GoodFriends: Research Institute For North Korean Society

.

North Korea Today No. 298 October 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.]
_________________________________________________________
[Hot Topics]
Most Wonsan Enterprises Forced to Close Their Doors
6.4 Vehicle Factory in Wonsan Manufactures Doors for Individual Homes instead of Trains
Wonsan Shipyard, Once a Sought-After Employer, Now Struggles with Rusting Machinery
Wonsan Fishery Enterprise Reduced to a Fraction of Former Output

[Food]
Volunteers Urgently Needed for Fall Harvesting in Tongchon County, Kangwon Province
Increasing Absenteeism due to Food Shortage in Farmhouses near Sukwang Temple, Kosan County, Kangwon Province
More than Half of the Residents at Seedling Farm Barely Manage to Live with Corn Porridge

[Economy]
State-Wide Grain Price Increase from September
North Hamgyong Province Provincial Party Orders Severe Punishment for Illegal Trade of Pine Mushroom

[Politics]
Large Gang of Thieves with Connections to the Police Apprehended in Pyongyang
Renewal to the Discarding of Japanese Vehicles

[Society]
Patients in Drug Rehabilitation Center Left Untreated due to Lack of Medication
Government Officials Should Concern Their Relative’s Record to be Promoted

[Women/Children/Education]
Mother Worried about Hospital Expenses Says “I cannot go to hospital for only myself while feeding sons potatoes”
Poor Young Women Work for Day and Night or Marry Chinese Man

[Accidents]
Soldier Loses His Legs While Stealing Corn

_________________________________________________________
[Hot Topic]
Most Wonsan Enterprises Forced to Close Their Doors

The economic situation of most of the enterprises in Wonsan, Kangwon Province has taken a turn for the worst. As the food shortage lingers, an old reputation for prosperity has been replaced with misery. The seriousness of the decline is revealed by absenteeism. The 6.4 Vehicle Factory, the only factory capable of producing cargo trains in the nation, has 8,000 employees on its payroll. Currently, the number of employees reporting to work is less than 1,200. Wonsan shipyard has around 500 employees reporting to work out of 3,000. In the case of the Fishery Enterprise, only 700 report to work out of 2,500.
As these represent the three banner enterprises of Wonsan, other enterprises are in worse shape. Recent completion of the Wonsan Youth Electric Plant has eased electricity problems in the area to some degree. Despite the improvement, only a few factories are in operation, such as the Patriot Textile Factory and Export Textile Factory, which are run by joint management. The other regular factories and enterprises are still not in operation. A simple shortage of raw material caused operation to cease, with the exception of the 8.3 Work Units and units producing daily necessaries. Many residents of Wonsan in the past could make a meager living by wholesaling used items imported from Japan. But in the past few years, Japanese products were banned, which caused a sharp drop in living standards. Residents exchange greetings with worries, saying “The price of grain increases with the coming chilly fall. How can we survive?”

6.4 Vehicle Factory in Wonsan Manufactures Doors for Individual Homes instead of Trains
The 6.4 Vehicle Factory has been manufacturing cargo trains since the days of the Japanese occupation and has more than 6,000 laborers on its payroll. Even in the 1970s and 1980s, its annual production reached 200 to 300 trains. However, with the coming of the 1990s, it has almost suspended operations due to a shortage in raw material and electricity. Naturally, wages and food rations have stopped. Now that laborers have to take care of themselves, they have been trying to find ways to support themselves, causing massive absenteeism. Only around 1,000 workers report to work out of 6,000. The factory used to manufacture a few trains whenever the government provided steel plates. Now, even that has stopped. Instead, the factory repairs those damaged trains transported here or produces daily necessities as 8.3 products. The factory takes orders mainly for doors of individual homes and warehouses, charging around 180,000 to 200,000 NK won per order.

Wonsan Shipyard, Once a Sought-After Employer, Now Struggles with Rusting Machinery
The last ship the Wonsan Shipyard built was the 3,700-ton Ryongnamsan in 1985. Since then, there has been no other production. The shipyard is now primarily involved in the repair of ships rather than construction. Even repair operations present challenges because major machinery, including ship-hauling equipment, has been discarded due to excessive rust. Laborers in heavy industry, such as those at the 6.4 Vehicle Factory and shipyard, find it hard to transfer to other places of employment. In the old days when benefits were good, many people competed to find employment in these factories. Employers had to offer priority to those who finished military service and middle school graduates. These days, there are hardly any applicants and only about 500 laborers report to work in the shipyard out of 3,000.

