GoodFriends: Research Institute For North Korean Society

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North Korea Today No.265

RESEARCH INSTITUTE FOR NORTH KOREAN SOCIETY
http://www.goodfriends.or.kr
[Weekely Newsletter] No.264 February 2009

[Hot Topics]
Hemorrhagic Fever Epidemic in Areas of North Hamgyong Province
Increasing Number of Patients with the Hemorrhagic Fever in Hamheung City

[Food]
A New Year Has Arrived, yet There Are No Rations at Soonchun Cement Factory
Chungjin Food Distribution Center, the Price of Rice 100 NK won cheaper Than the Markets
Grain Policy Bureau of Chungjin City, the Price of Rice Expected to Go Back Again
Sinuiju Food Distribution Center Having Difficulty to Sell Food

[Economy]
Difficulty in Operation Due To Lack of Fuel at the Fisheries Enterprise in Leewon County
Residents of Sangwon District in Pyongyang Survive Via the Peddling Business

[Politics]
Sooseong Re-education Center of Chungjin Examines Prison Terms to Extend Them
Management Officials Concentrate Inspection at Soonam Market in Chungjin
The Announcement of “The Policy of January 11” Regarding Forests
The Release of a Prisoner after a 21 Year Imprisonment at Sooseong Re-education Center

[Society]
A Breakout of the Pig Foot Disease at Jeungsan County
The Police Officers Had Their Guns Stolen By Bandits
A Family of a Suspected Person Complained about His Death

[Women/Children/Education]

Parents Are Burdened When Their Children Join Boy Scouts
Welcoming Reception for the Women Farm Works in Ahnju, South Pyongan Province

[Accidents]
Anthracite Freight Car Derailed in Geumya County
Rakwon County Fishing Boat Sinking Accident

[Commentary]
South and North Korea Should Make Joint Effort to Control Communicable Disease

[Investigative Report]
[Correspondence from Pyongyang] Drinking Party on New Year’s Eve





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[Hot Topics]
Hemorrhagic Fever Epidemic in Areas of North Hamgyong Province

Recently, the health department of North Hamgyong Province verified that a hemorrhagic fever epidemic has developed in various areas. The Medical School Hospital located in Pohang district of Chungjin City clarified that 55 people have died because of the fever from November of last year to January 19. Nineteen patients are also hospitalized with the fever. There are 7 people hospitalized in the People's Hospital of Hoeryong City. Doctors quarantine patients who are diagnosed with the fever for 20 days as a precaution. After that, if the symptoms do not aggravate, the patients are discharged from the hospital. Due to shortage of proper medication, some patients die in quarantine.

Increasing Number of Patients with the Hemorrhagic Fever in Hamheung City
The number of patients of the epidemic hemorrhagic fever is increasing in the People's Hospital of Hamheung City, South Hamgyong Province. The city health department ordered the quarantine of patients in an old building which is temporarily prepared and far from the hospital. Doctors had several urgent meetings on this issue as there are no proper means of treatment. The situation is the same in Hamheung. First the patients are quarantined for 20 days and if they do not find any aggravation on the symptoms, they are discharged from the hospital. Some family members of the patients criticize the careless treatment saying, “the hospital staff is not trying to save patients but instead cares more about hospital beautification.”


[Food]
A New Year Has Arrived, yet There Are No Rations at Soonchun Cement Factory

Soonchun Cement factory in South Pyongan Province is still unable to distribute any rations. The factory is continuously producing cement, but the workers are not receiving their rations. Since there are no official rations, the workers are again trying to survive by stealing cement, as they did last year. The workers steal on average 30-40 kg per day sell to the peddling business dealers. The representatives of the factory are actually aware of the stealing but just let it go because they cannot give rations to the workers. However, the representatives are very harsh on the workers who miss their workdays. Sometimes they yell to these workers quit their jobs instead if skipping work. Workers still want to work at the factory even without rations and salary. One of the workers in Soonchun factory said, “Unemployed people run into inspections all the time which create so many problems. It is better to steal the cement as a worker than become a gang member or unemployed.

