GoodFriends: Research Institute For North Korean Society

.

North Korea Today No.306 December 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]

[North-Western District United Coal Mines] Poor Working Conditions, Depressed Morale, and Low Productivity
Commendation and Gifts Awarded To Mines That Achieved Planned Production
Decreasing Enrollment in Kindergarten Despite Exemption of Extraneous Monetary Burden
Coalmine Women’s Union Tighten Control of Women Peddlers
A Coalminer’s Descendents Destined to Become Coalminer for Generations

[Food]
After Regular Ration Distribution, Longshoremen in Nampo Port Content in their Jobs
“This is the worst harvest year,” Disappointing Bean Harvest in Sonchon County
Ganggye Farm Faces Difficulty Transporting Harvested Crops due to Lack of Transportation
Rich Harvest along the Railroad between Sinuiju and Pyungyang

[Economy]
Illegal Selling of Construction Materials due to Shortage of Food and Supplies at Urang River Hydroelectric Dam
Frequent Theft of Railroad Sleepers in Baikam Railway Branch


[Politics]
Although the Government Can’t Feed You Due to Circumstances, You Must Work Hard

[Society]
The Ways Gilju Residents Survive
Officials Take New Housing in Haeju

[Women/Children/Education]
Kim Chaek Engineering University, Becoming Young Heroes During 100-days of Preparing for the War
Tough Competition to Enter the School of Pharmacy in Hamheung
Forty Percent of Pharmacy College Students are Involved in Manufacturing Drugs in Hamheung

[Accidents]
Crane Malfunctions at Songlim Port
_____________________________________________________________________________________
[Hot Topics]

[North-Western District United Coal Mines] Poor Working Conditions, Depressed Morale, and Low Productivity
The mines of the North-Western District United Coal Mines, South Pyongan Province are suffering from low level of output and production productivity which cannot be restored to the normal level. The Party Committee of the United Coal Mines dispatched during the 150-Day Battle officials to each mine to boost morale and productivity. However, output at the end of the second quarter turned out so low that all the efforts wrapped around the slogan, “Let Us All Be Victorious” proved futile. At the beginning of the 100-Day Battle, party officials visited the coal mines of the districts of Soonchun, Dukchun and Bookchang and held meetings with the local officials to solve the problems. These meetings revealed that facility maintenance and securing human resources were the most imminent issues. Since last May the Youth Coal Mine of Soonchun District made a request of 200 new coal cars, but it was turned down. The rationale for refusal was that the main reasons for the many coal car accidents were the uneven foundation of the trails and the rails and it is the uneven foundation needed to be fixed. The Youth Coal Mine protested that “We don’t have the fund to fix the foundation of the trails and the rails. We have only a few usable coal cars.” Most of the coal cars are beyond repair. While coal gets transported on coal cars, not a single day goes by without experiencing derailed coal cars. Restoring each derail incident requires, at least, one to two hours. Many hours spent on restoration will cause reduction in the production of coal. Consequently, officials at the Soonchun District concluded that replacement of old coal cars was the only option. The coal mine officials complain that criticisms they receive for low production are unfair because of “such poor working conditions.” Once in a while, words go around that, “The situations around here are so pitiful that laborers now are experiencing worse situations than those under Japanese rule in 1930s.”
Under these circumstances, it would be only natural to expect low morale on the part of miners. They seem to be waiting only for rest breaks and lunch hours. Some miners revealed their “uneasy” feelings to the party officials dispatched to the sites on the occasion of the 100-Day Battle. The miners are wondering how the visiting party officials for site counsels would understand the miserable conditions the miners go through when no party officials come into the pit themselves.

Commendation and Gifts Awarded To Mines That Achieved Planned Production
While most of the coal mines of North West District have produced less than the target production level, there are some coal mines that achieved the level, and these mines were commended and gifts were awarded to these mines. The results of management assessment at the end of 150-Day Battle, which examined production output and miners’ absenteeism, etc, showed that the Fourth Youth Pit Platoon of Coal Mine of Soonchun District achieved the best performance. The Fourth Youth Pit Platoon has been known to perform expeditiously in excavating and blasting projects. This mine has been used as a model mine in movies and on TV for propagandas purposes. Accordingly, this mine has been provided with better facilities, food rations and other amenities in comparison to other mines. At this time, the mine has bee awarded with a special meal and two bottles of liquor for each miner, even though the awards in the past are considered better.

