ideologically tackle” have ever been used for farmers. Then what is the reason that farmers are called upon even to ideologically tackle farming from the patriotic perspective? As revealed in the next sentence, it says, “Our farm laborers are short of food, and with all farming materials like chemical fertilizers and oil in short supply, our farming is comprehensively under adverse circumstances.” The North Korean authorities are admitting the serious food shortages in the country

In this serious condition of food shortages, farmers have no choice but to exert themselves to survive. This year’s order is well contrasted with that of the 1980s when Kangyeon Iron Works encouraged farmers to do their best in farming as they cited concrete numbers of farming materials like one million and several thousand tons of fertilizer, several hundred thousand tons of oil and several thousand of tractors and so on. At that time it was said, “You are not supposed to fail as farming warriors with all these supplies from the government.” Recalling such confident encouragements based on supplies for farmers in the 80s, we cannot help feeling appalled bythis year’s claim for self-viability.

In spite of the slogan of the Self-viability, the reality that farmers are facing is so tragic and devastating. The authorities are saying, “In addition, we have to make sure that all farm laborers go to work in every possible way by reorganizing work units or sub-teams. We should also ensure that farm laborers do not entrust their job to novices and go somewhere else for other jobs.” As is cited here, farmers are surviving on grass porridge this spring, and because of extreme hunger, they cannot even move around much; in other cases they go out to mountains to pluck grass for their meals, and for this reason they cannot go to work. Unless minimal food for farmers’ survival is supplied, it seems impossible that farmers can muster up energy to work for the “Self-viability.” Farmers are earnestly hoping that the authorities will supply food as soon as possible.

[Commentary] Let not a single life be wasted
It is good news that the food distribution has begun in Pyongyang, Hamheung, and Chungjin by the Party’s effort. Since last March, the food situation has deterioriated so much and the price of rice has incredibly gone up. However, after the Party’s active import of food and smuggling through the border area in June, the food price is going stable. But the starvation continues. The decline of the food price does not make people able to buy the food yet. The price of rice, 2,700 won per kg in major cities, is still triple the price of last year. The price of corn, 2000 won per kg, which is lower than before, is still four times the price of last year. The problem exists with the poor class who can’t afford to buy rice with the current price. Emergency measures are needed to stop the starvation in rural areas.

The Party should request food aid from abroad and expand the import of food for emergency measures. During this time of emergency, they should not care about political differences, but immediately accept the offer of 50,000 MT of corn from South Korea. This 50,000 MT of corn can surely stop the starvation in Southern HwangHae. Only then,they could get more food from South Korea through two party talks. Of cours, it would be good if South Korea could give 200,000 MT of corn now as humanitarian aid. The pride can only lead more deaths by starvation in North Korea..

The food going into the country should be distributed fairly. Children, elderly peole and currently starving people should be given this food first. If the Party shows their efforts to help the less priviledged people, the international community will show trust in the Party in return.

The Lecture Material by the North Korean government includes the following sentence, “Put every effort in farming. Even when transplanting, every rice seeding and corn seeding should be handled with care.” Like this, please put every effort in saving everyone’s life.



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North Korea Today No. 148

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


North Korea Today 148th Edition June 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.”


[Special Report 3] Increasingly Open and Candid Lectures on Agriculture for the Officials and the Public

In April 2008, the North Korean government issued a report nationwide on the farming conditions of the country. One official said that he received a tremendous shock when he saw the report for the first time. According to the official, although many government reports have been issued in North Korea since the founding of the country, there has been no reports as open and candid as this one. The official said that he believed the Central Department of Propaganda and Agitation (중앙선전선동부) was the agency that issued the report, and went on to say that he was able to surmise just how serious the current conditions are after reading the report. He went on to say that the report shows that

“the government already anticipated that people would die from starvation in the spring, and that this lecture was devised in order to enhance the internal congruency”.