Wonsan Fishery Enterprise Reduced to a Fraction of Former Output
The Wonsan Fishery Enterprise has 2,500 laborers on its payroll and is not considered a large enterprise along the east coast. The Enterprise is one of three major companies in Wonsan. In the past the Enterprise was doing relatively well because of large catches of flounder. However, since the navy took over the fishery farm, the fishery enterprise has reached the point where it had to cease operations.
The reason for the end of the Fishery Enterprise lies in the method of the naval headquarters’ management. After enlarging operations to catch any and all fish without limitation, flounder numbers have been critically depleted. Additionally, the Daeheung Trade Company allowed Japan fishery rights in the area, causing severe competition with Japanese fishermen. Overseas Fishery was attempted, but failed because of difficulties in facilities investments. Currently, only the No. 9 work unit is in operation, which sends caught fish to Pyongyang. Virtually all the fishing activities of the Fishery Enterprise have come to an end.
The City of Wonsan currently has around 250 ships of different sizes in operation. Mostly of the ships belong to the military, trading companies earning foreign currency, and some wealthy people. Only those organizations or individuals capable of providing fuel can operate fisheries. Throughout Kangwon Province, small vessels with capacities of 8-HP (horse power) and 28-HP are concentrated in the Counties of Tongchun and Gosung. These small vessels are operated by individuals mainly because they require much less fuel to run.


[Food]
Volunteers Urgently Needed for Fall Harvesting in Tongchon County, Kangwon Province
Since April 2009, most of Sindae village households in Tongchon county, Kangwon province have barely managed to live by only eating corn porridge. Those without corn porridge could not even go to work on the farm. Fall harvesting is difficult without the help of volunteers from Wonsan city. For being a poverty stricken area, less than 15 households have a television. Even less households have a fridge (refrigerator). About 4 households have a fridge, but it is useless because there is no electricity.

Increasing Absenteeism due to Food Shortage in Farmhouses near Sukwang Temple, Kosan County, Kangwon Province
Due to food shortage, many households near Sukwang temple, Kosan County, Kangwon Province barely manage to live on porridge at every meal. Because of such dire situation, more than 30% of 300 households could not go to work on the farm. As a reason for their absenteeism, they say that “there is no energy (physical strength) left for them to go to work on the farm.” If asked what they do when they do not go to work on the farm, they reply that they are busy doing various side jobs. To eat porridge, they do everything such as cultivating a patch of field up in the mountain or gathering medicinal herbs and sell them in the market. They pay no attention to farm management council’s propaganda to successfully complete the “150-day battle.” They simply ignore the farm management council’s propaganda because they feel that they are stuck in a dire situation with no hope.

More than Half of the Residents at Seedling Farm Barely Manage to Live with Corn Porridge
There are about 80 households at a seedling farm located in Song-Buk Ri, Yi-Chun County, Kangwon Province and more than half of them barely manage to live with corn porridge. While they usually serve unglutinous rice for friends who come over, they do not even have rice for visiting friends let alone for themselves. The residents complain that they are very likely to die out of malnutrition and starvation. Li Mi-Hye (alias), a farmer at Chae-jong farm, said “Every month we have people die of starvation. So, we don’t have much feeling even at the news of someone’s death in the village. People even think those who died at the hospital for various reasons died because of starvation.”

[Economy]
State-Wide Grain Price Increase from September
Starting this September there has been a sudden increase in grain prices statewide. For example, in Chungjin City, North Hamgyong Province, the cost of rice remained at 1,900 NK won until June then increased to 2,000 NK won in July and there have been signs of gradual increases starting from the end of August. That increase has reached 2,600 NK won by mid-September. The price of corn was 700-800 NK won and then rose to 1,200 NK won now (see table below).

The price of rice is 2,500 NK won and corn prices range from 900-1150 NK won in Onsung and Keoryong. A kilogram of rice is being old at 2,400 NK won and a kilogram of corn at 1,000- 1,100 NK won in Hamheung, South Hamheung Province. In Sariwon, North Hwanghae Province the current rate is 2,200 NK won for a kilogram of rice and 1,000 NK won per kilogram of corn. This is a major increase when looking at the history of Sariwon’s price for a kilogram of rice which was around 1,600-1,800 NK won and corn was around 600-700 NK won.