Before the days of Arduous March, everyone could get a meal of high nutrition, specially prepared at the nutrition cafeteria every day at the end of the shift. In addition, each miner was provided 3.2 Kg of pork, 2.4 Kg of sugar, 15 eggs, 1.5 liter of liquor and 1.2 Kg of various herbs for health every month. However, since 1995, these provisions have been either disappearing or reduced. Now even the food rations for families have stopped. Each miner gets 11 Kg of rice, 4 Kg of corn and 8,000 NKW as monthly wages. They receive better food rations and a little higher wages than the other ordinary laborers. Nevertheless, this level of compensation is not good enough to evade miserable livelihood without small plot farming or commercial activities. Mines are located in remote mountainous area, which provides poor conditions for small plot farming and any commercial activities.

Decreasing Enrollment in Kindergarten Despite Exemption of Extraneous Monetary Burden
Nurseries and kindergartens in the laborers district of coal mines are concerned with reduced enrollment. Up until last November, they could afford, at least, to provide a meal a day to the children, but beginning last February, they had to stop it. Parents of the children who cannot afford to bring lunches to the kindergartens do not send their children. Nurseries and kindergartens provide only soups to children who brought rice for lunch. They provide three locally produced cookies to children. These cookies are paid for by the fund provided for children by each parent, 1,200 NKW a month. Any extraneous expenses are not imposed on the parents under the pretext of school beautification, etc. This kind of expenses is covered by the fund from the small plot farming or extra work of the laborers and teachers of the kindergartens. Even these kinds of efforts are not useful to keep the enrollment from falling. Wives responsible, instead of husbands working in the mine, for providing for the children leave for distant places for commercial activities normally ask their relatives to take care of the children.

Coalmine Women’s Union Tighten Control of Women Peddlers
The Coalmine Enterprises in the northwest are located in a place where small patch farming is not very successful. As a result, many women travel long-distance to peddle. The Coalmine Women’s Union issued an order to “Strengthen the systematic control and to reemphasize the role for the women who peddle without reporting to the organization.” Because the circumstances are not right for businesses, many women are gone for long periods of time once they leave home. As such, both the women and their families experience difficulties. Nevertheless, many women leave home to peddle because there are not many other ways to make a living. Despite these hardships, the authorities continue to tighten their control on the women’s behavior, rather than providing real solutions.

A Coalminer’s Descendents Destined to Become Coalminer for Generations
Just like farmers, it is difficult for coalminers to change their occupation. Once someone in the family becomes a coalminer, his descendents are destined to become coalminers for generations. Many of them do not have good socioeconomic and class background. In 1967, in Soonchun area in the South Pyongan Province, there was a mass migration of ‘impure class’ from Pyongyang, Kaesong and the South Hwanghae Province. Many were families of those who were executed during the Korean War. Others were people who have families in South Korea or whose families were captured while trying to escape to South Korea. They were classified as lacking good socioeconomic and class background and sent to the mines, where about 70 to 80% of such people make up the coalminers. No matter how hard they work, it is difficult to become a party member and it is difficult for their children to join the military. Once in a while, some of their children are allowed to join the military, but they are assigned to a difficult unit such as construction force. Some young men try to remain as military laborers because they do not want to return to the mines. As such tendencies grew, the Party issued an order in May 2007 stating, “when their military service is done, send those who lack good socioeconomic and class background to work in the mines in their hometown and not to the Coal College, regardless of how well they served in the military.”

[Food]
After Regular Ration Distribution, Longshoremen in Nampo Port Content in their Jobs
The longshoremen who work in the Port of Nampo in South Pyongan Province do not worry about the distribution of rations. The longshoremen have already received rations for themselves and for their family members in their entirety since January. Imported corn was distributed between January and March, a mixture of thirty percent corn and seventy percent rice was distributed among the workers from March to the end of June. In addition, people received their entire ration in rice from July to October. Even though the monthly wage is rarely paid on time, authorities distribute rations punctually, so laborers are generally satisfied. As Nampo Port is the gateway which is open to foreigners, uniforms and meals for the laborers have been prepared very carefully. On the 29th of every month, special supplies of granulated sugar, bean oil, and flour are provided in portions of 2 kilograms per person during the work planning meeting. Sometimes, units that have performed well may take up to 5 kilograms. Occasionally it comes to light that goods such as granulated sugar or flour have been stolen during loading. Approximately 20 people were caught stealing during the first quarter of this year, all of them were fired. The laborers who were fired missed their job tremendously.

