GoodFriends: Research Institute For North Korean Society

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North Korea Today No.295

Research Institute for North Korea Society
http://www.goodfriends.or.kr
[Weekly Newsletter] No. 295 September 2009

[“Good Friends” aims to help the North Korean people from a humanistic point of view and publishes “North Korea Today” describing the way the North Korean people live as accurately as possible. We at Good Friends also hope to be a bridge between the North Korean people and the world.]
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[Hot Topics]
South Hwanghae Province Narrowly Survives Severe Food Crisis
North Hwanghae Province Suffers from Hunger due to Lack of Money for Food
Farming in Gangwon Province Faces Triple Hardships from Sterile Soil, Heavy Rain and the Military

[Food]
Gowon County Families Barely Surviving on Porridge provided with Rations of 5 Kg of Barley Reserved as Seeds
Amidst Poor Harvest, Executives Receive Fixed Amount While Laborers Get Reduction

[Economy]
Factories Hosted the First Nation-wide Public Party Assembly on the “Farming Issue”
Less Than 300,000 Laboring Bulls Nationwide
Provincial Party Delivers Pep Talk to Increase Crop Yields during Remainder of the 150-Day Battle

[Politics]
Illegal Chinese Mobile Phones Will be Monitored in Sinuiju Throughout the Year
Sixty Border Patrol Officers Arrested at the Beginning of the Year, Released on August 15th
Defense Security Command’s Discipline Center in Kumya County Notorious for Intensive Labor

[Society]
Weekly Direct Flight Operate Between Pyoungyang-Samjiyeon
Singae County Executed 76 yrs-old Ex-Security Patrol Officer
The Support Bureau of Seungho District in Pyongyang Replaced their Fuel Oil Management Center with Female Military Force

[Women/Children/Education]
Investigation of Middle School Students Who Watched Adult Videos from South Korea
Chungjin Kkotjebies Sent to Sariwon Kyemo Elementary School

[Accidents]
Soldiers Stealing Corns Beat up the Guards
Soldiers Punished for stealing and Selling a Laboring Bull
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[Hot Topics]
South Hwanghae Province Narrowly Survives Severe Food Crisis
According to a report compiled by the Farm Management Committee in South Hwanghae Province, rural areas of the province narrowly survived the severe food crisis as of August. The Committee members paid door-to-door visits and made a survey of each home’s food situation. They found that 20% to 30% of all households have been out of food since this spring. Situations in Counties of Chungdan, Galsan, Bongchun and Shinwon are worse than Yonan. Farmers in these counties barely survive on grass porridge and meager harvest from small private two-crop plots. Many farmers still barely survive on grass porridge. Farms experiencing high farm worker absenteeism due to severe hunger have had to gather elderly retirees to manage or operate vegetable gardens or other work units. Participation of elderly residents was suggested because a little physical activity is considered good for their health and additionally they become eligible for food rations and cash distribution. People say that the elderly residents themselves feel grateful for the decision of the Farm Management, saying that they were willing to do anything to help themselves during this food crisis.

North Hwanghae Province Suffers from Hunger due to Lack of Money for Food
Even with improved situations compared to last year, farmers of North Hwanghae Province are said to have survived a very difficult season this year. In 2007 a flood wiped out the ‘grain warehouse’ region and the food resources were gone. Consequently people could not obtain food even with money. Its aftermath was deaths resulting from starvation all throughout spring of last year. Even the survivors had to depend on grass porridge and pine barks and experienced the most difficult springtime in recent memory. It is really fortunate that there were not any natural disasters last year and accordingly fall crop increased a little compared to last year. Farmers learned a lesson from the severe food shortage during spring hardship period last year, and relied on small plot farming more than any other time. They consumed food as little as possible and saved grain as much as possible. That is how they survived the difficult spring this year. Price of rice that skyrocketed up to 4,500 NK Won last June stayed relatively stable around 1,800 NK Won. Last year people starved even with money. This year many go hungry because they do not have money to buy food. 150-Day Battle caused low level of business, which in turn, kept money from circulating. No businesses bought grain from farmers and consequently farmers could not earn any money. Price of rice has not gone up, but there is very low level of purchasing power. The only thing fortunate about these farmers in this ‘grain warehouse’ region is that farmers get hold of more grain, such as barley, potato and corn than in North Hamgyong Province.