The report contains candid and open references to the current situation’s unprecedented nature. The ‘North Korea TODAY’ will present the government report entitled “Everyone Needs to Work Together to Ensure a Good Harvest” in the next five issues.


[Special Report]
“Everyone Needs to Contribute to Ensure a Productive Harvest this Year”

“Make the lifestyles of farmers secure" - Recognition of the Food Shortage Suffered by Farmers
Solution to the Farmers’ Food Shortage; Beyond the Capabilities of the Government
Even Half of transplanting of rice seedling in Wangjaesan Farm Not Yet Finished
Setting fire to his brother’s house in a fit of anger
Breaking into a Neighbor’s Home Results in Murder
Committing Murder while Persuading Absentees to Come to Work
Broken Hearted over Discrimination against My Poverty-Stricken Country


[Special Report]“Everyone Needs to Contribute to Ensure a Productive Harvest this Year”
Original Lecture Material: To Increase Grain Production this Year, the Duties of the Officials Must be Increased
The role of the workers is especially important in ensuring a good crop this year. The officials should consider the farming work as part of the revolution and set themselves as the model for others to follow. The situation of the particular farm is shown from the attitudes and behaviour


Photo 1. Original copy of the Lecture material for the officials

from the farm workers. All officials should, therefore, be focused and obeying all matters to farming work at all times. Farm workers lives have to be settled in their own farms, thus, their well-being have to be looked after in order to concentrate on the farm work. Particularly, the officials have to take a careful work on the economic matters of the area for the workers to work in the farm without disturbances.

In the previous season, there were some officials who have allowed too many social issues for the workers to deal with, that affected the total yield of grain production last year and made farm worker’s life more difficult.

(add current cases from the individual farms)
This is the reason that the party continuously emphasize not to have all the social issues to be dealt with the people. Otherwise, this will result in confusion and interrupting farm workers work on the cultivation. The officials should do their utmost to perform their best to ensure what kind of social issues are obstacling the farm workers from concentrating on their work and try to lift such issues.


“Make the lifestyles of farmers secure" - Recognition of the Food Shortage Suffered by Farmers
The third policy currently promulgated by the North Korean government says that “To help farmers, we must promote work that is appropriate to them so that they can give their undivided attention to their farmwork.” Prior to this revealing this specific policy, the government stressed the importance of securing farming goods and the efforts of the workers in order to solve the current food crisis. Outside of these two factors, the third most important goal is to make the lifestyles of farmers secure and stable.

This is the first time that the government has expressed this view and shown an interest in the stability of farmers’ lifestyles in one of its nationwide reports. During the Arduous March of the mid-1990’s, when large numbers of people were starving to death, there was never a single report issued that expressed this view. Of course, this may be due in part to the fact that more laborers than farmers were affected during the first Arduous March, but this illustrates just how pressing this matter currently is to the government.

According to one official who is an expert on these governmental reports, “Just by looking at this example, we can see how serious the current food shortage is. Though it is not expressly written that farmers are starving to death, I can clearly see the implicit message. This report was written before there was a great increase in the number of people who starved to death, but the fact that the government wrote this report before this fact means that the government already admits that the start of a great increase in the number of deaths has begun.”

The official went on to say “‘North Korea’s problems were all handed over to farmers to solve” this is an unprecedented statement. The official said that in reality, the report reveals just how much North Korea’s problems were handed over to the farmers, but also, just how dire the lifestyle of farmers currently is.” However, it will prove different to suddenly put an end to the many different social problems that were given to farmers to solve.

Solution to the Farmers’ Food Shortage; Beyond the Capabilities of the Government
The North Korean government expressed its interest in the welfare of farmers for the first time ever in the nationwide report it recently issued. The farmers, who had hitherto never received any attention, should be moved by this fact alone. However, the farmers are only receiving this attention because they are in such a dire situation.