“This is the worst harvest year,” Disappointing Bean Harvest in Sonchon County
“This year’s harvest is the worst harvest that we have seen yet. We are already beginning to worry about how to survive next year,” say the farmers in Sonchon County, North Pyongan Province. Sonchon County concentrated its efforts more on bean farming than other crops this year because last year’s bean yields were 1.3 times more than the previous year. Officers from the Armed Forces Party have frequently expounded on the importance of the Party’s bean farming policy to farmers, encouraging them to be successful in their bean farming. The Farm Management Council and the Committee of the Armed Forces Party instructed every factory and public enterprises in the region of Sonchon County to provide active support. Accordingly, factories and public enterprises have provided labor to the farms. Each household has gathered one ton of human excrement and the waste from chickens, dogs, rabbits and goats. But it has not been easy to gather an amount as large as one ton. Residents frequently offered money to team leaders or supervisors of a farm in order to forge a certificate claiming that the household had already fulfilled its obligation. The quality of the compost was problematic as well. Since the task has been repeated every year, residents lost their willingness to contribute compost. Producing the compost has also become more costly. For these reasons, the fertilizer issue, which is crucial to farming, has not been resolved. Moreover, there have been additional weather problems. There was a drought during the period when bean flowers bloomed and the bean pods grew heavy. The harvest turned out to be smaller than it had been in the first half of last year because few beans appeared and many failed to ripen. Since the small bean harvest has come after high expectations, farmers are saying that they have never seen a harvest worse than the one this year.

Ganggye Farm Faces Difficulty Transporting Harvested Crops due to Lack of Transportation
As the 100-Day Battle started, Ganggye City, Jagang Province, urges its cooperative farms not to waste even a grain while transporting the harvest, but the farms are experiencing problems with the means of transportation. It's not easy to find any vehicle to transport grains. They have mobilized handcarts or oxcarts but many of them are often broken or flat tired and not useful. The officials emphasize that "if you set your mind to it, there's nothing you cannot do. Prepared with the resolution and psychological readiness, let's all participate in the fall harvest." The farmers listen but they say, "It can't be done" as they turn around. However, the farmers are very enthusiastic about transporting the grain harvested from the small patch field. The farmers' consensus is that, "When it's certain that these grains will go into our own mouth, we are motivated. No one wants to do the (cooperative) farm work as if it's their own because even if you do the work there is little distribution."

Rich Harvest along the Railroad between Sinuiju and Pyungyang
While a poor harvest is forecasted for the whole country, a rich harvest is expected along the area of railroad tracts between Sinuiju and Pyongyang. It is because there had been an instruction from the Party that plenty fertilizers and all other means should be applied to the field along the railroad to make the crop bountiful. It was intended to impress the passengers of international train that operates every other day. North Korean people say that, "You cannot tell the food situation in the country by just looking at this (crops along the railroad). If you say this year's harvest is good after looking at it, that’s wrong."

[Economy]
Illegal Selling of Construction Materials due to Shortage of Food and Supplies at Urang River Hydroelectric Dam
As the intensity of construction laboring in Urang River Hydroelectric Dam, North Hamgyong Province has increased, laborers are sneaking out construction materials more frequently. “Although laborers become weaker as they work for more than 12 hours a day, food and supplies are always insufficient. Consequently, we had to feed ourselves by selling the materials,” laborers said. The People’s Committee of North Hamgyong Province carried 40 tons of potatoes from Daehongdahn farm and distributed 2,500kg of them to each special labor brigade.
The Construction Supervision Department of the province gathers the leaders of Special Labor Brigade of several areas and political directive officers to have a meeting once a week when the department checks the present status of supporting supplies provided by cities and counties. When problems entail with provision of supplies, the department would demand the County and City Party, and the Administration Department to rectify the problems. When they do not comply with the demand, the department would criticize the chief secretaries from all cities and counties publicly in the meeting of the Province Party. The department tries to “guarantee both the quality and the quantity of construction materials and provide the stable supporting materials,” but laborers still need more supplies. Laborers sell cement or an iron reinforcing rod not only for food but also for their drinks to get over the hardships of workplace.