Chungjin Food Distribution Center, the Price of Rice 100 NK won cheaper Than the Markets

The Food Distribution Center under the Grain Policy Bureau of People's Assembly in Chungjin City, North Hamgyong Province, sells rice at 100 NK won cheaper than at market price. Chungjin city received 300 MT of rice from China that caused the price of rice to fall to 1,750 NK won/kg from 2,000 NK won/kg temporarily. The rice is selling for 1,650 NK won/kg at the distribution center.

Grain Policy Bureau of Chungjin City, the Price of Rice Expected to Go Back Again

On January 18, Grain Policy Bureau of North Hamgyong Province held a meeting with officials in each city and county. The authorities pointed out that they people should conserve food as the rice shortage will likely reoccur. The food situation this year is likely to be dire as in past years. The reason that the rice price dropped down to 1,700 NK won in mid-January was that there was a temporary increase in food supply from abroad. Therefore, the food price is projected to go back up once the food is consumed supply runs low again. On January 30, the rice price went up 2,000 NK won. One official of the Grain Policy Bureau of Chungjin City stressed that the amount of food that arrives from overseas will be the key to maintain a lower rice prices. He said, "Whoever take more rice in from China by cooperating well with Chinese Trading Company would be the best capable official this year."

Sinuiju Food Distribution Center Having Difficulty to Sell Food
At the Major cities, such as Sinuiju in North Pyongan Province and Pyongsung in South Pyongan Province, the food distribution centers have not been operating very smoothly. The distribution center was to eradicate rice trading at the markets, however, the residents do not usually go to the center for food because there is usually no food there. Moreover, the price between markets and distribution center is not significantly different. According to the original plan, they were going to buy food for less from farms and sell it to the residents at a low price. There was not significant price difference from market price because of high shipping cost. The quality is also another reason. The residents said, "If I need to spend the same amount of money for food, I rather buy from private sellers whose food's quality is better." he did not purchase from the distribution center. This is why the distribution center's sales are not faring well.


[Economy]
Difficulty in Operation Due To Lack of Fuel at the Fisheries Enterprise in Leewon County

Fisheries Enterprise in Leewon County, North Hamgyong Province is suffering and bemoaning due to the recent decrease in fishing harvest. The officials recently decided to take 35% of the fishing harvest and give the remaining 65% to the fishermen. According to an official at this Fisheries Enterprise, “We have no fuel for our fishing boats to go out with because the Enterprise failed to financially organize and manage the system. We were only able to go out three times for fishing last month. We proposed a new plan because the Enterprise does not have enough capacity to reach the government’s planned goal. We collect 15 kg of fuel from each fisherman in order to go out fishing. We submit 35% of our fishing harvest to the enterprises and the remaining 65% is the fishermen’s share. Fishermen equally divide the 65% of their harvest after subtracting their fuel cost. The captain is fully responsible for the boat maintenance due to financial difficulties of the fisheries enterprise. The Fisheries Enterprise is only responsible for the Sea Entry Certificate and the boat.

However, Party Officials criticize such methods calling them ‘capitalistic financial management’. The administrations and the Enterprise Managements defended themselves saying, “What choice do we have? We have no money to pay for the fuel and this is better than doing nothing. It is much better than failing to submit anything to the government’s planned goal.” They added, “The government is not helping us reach the production goal. If we do nothing to improve this crisis, we cannot help the country and cannot pay our fishermen. Then who is going to pay us?” indicating they will continue to follow this system. An official commented, “The Party Officials only verbally criticize them and can do no harm to them because they need these fishermen to work for them to get paid. Therefore, there are no serious conflicts here. Whenever a physical struggle breaks out, it usually involves other matters. This system has been launched in many other places for quite some time.

Residents of Sangwon District in Pyongyang Survive Via the Peddling Business
Most of the residents from Sangwon District in Pyongyang are surviving through the peddling business. They resell the cements produced at Sangwon Cement Factory to North and South Hwanghae Province and South Pyongan Province. Thus, when the production level decreases at the factory it hurts their living. Kwak Sang-ho (46) said, “At least 7 or 8 households out of 10 households are probably making their living with cement. The residents are all wishing for the factory to operate well. “Unfortunately, this factory is currently experiencing slowdown in productivity due to malfunctioning of the furnace. The party committee of the factory decided to avoid shutdown of production at all costs and continue the production through line balancing, but it is difficult because they cannot afford to import parts in order to fix the furnace. For the time being, they are focusing their production at the furnace that is not malfunctioning. Park Soon-geum (41) said, “Thank God we do not have complete shutdown of production. This factory is the only source of income out there. Whether we can eat or not depends on the well-being of this factory.”