“Try to restore stability to the lives of the farmers, and don’t raise the social issues” is certainly a strong statement, but a fundamental plan to do this has not been specified and is unclear. How ordinary laborers will accomplish this goal when even the government was not able to do so is difficult to ascertain just by reading this declaration. The only thing that can be gleaned from the declaration for certain is that the government formally has requested that cooperation from all levels are needed in order to resolve the food shortages.

This is not a sign of the government’s lack of will in trying to address this problem, but rather, an indication of the size and scope of the problems currently faced by farmers, as well as a sign that the current problems are beyond the capabilities of the government to solve. An official of the central party said that, “there is no things like fertilizer or farming materials such as plastic sheets. The food supply has already reached the bottom. If food aid does not come in from other countries, it will be impossible to avoid deaths from starvation during the farm hardship period.” The official went on and said that “all theworkers will have to tighten their belts and save farm production. From this, it is clear just how limited the North Korean government’s options are.

Even Half of transplanting of rice seedling in Wangjaesan Farm Not Yet Finished
Wangjaesan farm in Onsung County, North Hamgyong Province is famous for its good farming not only in the province but also nationwide. Even Kim Il-Sung planned to visit and have a look at the farm during his life. However, the farming is getting worse every year. As of June 3 of this year, they haven’t finished even half of transplanting rice seeding. From the time when plowing began, the farmers have been busy irrigating, harrowing, and weeding the banks around rice fields. There has been a shortage of workers and farm machines, but the greatest problem was that they couldn’t irrigate the rice fields at the proper time. The county party had mobilized workers for the transplanting from workplaces and public enterprises, but the work progressed slowly. Delays stemmed from the low rate of mobilization from local businesses and public enterprises. With so few workers reporting to the farm, productivity has fallen. The county party was busy preparing for ways to enervate the work environment, notably by bringing business leaders from public enterprises together to have the ‘Fight for Ideology meeting’ until late at night for two days.

Setting fire to his brother’s house in a fit of anger
At the end of last May, there was a fire at the house of a manager of a goods supply office in Sinuiju, killing one and leaving two severely burned. This incident turned out to be an accidental fire set by the manager’s younger brother. The younger brother had been experiencing difficulty in finding food, so he went to his brother’s house to borrow some money and food, but played cat and mouse with his sister-in-law instead. He had run out of food and couldn’t afford to feed his children even a bowl of rice soup. Ashamed to ask his brother, he still went to his house to borrow some corn. However, far from receiving corn, he was scolded by his sister-in-law. From the sister-in-law’s perspective, she couldn’t be kind to him because he came to her house as often as if it was his own house and asked her to give him this and that. The younger brother, angered by his relatives’ response, lost his temper and set fire to his brother’s house. It happened in an instant. The younger brother, crazed and breaking furniture in the house, couldn’t escape from the fire and burned to death. His brother and sister-in-law escaped the fire but were burned and are in the hospital. Their neighbors who witnessed this accident felt sorry, saying “It seems that people are driven to extremities and become insane.” Kim Dong-hyun, age 29, worried that people have become insensitive due to the shortage of food, saying “Such an accident occurs anywhere. For example, more than one bloody fight happens in a parking place where I work, and it is a most tragic sight.”

Breaking into a Neighbor’s Home Results in Murder
On May 21, a murder case of dismemberment was reported to the station of Mankyongdae District in Pyongyang. The culprit, coveting his neighbor’s property, committed this brutal murder unintentionally while the man of the house was away. Assuming no one was home, he broke into his neighbor’s house, but upon facing the woman of the house, he committed the first murder. Afterwards, he heard her middle school-age daughter calling her mom, so he committed his second murder. He dismembered the dead, left pieces of their bodies in the bathroom, and ran away. The daughter’s teacher, worried about her absence, visited the house and reported the crime to the police. The investigation revealed the neighbor’s crime, and the police caught him quickly. It was revealed that the culprit stole many possessions in addition to 500 US dollars. The neighbors were aghast at the news and said in resentment, “If money was the matter, he could have only taken money, but why did he take people’s lives?”