Farming in Gangwon Province Faces Triple Hardships from Sterile Soil, Heavy Rain and the Military
The residents of Counties of Gangwon Province, such as Chulwon, Pyonggang, Yichun and Hoeyang are facing more difficult times than residents of other areas. There are three contributors to their difficulty; mountainous area with little arable land, high density of military units and high vulnerability to natural disaster. Current review of farming status reveals that the region is suffering from these three factors this year as well. These counties, Chulwon, Pyonggang, Yichun and Kimhwa are areas along the frontline and accordingly there are no factories around to speak of. There are only small factories to produce essential items in everyday life. Farming is the only thing people can rely on. There are some modern facilities under Daeheung Management Bureau, where agricultural and other local products are processed. These products bring in some profits. However, the benefits reach only a few and most of the farmers and other workers earn little to make ends meet. Another factor is that these areas have a high concentration of military units, and these military units cause a lot of problems for the civilians. The military provisions are supposed to be provided by other provinces, but they are not sufficient. An easy way for many hungry soldiers is to take food from the local residents of the Gangwon Province. There are many instances where entire piles of grain harvested by work units have disappeared. Consequently, many farms in Gangwon Province drop crop output by some work units in their calculation of total harvest at the end of year. Many farm workers in these areas predict that much of the farmland flooded by the heavy rain on June 10 will reduce the crop. At least twenty Jungbos (1 Jungbo equals 2.45 acres) of farmland in Counties of Chulwon and Pyonggang have been destroyed by the flood. At the time there were public announcements on the street about the damages of the farmland. Soldiers stationed around the area from the 10th Regiment of 5th Corps and the Chemical Battalion was poured in the restoration project in a large scale. Farmers, however, are worried that “the destroyed farmland may be restored, but the crop loss would be more than three times than what was announced to the public.”

[Food]
Gowon County Families Barely Surviving on Porridge provided with Rations of 5 Kg of Barley Reserved as Seeds
Gowon, Gowon County, South Hamgyong Province provided each family of laborers, who only barely survive on porridge, with rations of 5 Kg of barley reserved as seeds. The decision was made to encourage elimination of high absenteeism during the 150-Day Battle. It is also due to the judgment that severe hunger on the part of the residents caused incessant thefts of corn. In fact, thefts of unripe corn are increasing even after more guards are provided to protect against the thefts. Rumors float around the farms each day that so much corn has disappeared. They raised the level of threats to say that “anyone caught stealing corn will be sent to Discipline Centers. A grain of corn stolen will have to be paid back with thirty grains.” These threats were to no avail. A farm worker said, “Sometime ago, a man got caught stealing corn. They tried to send him to a Discipline Center. They could not. They just received a signed confession with a reparation amount on it. It was because several months of diets of porridge only made the man skinny and weak. Sending him to the Discipline Center would be tantamount to killing him.” Police substations are concerned that these situations might continue. They just keep warning people, “Next time, anyone caught will be sent to Discipline Center, live or die, no matter what.”