[Politics]
Sooseong Re-education Center of Chungjin Examines Prison Terms to Extend Them
On January 21st, the Sooseong Re-education Center of Security Agency at Chungjin City, North Hamgyong Province examined its prisoners with prison terms near termination and extended the term for most of them. The officials of the standing committee of Central Supreme People's Assembly and members of the central courthouse personally visited the Sooseong Re-education Center and made over two complete examinations of all terms coming due. 3 ~ 4 extra years were added to terms for prisoners who received 3 years and 4 extra years were added to terms for prisoners who received 4 years originally.

Management Officials Concentrate Inspection at Soonam Market in Chungjin
Management Officials at Soonam Market are under inspection due to suspected market fee embezzlement in Chungjin City, North Hamgyong Province. It was recently reported to the Province Party Office at North Hamgyong that some officials embezzled the daily market fee. Immediately following the Lunar New Year, the Province Police began their intensified market inspection starting on the 29th Soonam Market had gone through a similar scandal a couple of years ago, that led to a major layoff. The Province Party commanded, “We have to prevent any illegal activities like the last head manager’s embezzlement scandal. The police need to inspect thoroughly.”

The Announcement of “The Policy of January 11” Regarding Forests
“The Policy of January 11”, which aims to protect forests in the provinces of Ryanggang and North Hamgyong, was announced. The main idea of the policy is “to value and cherish forests such that illegal tree cutting should be eliminated this year.” To implement the policy, two Forest Inspection Forces were formed under the Ministry of National Land. In the case of both provinces, both the Department of Forest Planning and National Construction Planning under the Environment Protection Bureau of the Ministry of National Land control and manage tree consumption. On January 4, the People’s Safety Agency established the new Department of Forest Inspection and Control in each city and county’s police station. Last year’s inspection into the protection and development of forests found that there are not many trees in the mountains and that, at the same time, trees are cut down without any proper plan, which is why the new policy was announced in the first place. The Department of Forest Planning announced that those who cut down trees without permission will be forced to pay a fine or face other legal punishment.

The Release of a Prisoner after a 21 Year Imprisonment at Sooseong Re-education Center
In Chungjin City, two people were released from the Sooseong Re-education Center. One of them, who originally came from Jaeryong County in the South Hwanghae Province, was imprisoned at the age of 33 and released 21 years later. He was put behind bars as a political prisoner, but received the title of “model prisoner” at the Center. Hearing the news, one government official said, “What an emotional state the person has! After confined to jail at the age of 33, he is now being released at 54. It’s amazing he’s lived through so many years at the Center. A person like him won’t have much trouble living in the real world. Many people these days are starving to death because they can not make money in difficult economic conditions. Those who do survive at the Center must be very clever. Anyway, the person deserves congratulations.” The Center examines the prisoners once a year to decide whether they should be released. Prisoners who have served more than 10 years are usually released. Sometimes, however, no prisoners are released in a given year, which indicates that many are not qualified for release.


[Society]
A Breakout of the Pig Foot Disease at Jeungsan County

On January 17, an infectious foot disease for pigs (whose feet split open) broke out at a pig farm in the Jeungsan Re-education center, South Pyongan Province. From the next day, the center has butchered the infected pigs and sent them to the nearby military bases or sold them in the markets. With the money from the sales, the authority of the center bought a disinfectant and sterilized the pig farm. Because it was just before the Lunar New Year Day, the pork was sold out quickly at the market. Since the 20th of the same month, the disease has begun to spread to the civilian pigpens. The medical inspections office recommended to the residents to bury the infected pigs and butcher the unaffected ones, and eat the meat after boiling it in high temperature for many hours.