There had been a tendency for food prices to increase prior to the harvest season. However, the residents explained that this increase in comparison with the spring hardship season is because of food shortages in residential areas. The residents saved some food from the previous year, but they do not have much left now. The lower class residents, including farmers, faced a food crisis during the spring hardship season and other residents who were able to survive through the spring hardship season are now suffering from a food shortage. Lee Jyun-Gae from Chungjin shared her desperate food situation, saying, “There are many who go to the mountain instead of the marketplace because they do not have enough to eat.”


North Hamgyong Province Provincial Party Orders Severe Punishment for Illegal Trade of Pine Mushroom
The Provincial Party of North Hamgyong Province decided to investigate illegal trading activities of pine mushrooms near the border. Officials from the Provincial Public Prosecutors Office and Police are investigating whether trading companies made profit by selling pine mushroom with illegal trade to China. The investigation extends to those who buy pine mushrooms at a higher price when the product is transported to the wholesale market. Grade 1 and grade 2 pine mushrooms from the Chilbosan region are not being transported to the 5th Control Unit Wholesale Market but are being sold to the general public.

Prosecutors warned that they will impose severe punishment on traders, saying, “The inappropriate trade of pine mushrooms is stealing and causing damage to reform funds.” Illegal picking and trading activities of pine mushrooms continues despite the provincial party’s effort to control it. There are many pine mushrooms near the National Security 22th Political Prison Control Center so the residents of Dongpo-ri of Onsung County, North Hamgyong Province do not fear entering the Controlled District to pick pine mushrooms. Some people even cross the electricity wires installed with a wire fence. Three people died from electric shock while crossing the wire fence to pick pine mushrooms between September 3rd and 8th. Yet, many are still caught trying to enter the restricted area.

[Politics]
Large Gang of Thieves with Connections to the Police Apprehended in Pyongyang
A gang of thirty thieves were arrested in the Susung District of Pyongyang City. For the past six years they robbed banks, stores and houses of the wealthy, as well as extorting money and other goods from women passersby. It was disclosed that the involvement of Susung District police enabled them to commit larceny inconspicuously. The police officers of Susung District received bribes on various holidays, as well as gifts during soccer matches. Accordingly, various cases of theft went largely unnoticed. Due to the collusion of the police officers, they too are under investigation. This incident occurred during the 150-day battle while the Pyongyang City Police Station was reopening investigations on unsettled cases.

Renewal to the Discarding of Japanese Vehicles
Recently, a policy to eliminate currently operating Japanese automotives was re-implemented. Originally enforced in 2007, it was immediately dismissed, due to an estimated seventy percent of all vehicles in North Korea originating from Japan. It was rumored amongst officials that the policy was impossible to execute. In June, authorities revived the policy to begin junking Japanese vehicles. This time, a completion date of October 8, 2011 was clearly specified. The expectations are to finish before the gate to the strong and prosperous nation is opened in 2012. Stations No. 1 through 8 of the provincial public prosecutors stations were instructed to thoroughly examine Japanese vehicles in each factory and public enterprise by type and to report their findings. It was repeatedly instructed that with the exception of heavy-duty freight vehicles, every Japanese vehicle such as ten-ton freight vehicles, two-ton pickup trucks, and general passenger vehicles are to be scrapped. The provincial public prosecutors stations in Hyesan City, Ryanggang Province, junked a combined total of seventeen Japanese freight vehicles, twenty-two pickup trucks, and ten passenger vehicles between July and August. The exterior cover of the junk vehicle goes to the shop while accessories go to dealers for their scrap value to be sold in the market. Accordingly, the Central Party extolled the public prosecutors station in Ryanggang Province for exceptional guidance in this undertaking.

[Society]
Patients in Drug Rehabilitation Center Left Untreated due to Lack of Medication

Currently, 90 drug addicted patients were hospitalized from February to September this year in the preventive medicine department of No. 49 medical school hospital located in Hamheung city, South Hamgyong province. The patients--40 male and 50 female--will be soon transferred to the No. 49 drug rehabilitation center in Mt. Jomak in Gohwon County. However, given that the current patients in the center are left untreated due to lack of medication, it is unlikely that the patients will receive specialized treatment. In North Korea this year, it has been reported that more than 70 people died due to the side effect of medication or excessive intake of ice (Amphetamine).