Amidst Poor Harvest, Executives Receive Fixed Amount While Laborers Get Reduction
On August 4th, at Hoeryong City, potatoes were harvested in the Wonsan-ri farm and were distributed to nonproductive units such as factories and to the public enterprises for the month of August. The harvest yields from work unit 1 and work unit 4 were smaller than expected, which led to reduced rations for the laborers. The laborers are supposed to receive 48kg, but they were provided with only 20kg. However, crop yields do not seem to affect rationing to the top officials because they are continuing to receive a fixed amount of 50kg each. In addition to this, they intentionally reserve the larger potatoes for these high officials leaving the smaller ones for the laborers. The poor harvest is mainly attributed to an insufficient supply of fertilizer. Another factor is a disincentivized workforce. Under the current system, farmers receive nothing for their labor because all of the crops are distributed to the public enterprises and factories. Therefore, naturally they are led to be more concerned about their own farms. However, they are concerned about the local poor scavenging through the fields after the harvest for whatever is left. This has caused many altercations between the farmers and the poor.

[Economy]
Factories Hosted the First Nation-wide Public Party Assembly on the “Farming Issue”
On August 18th of last year, a public party assembly was held nation-wide including cities, county factories, and public enterprises for members of the national party and trade and youth unions. The main issues revolved around achieving the year’s target grain yield, obliterating any known obstacles in farming and increasing efforts to carry out the grain harvest campaign. It’s rare to have a public assembly, but the discussion on the farming issue was an even rarer event. As a matter fact, it was the first time that the farming problem was addressed at the assembly. An official said that “The assembly hearing was called because of the poor rice and corn harvests caused by the cold weather and drought”. In addition, an order against stealing harvested crops was proclaimed along with promises to severely punish anyone caught committing this violation. It was also emphasized that not even a single grain should be wasted because of the poor outlook on crop harvests. After hearing these notifications, an officer from Hamgyoung City in South Hamgyoung Province said skeptically, “Even if all of the factories and enterprises are ordered to support the harvest campaign, I doubt that the farmers will be as thrilled about the news”. During harvest season the farmers are frantically searching for even a morsel of grain to collect for themselves so for the farmers the additional workers are likely to be seen as competitors. Even the management at the farms may not be so willing to welcome this initiative he said expressing his concern.

Less Than 300,000 Laboring Bulls Nationwide
An official from the Department of Agriculture revealed that in the current year, there are approximately 280,000 laboring bulls nationwide. The reality is vastly different from the 400,000 figure, which is the officially announced number. There were approximately 800,000 laboring bulls until the 1960s. The 4th Party Assembly even proposed an initiative to help increase the number of bulls to 1,000,000. However, the farmers did not engage in proper breeding practices; healthy and strong bulls diminished in numbers due to consanguineous breeding. Moreover, raising bulls have become more difficult, due to an overall shortage in animal feedstock. The bulls used to weigh around 400-450kgs in the 1950-60s, but nowadays, the average bull weights around 200-250kgs. Even though the bulls are placed under strict management as wartime commodities, they too, cannot avoid a weight reduction at a time when there is not even enough food for human consumption.

Provincial Party Delivers Pep Talk to Increase Crop Yields During Remainder of the 150-Day Battle
On August 5th, at a meeting attended by the secretaries of the provincial, city, and county parties, the chairmen of the Farming Management and Administrative Commissions, and the chief of the police station, the North Hamgyong Provincial Party stressed hard work to increase crop harvests for the remainder of the 150-day battle. After reviewing the current farming situation and the twice-a-year harvest of some crops, the provincial party directed each city and county party reporting to it to set up a plan to increase the crop harvest in their respective regions. The secretary of the provincial party in a pep talk said, “Working hard during the remainder of the 150-Day Battle will resolve the food shortage problem and help to make our country stronger.”

[Politics]
Illegal Chinese Mobile Phones Will be Monitored in Sinuiju Throughout the Year
As of July 1st, officials in Sinuiju North Pyongan Province have been enforcing laws on users of illegal Chinese mobile phones and will continue to do so at least until the end of the year. New technology has been purchased in order to conduct the investigation. The wire tapping equipment is capable of intercepting both conversations and text messages. In addition to monitoring Chinese mobile phones, North Korean authorities have decided to supplant them by permitting the use of North Korean mobile phones, beginning October 10th.