The Police Officers Had Their Guns Stolen By Bandits
On January 20, two police officers of Pyongyang went to Wonsan City to receive a murderer and they had their guns stolen. They arrived at Wonsan Railway Station after receiving a report that a fled murderer was arrested at Chilbok-ri, Wonsan, Kangwon Province, but a gang of bandits hanging around the station stole their guns. The authority of Wonsan City regarded this incident as a political issue which was planned prior to the election for representatives of the Supreme People’s Assembly on March 8, and put out all efforts to recover the stolen guns. They mobilized officers of Wonsan police station as well as members of Security Agency and the public prosecutors office, to arrest and imprison Kkotjebi (homeless) and delinquent teenagers that loiter the vicinity of Wonsan Station and investigate the where-aborts of the guns. They also decided to increase the number of guards more than twice to protect the polling places. They immediately reported this incident to the Central Party.

A Family of a Suspected Person Complained about His Death
In the afternoon of January 24, a suspected person died during the preliminary hearing at the police station of Ranam district, Chungjin City, North Hamgyong Province. A police officer of the Preliminary Investigation Department had beaten the suspect to force a confession, and the suspect died in the detention room from the rupture of internal organs. When the police office informed the family of his death, the family came to the police station and demanded the facts surrounding the death. As the police office denied their involvement, the family filed a complaint at the City Party and the Province Party.


[Women/Children/Education]
Parents Are Burdened When Their Children Join Boy Scouts

Doomoo Elementary School in Pyongsung of South Pyongan Province prepared a list of Chosun Boy Scouts ahead of ‘February 16 Public Holiday’. There were about 10-12 scouts in each class and the parents of these scouts complained that meeting the scout’s obligation is too much burden for them. School principals instructed the teachers to collect 20,000 NK won per a scout in order to decorate Kim Il Song study-room and the school. The teachers in turn assigned each scout to bring three rabbit furs. If the students are unable to bring the furs, they should pay 15,000 NK won per each fur. Some teachers even encourage students to pay cash in lieu of rabbit furs. To become a boy scout, students have to pay at least 45,000 NK won. Parents say that, “The reality of today’s education is that unless you are wealthy you cannot become a boy scout no matter how good your grades are or how capable you are.”

Welcoming Reception for the Women Farm Works in Ahnju, South Pyongan Province
On January 23, town offices of Ahnju County in South Pyongan Province organized a welcoming reception for about 220 Democratic Women’s Union members who became farm workers. Because there were not many women farm workers, the city officials have done all kinds of advertisements such as providing explanation or lessons. Only after they offered to provide 5-months ration in advance by the end of January, volunteers begin to appear. Majority of them are from poor families that have not much food. One farm officials of Ahnju County said, “Farm workers are needed in large numbers because farms in the open field area had lost many workers last year.” Also on January 20, there was a welcoming reception for the women farm workers in Hoeryong, North Hamgyong Province. The volunteers of Hoeryong are to receive 350 kg of corn. The women farm workers said that in view of the fact that the farm members receive less than 300 kg of ration in one year, 350 kg of corn is not too bad.


[Accidents]
Anthracite Freight Car Derailed in Geumya County

Freight train cars loaded with anthracite derailed near Geumya County, South Hamgyong Province. Train operations were suspended because 100 meters of the rail collapsed 5 km ahead of Geumya station. The railway ministry ordered that the repair would be done within 10 hours. However, the recovery action was not well coordinated. Therefore, the repair work took more than 20 hours. As a result, the railroad station officials were punished with a warning. Later it was reported that security agents from the Events Bureau were at the scene and checked the condition of the railroad. No. 1 Event Train passed the inspection by security agents. An official who was told the news said, "Being punished for a delayed recovery was unusual because collapsing railroad beams is something that happens quite often. We only learned later that the No. 1 Event Train had passed.” Meanwhile, on February 3, the North Korean Central News Agency announced the news of Chairman Kim’s visit to Dongbong cooperative farm in Hamju County, South Hamgyong Province.