Government Officials Should Concern Their Relative’s Record to be Promoted
A story about an officer who works in the administrative office of a County, Hwanghae province has become the talk of the town. He released his younger cousin from Onsung prison and got him married. The officer was chosen by the administrative office of the provincial party and was sent to the Central party school. He was concerned that his cousin, who had been arrested one year ago, would affect his promotion. This is because he was told that if there is any exile or criminal among the family or relatives of the nominee, he/she could not be selected.
His cousin was arrested 6 years after his escape to China and sentenced for 4 years in prison. He prepared money to release his cousin from the prison and got him married to prevent him from any future illegal act. Returning to his hometown after the wedding, he urged his cousin strongly, “Don’t ever go to China again, if it is difficult for you to make a living, I will help you out”. The residents said, “As the position of the provincial administrative office director guarantees a wealthy living enough to have rice and meat everyday, it would not be difficult for him to support his cousin. He is trying to get promoted because he could earn more than enough money to afford all his family.”

[Women/Children/Education]
Mother Worried about Hospital Expenses Says “I cannot go to hospital for only myself while feeding sons potatoes”

Kwon Myung-Sook (alias) is a young woman in her thirties who lives in North Hamgyong Province, Onsung, Ryongnam-ri. She works at farm with her husband and has three sons.
Mrs. Kwon is concerned about the tumor she has under her armpit from earlier this year. She was told to get it operated when she went to the military hospital. The charge for the operation, however, is 50,000 NK won. She has not gotten the operation yet because her budget is tight even for the operation. According to Mrs. Kwon, if she stayed at hospital, she would need a lot of money to afford boarding charges and each of basic medical goods. For example, before the operation doctors need alcohol, bandages, and injections for the operation, and after the operation, patients should buy drinks, food, and tobacco for doctors to show gratitude about the operation. Moreover, patients must pay for medicine such as glucose and penicillin. When patients leave the hospital, main doctors ask for 10,000 NK won to decorate the room, which is hard for patients to refuse to pay. As she needs money for all hospital processes, before the operation and after leaving the hospital, Mrs. Kwon can’t affords to go to the hospital. Mrs. Kwon said that she could not even dream to go to the hospital because she said, “If the only things to eat are potatoes then how can I make up the money for the whole operation in my circumstance?” She couldn’t go to work at the farm due to her illness, and so she can’t get allotment for the fall season. Mrs. Kwon said “I can’t stop myself from dying, but who is going to look after my children. When I think about it, I wake up during sleep. I’d rather be in debt with someone and go to the hospital, but so far we are in lack of food, so we are just depressed,” and finally she shed tears.

Poor Young Women Work for Day and Night or Marry Chinese Man
Kim Eun-Hee (20) living in North Hamgyong Province works as a nighttime task leader. She goes to work at 9 PM and leaves the office at 9 AM. Because of her nighttime job, she should be resting but she prepares noodles as soon as she arrives at home. At 10 AM, she loads up a bike with 40kg of noodles which she received the day before, and goes to Chungjin suburbs to sell noodles to each house. She cannot even sleep a wink, yet she works harder, and then earns money for her meals. Like Ms. Kim, many women, whether they are married or not, run all the way around to make their family living. Sometimes if they face unbearable hardship, they go to China illegally. In 2001, Kim Hye-Young (alias) was married to a Chinese man who managed an orchard at a farm near Liaoning Sheng, Shenyang city in China. Having lived together for a few years, they could communicate with one another better, had a son, and then had a happy life. When Mrs. Kim was arrested by the Chinese police, the police forced her to repatriate and their small happiness had ended. Now, she lives at her hometown and recovering after serving her sentence at a reeducation center, but she often sheds tears because she misses her son. For destitute young women to survive, the only options they have are either to work for the whole day without sleeping, sell their body, or marry Chinese man. Neighbors sympathize that’s the kind of world they live in and feel sorry for them.

[Accidents]
Soldier Loses His Legs While Stealing Corn

A soldier serving in Chulwon County in Kangwon providence lost his legs while attempting to run away from a farm after stealing corn. The farmers had installed sharp fences to catch wild boars which mess up the farm ruining the crops. However, one soldier ended up getting injured by them. Although he went to a hospital right away the poison was already spread to the leg. So, the doctor claimed it was better for him to amputate his leg than deal with the aftermath of the lead poison. A soldier lost his leg for some corn. Despite this tragic accident, he will not be eligible for honorable discharge because the accident did not occur during his military duty.

1 comment:

Alex said...

I think japanese vehicles manufacture company bear this loss!

There was an error in this gadget