Sixty Border Patrol Officers Arrested at the Beginning of the Year, Released on August 15th
Approximately sixty officers of the Border Patrol, who had been arrested at the beginning of the year on charges of assisting people in illegal river-crossing were released on August 15. They had been incarcerated at the Discipline Center of the Defense Security Command in Kumya County, South Hamgyong Province. Roughly half of the officers were dismissed from the Party, terminated from their positions and returned home, while the other half rejoined the army. The latter were mostly guilty of minor crimes or refrained from making contact with South Korea, and more notably offered bribes to the Defense Security Command.

Defense Security Command’s Discipline Center in Kumya County Notorious for Intensive Labor
The Discipline Center of the Defense Security Command in Kumya County, South Hamgyong Province is comprised of seven residential units with approximately three hundred and fifty people in confinement, divided equally per unit. Four units consist of high ranking officers while the other three are made up of sergeants and soldiers. One unit is designated for agricultural labor while the rest are allocated to either construction or mining. Laborers undergo a period of punitive training, after which they are divided into trainees who can be reintegrated and those who will be discharged with disgrace (a criminal, dishonorable discharge). Due to the dangerous nature of mining, those who are expected to be discharged with disgrace are often assigned to work in the mines.
Each work unit is further divided into five sub-teams of ten people. As of March 20th, the trainees’ schedule would begin with a wake up call at 4:30 in the morning. Work began promptly at 6:15 and finished at 12:30 in the afternoon. After a half hour lunch break, they would take a Labor Safety Study course for about an hour , and work would recommence, with workers finally going to bed at midnight. Trainees say that the work is difficult and arduous such that “one month in a Discipline Center of the Defense Security Command is equivalent to seven months in a re-education center.”
Meals are provided three times a day and consist of soybean-paste soup, salted radish, and two hundred grams of steamed rice mixed with powdered corn, which is the residue from draining bean oil with crushed maize. When there is no soybean-paste soup, a seaweed soup in a salted water broth is given. Since adequate nutrition is unavailable, most officers subsist on food sent to them from their families. Visits are permitted once a month and many officers receive 30kgs of Korean-style popcorn from their families. In addition, goods such as diarrhea remedies, cold medicine, or antifebriles are commonly received, and are taken into custody until requested. Unlike the officers, most sergeants and soldiers live alone and do not have frequent visitors. For them, the hunger and hardships are far worse.

[Society]
Weekly Direct Flight Operate Between Pyoungyang-Samjiyeon
Direct flight between Pyongyang- Samjuyeon operations opened for the 150-Day Battle. It operates once every Thursday. Pressmen who travel to report on leadership propaganda business related and policy specifics pay 10,000 NK Won per ride. However, it cost 60,000 NK Won for non-public service travelers. Mainly merchants and businessmen steal a ride on these flights.

Singae County Executed 76 yrs-old Ex-Security Patrol Officer
Last July, the Security Department of Singae County, North Hwanghae Province arrested a former security patrol officer. It was revealed that the arrested former security officer had a role in the Ongjin and Yeonan County South Hwanghae Province Massacre of Civilians during the War Period of 1952. After the war in 1954, he changed his first and last name, lived in Kumya County, South Hamgyong Province, and later in 1981 he was dispatched to Singae County, North Hwanghae Province as a Labor Officer of the Administration Committee. He was then dismissed from the office for being involved in the government commodities theft incident and was living on military laborer social security. The reason he got caught was because of the arrest of a Chinese man hired by his families and relatives in South Korea to locate him. He was arrested immediately after a thorough investigation of his life including his days as a security officer. Although it was hard to interrogate him due to cerebral hemorrhage, he was executed because the crime he committed during the war time made him a “classified enemy”. His two sons, five grandsons and three daughters were sent to a political detention center. However, two daughters in law and sons in law and daughters’ children were not subject to punishment.