Rakwon County Fishing Boat Sinking Accident
On January 25, there was an incident of a fishing boat that belongs to Rakwon County Central Party Communication office in South Hamgyong Province sinking in the sea. The boat was on fishing expedition in preparation for the new-year holiday, but it drifted out to sea for 3 hours due to engine failure, and then sank after crashing into rocks. One of the fishing boats from Eudajin happened to be nearby when they approached the scene of the accident and engaged in rescue operation. However, 3 of 11 crews were missing and the other 8 floating in the water were rescued safely.

[Commentary]
South and North Korea Should Make Joint Effort to Control Communicable Disease

It has been reported that the epidemic hemorrhage fever is spreading continuously in some areas of North Korea. This epidemic already has reportedly claimed the lives of 8 prisoners and put 20 inmates into comatose inside Jeungsan Re-education center in South Pyongan Province in mid-October last year. From November of last year until January, this year people died in many counties in North Hamgyong Province and the news about the outbreak of the epidemic was coming from other areas as well.

The initial symptoms start with headache and fever, then fever and blood pressure falls, which may lead to derangement and comatose state. Those infected may have difficulties passing urine, may vomit, or in some occasion have hemorrhage in the digestive system. By the time the kidney function is recovered, a large quantity of urine is released and this may lead to death due to dehydration and complications in the lung.

With the name of the new symptomatic epidemic hemorrhage fever, this disease is mainly transmitted through dry feces of mice. The feces are flying in the air, inhaled through the respiratory tract and then one becomes infected with the virus. In South Korea, the symptoms of the disease were reported in the late fall or in the late spring among those who work in the field or hill, namely farmers and soldiers. As preventive measures, farmers and soldiers were recommended to get immunization in advance, to avoid hills or grass, and avoid lying in the grass or dry clothes. The best preventive measure is to take a shower whenever you get home from outside.


In North Korea, it is quite natural that prisoners work at re-education centers outside. Farmers collect compost and glean, and kkotjebies (homeless) sleeping on the street without suitable shelter are more easily exposed to the disease. The reality in North Korea is that they do not have resources to take care of patients, let alone work on preventative treatment.

It does not make much sense to emphasize disease prevention to the majority of people who do not even receive food rations. Some have to wander around the harvested fields and patch fields to glean and go to far away mountains to collect wood in order to earn meals while withstanding the cold. They dry the grains harvested in the alley, on the roof, and along streams. They dig holes in the ground to preserve kimchi in a cellar. They have to mix up human feces, cattle feces, straws, and soil to make compost and fill the quota imposed on them. Because the water supply has stopped and there is a subsequent lack of clean water, it goes without saying that it is very difficult to maintain sanitary condition.

In the absence of sufficient medical benefits, patients are driven to the crossroads of life and death. People are in situations where they have no choice but to face death due to lack of medicine and malnutrition even in the case of a simple disease. The South and North Korean governments must stop the political game designed to protect their pride, and work together to control infectious diseases for the North Korean people.


[Investigative Report]
[Correspondence from Pyongyang] Drinking Party on New Year’s Eve
*[Correspondence from Pyongyang] intends to convey to our readers how the residents of Pyongyang behave in society, economics, politics and international affairs without holding back any information. The Correspondence will take different forms, such as letters, diaries, and essays, depending on the persons involved. For the sake of personal security, the real names of the individuals, places or employers might not be used.


There is a comrade in Pyongyang who becomes very busy when people greet Lunar New Year’s Day[1]). His name is Kim Man-soo, and he works for the People’s Service Bureau. On the occasions of national holidays, this service bureau provides raw material for the restaurants in Pyongyang, such as Okryugwan, Chungryugwan and Pyongyang Myonok, and Kim Man-soo is in charge of this project. This year’s project was a difficult one, like many other years. The service bureau’s party committee assigned an additional task to Kim Man-soo. The additional task was to provide a sufficient quantity of chicken legs to a drinking place on Changgwang Street so that every guest could be served, even if they did not have ‘the ticket’[2]) (표족지).

Kim Man-soo knew that even if the service bureau had provided the allotted quantity, it would not have been sufficient. He sighed, saying ‘I will be a target of self-criticism later when the time comes to officially review party behavior.’ He had another worry. He was to be the host of the New Year’s Eve section party at his home. It was as if he were assigned an additional task of providing side dishes in sufficient quantity. His wife complained, ‘I know there are several drunkards in your section. Any misbehavior on their part will put all of us in an awkward situation. Why did you invite people to our place? We cannot control how much they drink.’ Kim Man-soo then tried to persuade his wife, saying ‘Please stop it. Comrades in our section have already considered that. You women talk too much. After all, they concluded that our place is the safest.’