Frequent Theft of Railroad Sleepers in Baikam Railway Branch
The Baikam Railway Branch, Ryanggang Province, is focusing on the transportation of railroad sleepers during the 100-Day Battle period. It was because there had been an instruction that "all railway workers and transportation warriors should mobilize themselves to transport railroad sleepers to the coal mines." The branch dispatched an instructor to every station to make the operation efficient and to check the daily status. However, the sleepers are frequently lost or stolen because the railway workers are secretly removing the sleepers that came to the station. As the amount of loss increases the railroad investigation office investigated the station workers numerous times. The railway workers explain the cause for continuous thefts: "How could they insist on the orders from the upper echelon without any regard to the workers' living situation? We often don't eat even twice a day. Don't we have to live even if we have to steal and sell the sleepers?" They know that once caught of stealing they will be sent to the labor camp but as their livelihood depends on it, the theft accidents continue to occur. There are other problems in the process of transportation such as the decreased amount of sleepers needed at the coal mines, not enough number of towing trucks, and the frequent breakdown of locomotives.

[Politics]
Although the Government Can’t Feed You Due to Circumstances, You Must Work Hard
The Central Party claimed, “We have successfully accomplished a strong political ideological nation, a strong military nation, a fortress of scientific technology through the Military First Policy. Now if we reach the goal of Strong Economic Nation, we will be able to open the doors to the Strong and Prosperous Nation. We must make this year the transition point towards opening doors to the strong nation so that we could celebrate the 100th year anniversary of the birth of Kim Il-sung, the Great Leader, in 2012. This year, from all fronts and sections, marching along the battle motto presented by the Party, we must engage in the war of Party-wide offensive, nationwide mobilization, and people-wide combat. The motto, created for the150-Day Battle, is the message for the 10,000,000 people to work harder. Corresponding to the battle motto, (we must) mobilize the potential power and the mental power of the whole nation to build the economic power. Even if the government cannot provide food due to its circumstance, (everyone) must work in their own field, without dissent." This is the message delivered to all sectors to encourage the participation in 100-Day Battle.
In addition, it says that, "All citizens need to fully participate, with the spirit of absolute dedication to success, in their duty to the Party and to build the strong nation so that they can be praised by the descendants." This means that people should follow the General's leadership in the 100-Day Battle in the same strength as they did in the 150-day Battle. The residents at the lecture hall criticized and complained that, “They are ordering us to work hard even if the Chosun Labor Party does not pay you or feed you. Isn’t it true that they are claiming that the country is poor and busy but they still want us to work 150-Days or 100-Days Battle? This is a typical method used by the Party to silence everyone’s opinion.” Since they worked so hard during the 150-Day Battle, people are not working much for 100-Day Battle. From 1995 to 1997 many people died of starvation, and even now (the government) uses country's circumstance (as an excuse) and offers the fantasy of strong and prosperous nation. There is control and surveillance of the residents, exploitation of the laborers, food problem, and yet the Party wants us to work -- does it make sense? One day it's going to fail. Those in higher ranks don’t seem to listen to people’s resentful cry.”

[Society]
The Ways Gilju Residents Survive
Seo, Choong-hwan (alias) who engages in a Daligi business (i.e., purchasing products in one place and selling them in another place to make a profit) between Gilju County and Hyesan, North Hamgyong Province, speaks flatly that running a business is the only way Gilju residents survive. As Mr. Seo said, although there might be a slight difference among the residents in Gilju County regarding how they make their living, most of them run businesses in the market. The residents who barely manage to eke out a living make food every day to sell in the market. They also go to the station at night to find travelers who did not find accommodations, and take them to their house to provide accommodations. The police station found the residents and levied a fine on them, but they continue to run this illegal business. There are government-run inns for travelers, but they do not provide any heat or blankets in the winter, so travelers do not want to stay at them. Thus, these inns have gradually disappeared and are now used for enterprise offices. Because Gilju Youth Station is a junction to Hyesan, Ryanggang Province, many trains stop at and many travelers use this station. The residents frequently ask the information desk about the train schedule and put rice, food and alcoholic beverages in their portable carrier to sell. Railroad inspectors, officials and staff of the station prohibit them from selling the items, but they manage to sell them inconspicuously.

Residents with extra money build a small 10-pyong house (1 pyong = 3.954 square yard) beside their storage or house to sell various items. This house is called a ‘Maedae’ house where they sell alcoholic beverages, cigarettes, snacks, and all kind of life necessities that they purchased in the market or from brokers. The main customers are neighbors or nearby factory workers. Factory workers sometimes come to the house to sell some factory-manufactured items, which they stole from the factories, cheaper than the market price. Maedae houses near rural areas purchase the grains that farm workers steal to make food. The good selling items are bread, meat ball with rice, rice cake, alcoholic beverages, candies, and snacks. Although the People's Commissariat Assembly and the law enforcement agencies have cracked down on the Maedae houses, they often overlook the illegal business after taking bribes. However, they sometimes crack down on the houses to show they still control the houses.