The Support Bureau of Seungho District in Pyongyang Replaced their Fuel Oil Management Center with Female Military Force
Fuel Oil Management Fuel Storage Company that is affiliated with the Support Bureau stationed in Lipsuk-dong Seungho District, Pyongyang City recently replaced their guards with female military force. The newly dispatched military force will receive 25 days of training for guard duty regulations and practice methods and will start on September 1. This is due to countless corruption scandals of the Fuel Oil Storage Guards. The Officers at the Support Bureau claimed, “There will be less corruption scandals than men” and decided to alternate their guards to female military force. In fact, the officers secretly taken about 50 tons of fuel oil and additional 50 tons were taken by the sergeants under a tacit consent by officers between 2007 and 2008 alone. Excluding the Company Political Directive Officers, the company commander was replaced three times and the platoon leader was replaced twice during this period. 9 sergeants were discharged to civilian life and other private soldiers were sent to the Defense Security Command Training Center. On July 10, a platoon leader and 2 noncommissioned officers were arrested as the result of the Support Bureau Party Inspection Commission’s inspection. The arrested platoon leader secretly took approximately 18 tons of fuel oil in the past seven month period. The sergeants took over 10 tons of fuel oil. It would be hard for these people to avoid at least 10 years of re-education center. Because it is hard to stop the Fuel Storage Guards from stealing, they have agreed to reorganize and replace all guards to a company made up of female military force.

[Women/Children/Education]
Investigation of Middle School Students Who Watched Adult Videos from South Korea
Oncheon County of South Pyongan Province had a meeting regarding the result of censorship of illegal movies from last May to July 20. One of the remarkable things was that three middle school students were caught by this investigation. These students, 5th graders of the First Middle School, were accused of watching South Korean adult movies. The police examined these students to find out how they obtained the original copies of the South Korean movies and who brought them to school. The police also arrested ten people believed to be involved in the incident. The trader who sold the original copies received an eight-year reeducation sentence, while the ten people who watched the movies were sentenced to a year at the Labor Training Center. In spite of being minors, the middle school students could not avoid this punishment.

Chungjin Kkotjebies Sent to Sariwon Kyemo Elementary School
On August 2, the Chungjin City People’s Assembly of the North Hamgyong Province sent 15 Kkotjebies (homeless children) to Sariwon Kyemo Elementary School in the North Hwanghae Province. Of the 23 Kkotjebies who were arrested from April to July 30, only children nine years old or younger were sent to the school. They worried that if these young children were left in the North Hamgyong Province, they would continue their lives as Kkotjebies. They claimed that an unfamiliar environment would hinder the young Kkotjebis from begging or running away. However, some argued that an unfamiliar environment would not prevent the young Kkotjebeis, who run away from elementary schools because of hunger, from running away. Despite this opposition, the People’s Assembly sent all of the young Kkotjebies to Sariwon in the North Hwanghae Province.

[Accidents]
Soldiers Stealing Corns Beat up the Guards
On August 3rd, an incident occurred where five soldiers from the 82mm Mortar Battalion under the Artillery Leadership Bureau stationed in Ahnjoo County South Pyongan province beat up farm guards when they were caught stealing corn at the nearby Booksong-ri farm. One of the three guards who was beaten by the soldiers lost his vision while the other two were severely injured. The Artillery Leadership Bureau military police arrested the five soldiers after receiving a complaint from the village Party.

Soldiers Punished for stealing and Selling a Laboring Bull
Three soldiers from the 2nd platoon of the guard company that belong to the Air force headquarters were punished for stealing and selling a laboring bull from a nearby farm. On May 20th, the soldiers stole the bull, used it for labor, and killed the bull when the bull could not walk after being injured. They buried the remains of the bull after killing it, but it was discovered by investigators from the military police. The soldier who masterminded the crime received 9 years and the other two received 7 years of incarceration for the serious crime of damaging the military-civilian relationship.

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