Kim Man-soo’s place is of the ‘Saekja’ style[3]) and is quiet because of its location on the fifth floor, the highest floor in the building. His neighbor is an old man living alone. All these factors were considered in the decision to have the party at Kim Man-soo’s place.

The New Year’s Eve party turned out to be for comrades in his section as well as those of the supply section of the farm. After all, these people are working for the service bureau, and consequently the tables were full of delicacies, including special 40% Pyongyang liquor as well as different kinds of meat and cakes. Several rounds of alcoholic beverages led to raucous conversation. Someone started with the Beijing Olympics last year.

“The opening ceremony was fabulous. China displayed its power. It must have cost a lot of money.”
“China changed a lot. They are so rich.”
“I agree. Chinese-North Korean (JJanggola) vegetable farmers in Sadong District already got rid of vegetable farming. They had their own houses built, and enjoy their own cars …”
“Don’t call them ‘JJanggola’ anymore. China is a new creation. Look how they live. How can we compare?”
“I hear that the Vietnamese live well, too.”
“Right. Didn’t you go to Vietnam last year?”
“Wow! We cannot compare. Any worries about food? During rush hour, the procession of autobikes is a fabulous sight.”
“Didn’t General Secretary, Doi Moi of Vietnam come to Pyongyang last year? Didn’t our Beloved Leader say we will learn from Doi Moi?”
“We should not look at others. We should live in our own way. We should follow our Beloved Leader’s teaching as shown in this year’s Combined Editorial and move forward.”
“We are so confused. We do not know which way to turn. We are supposed to leap forward as a second Chollima Movement, with the most advanced technology. I do not know what to say. I know what will happen this year.”
“What will happen then?”

This particular question silenced the conversation. A little while later, someone started to speak again.

“We need not talk about revolutionary openness. But don’t we have to learn from China, Vietnam, Cuba and Laos about their experiences with economic construction?”
“Have you heard recently? I hear that the path of 21st century socialist construction is the path of revolutionary openness utilizing market strategies.”
“I heard that, too. Other countries maintain socialism with revolutionary openness. But our Beloved Leader says, ‘Why should we have revolutionary openness when there is nothing wrong with our party policies?’ Is he not strongly denying revolutionary openness?”
“Well, we have been trapped in the whirlwind of stagnation for fifteen years. In the meantime, other countries are changing beyond recognition.”
“Heaven forbid! It is because of our revolutionary tradition, perhaps our sense of dignity. Do you realize that we are the only socialist country in the world now?”
“Now do you realize that China, Vietnam and Cuba are not countries of multi-party political system? All those countries are under the control of just one party, the communist party …”

Another silence ensued.

“These conversation topics are too heavy. It is a waste of time to talk about those things while drinking. If by chance someone reports to the party, we are in violation of the Ten Principles.”
“Don’t misunderstand it. In fact, are we not following our Beloved Leader consistently and faithfully?”
“We never practiced our party’s policies wrongly, did we?”
“As we all talked about countries which prosper with revolutionary openness, we never slandered our party’s policies.”
“Everyone is correct.”

They were concerned about the state of the nation while drinking overnight. They were envious of countries such as Vietnam, China and Cuba, which have become rich. Man-soo’s wife provided alcoholic beverages throughout the night without pausing for sleep. Fortunately, any problems Man-soo’s wife was worried about did not occur. Those drunkards never made any fuss and fell asleep one by one.

[1]). Starting this year, New Year’s Day is a one-day holiday but Lunar New Year’s Day is a three-day occasion.

[2]) North Korean authorities distribute tickets which allow meals at restaurants, such as Okryugwan, Chungryugwan and Pyongyang Myonok. The tickets are in short supply. Therefore, the People’s Service Bureau issued instructions that people may be fed without tickets during the holidays.

[3]) In the ‘Saekja’ style, the floor has only two apartments facing each other.

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