Officials Take New Housing in Haeju
The city of Haeju in the South Hwanghae Province started constructing new houses in a large scale in 2002. Since then, powerful and wealthy agencies, enterprises and individuals began to swarm in as import business of raw materials and fishery trade developed in the Haeju port. During the 7 year planning period (1987 – 1993), a plan to construct a 100,000 kw thermal power plant was proposed. Although shortage of funds after the foundation work left the construction unfinished, the plan to build the power plant raised the expectation that Haeju City will continue to develop. Furthermore, the abundance of short-necked clams and shellfish in Haeju City resulted in the growth of trading companies doing business with China. As Haeju City Port developed into an international port, the wealthy began to move in to the area and new homes were built for them. Although some complained that the houses were too luxurious, wealthy individuals and officials moved into those places, while retired soldiers or recipients of national pension for their contribution to the country moved into the older homes once occupied by the wealthy individuals and officials. Recently, 30 units of four-bedroom, 245 square yard apartments were constructed. The land was acquired through the cooperation with the City Management Housing Authority and the down payment of 3 million NKW was collected from those waiting to move in. The money was used to begin the construction of the apartment. However, only basic construction work was finished for 15 units while the remaining 15 units were sold for 3.7 million NK won each. The city conferred the sales right of five units to the construction management office and the remaining 10 units were managed by the city. The City Management Department allocated 4 units to the officials of the City Party, Province Party and the government office. The next priority recipients were descendents of retired soldiers or those killed in action. The people who moved into the new homes are mostly officials of enterprises, and only one or two laborers receive new homes every year for propaganda purposes.

[Women/Children/Education]
Kim Chaek Engineering University, Becoming Young Heroes During 100 days of Preparing for the War
At the Youth Unity Committee in Kim Chaek Engineering University, college students came together to strengthen the nation’s image. This meeting included 100 days of intense training in construction in an attempt to advance the nation’s science development programs. During the 100 days of battle preparation, the students are looking to improve their knowledge and skill to contribute to growing the nation. Conclusively, the theme was for all students to aspire to become young heroes. After the meeting, the students at Kim Chaek Engineering University decided to send a group of three students to the Hee Chun Development Center each week. Although the authorities want intelligent and skillful students, the school boards are targeting students with no prominent background or family prestige. Each grade decided to collect 5,000 NK Won for the students helping out at the Hee Chun Development Center.

Tough Competition to Enter the School of Pharmacy in Hamheung
The college of pharmacy in Hamheung, South Hamgyong Province, is a nationally known school and popular among female students. The reason for its popularity is because students will be assigned to a hospital or a pharmacy after graduation where they can work comfortably. Because the number of applicants has been increasing every year, it becomes more difficult to get into the school. Veterans are admitted unless there are any specific reasons for their disqualification. It is more advantageous for rich middle school graduates to be admitted because, starting from the entrance exam to the admission letter, it will cost more than 600,000 NK Won per applicant.

Forty Percent of Pharmacy College Students are Involved in Manufacturing Drugs in Hamheung
According to the Police Station in South Hamgyong Province, forty percent of pharmacy college students manufacture various kinds of drugs including methamphetamine (philopon). They also sell the drugs and sometimes even take the drugs as well. Three juniors were arrested for manufacturing and selling methamphetamine (philopon) from last October to this August. The students handled 9kg of methamphetamine (philopon). The faculties who received money from the students and excused their long absences were fired and sent to work as miners.

[Accidents]
Crane Malfunctions at Songlim Port
On October 25th, a crane bent at Songlim Port in South Pyongan Province. This accident was caused by insufficient inspection of the machine by the Machine Managing officers. The crane curved while materials were being transported to Hwanghae Iron Mill. The jack, which was needed to lift the problematic parts of the crane, was not available at the port. Therefore, significant time was lost to bring the jack to the port from the Iron Mill, delaying the shipment delivery to a factory from China. Because the repair took three days instead of 20 hours, the port had to pay the detention of a ship (DEM) charged by the Chinese shipping company. As a result, two machine managing workers were arrested.

No comments:

There was an error in this gadget