Committing Murder while Persuading Absentees to Come to Work
52-year-old Choi Byong-chul, Company Commander of a coal mine in Hamju County of South Hamkyong Province received criticism at a meeting from the Secretary of the party, The Secretary described him as incompetent as well as irresponsible in business, due to his inability to raise attendance in his workplace. Having been warned that unless the problem is fixed he is going to be severely punished, he went out to visit many absentees. Going from this house to that house, he begged people and even tried to force them into coming to work, but people remained the same, mired in their own struggling situations.

On May 28, Commander Choi visited Jo Il-kwon, a 34-year-old man. Mr. Choi asked Mr. Jo, “How come you are absent from work when we are supposed to take the initiatives in building a country of strength and power?” Mr. Jo replied that he has to take care of his wife suffering from acute pyelitis that she got right after giving birth to a baby. He also explained that he cannot go to work because in addition to looking after all of the house work by himself, he must prepare medicine for his wife, medicince which he cannot afford. He is also having a difficult time finding enough food to feed his family. However, as Mr. Choi unwaveringly kept telling him to come to work, their conversations turned into a loud argument. Commander Choi condemned Mr. Jo for his excuses, and Mr. Jo, feeling so humiliated, grabbed Mr. Choi by the collar and threw him to the ground. Mr. Choi, flung to the ground, got so infuriated that he hit Mr. Jo on the head with a nearby shovel. Mr. Jo, unable to dodge the blow, was killed on the spot. Upon seeing Mr. Jo’s death, Commander Choi was aghast. People who were watching the fight gaped at what had just happened.

Broken Hearted over Discrimination against My Poverty-Stricken Country
At the end of May, Mr. Kim, a truck driver working for a trading company in Pyongyang ,went to Dandong City of Liaoning-sheng, China. There Mr. Kim would suffer dumbfounding and unfair treatment. He has been doing his job well for several years without any accidents; he has also received compliments from many people who saw him take care of his old and decrepit car so conscientiously and drive it safely.

But on his way to Dandong City that day, he got in a minor collision with a Chinese automobile. As he pulled over in a hurry and got out of his car to figure out the cause of the accident, two Chinese approached and shouted at him about his poor driving. Mr. Kim replied in his clumsy Chinese to them,
“Considering all circumstances, it is not my fault.”
“You, Chosun (North Korean) beggar know nothing about driving; maybe, you were too hungry to drive a car in right mind. It is just a waste of time to fight with you, stupid beggar since we cannot get any compensation from you! So we’ll have to beat you to blow off our anger.”
They instantly surrounded him and started beating and kicking him. Not until bystanders kept them from beating him did they stop and pull away.

“Dandong City has many foreign visitors, many from western countries and even from African countries. Chinese serve them as if they would gladly lick their boots, but they harshly discriminate against us, Chosun people (North Koreans). For example, they do not allow more goods to be loaded even though there is enough space. It is often the case that Chinese totally ignore our suggestions by pretending not to have heard us at all. Moreover, they are so fickle; they will only let us be when we beg and plead with a smiling face. Otherwise, which happens more often, they always get in our way. I would not speak out on this unfair treatment, but we suffer countless incidents of discrimination that just throw us into consternation. Under these circumstances, our workers try our best, pretending that we are not Chosun people.” Mr. Kim confessed in frustration. He also added, “Others might think of me as a lucky guy driving across nations and making money; however, they do not know anything about this bitter feeling of being discriminated against merely because I am from a poverty-stricken country. This bitter feeling may well be compared to that of people who lost their sovereignty. Such discriminations always breaks my heart. Only wealthy and strong nations can protect their people from all kinds of unfair treatment; I wish my country could become one of those wealthy nations as soon as possible.”



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If you need further information, please contact

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