GoodFriends: Research Institute For North Korean Society

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North Korea Today No.316 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.]
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[Hot Topics]
Note: Hot Topics of this edition were released earlier as a separate edition.

[Food]
Good Harvest in Onchun County
Decrease in Soil Quality Curtails Productivity in Kosan County Fruit Plantation
Experimental Farming of New Rice Resulted in Poor Production in Haeju City
This Year’s Production of Bean with Two-Crop Farming is Three Times Higher than Last Year’s Production in Jungju City

[Economy]
No Small Changes for New Currency Creates Difficulties to Market Transactions
Service Facilities in Sinuiju Continue Business Using Old Price
In Hoeryong, Merchants Arrested for Selling Rice for 100 Won/Kg
Price Hikes are Uneven in Every City
Rice is not Coming to Market As Price Inspection Begins

[Politics]
Chungjin, Public Execution for Burning Old Currency
Nampo City, Warrants Issued for Motorcyclists who Dispersed Old Currency
Old Currency Discarded in Various Methods
Urgent Arrest of Eight People Who Abandoned Large Sums of Old Money in Hamhung
Hoeryong Security Authority Summons a Man of Wealth with One Hundred Million Old NK Won

[Society]
Kaechun city, Currency Reform Brought Downfall of a Wealthy Family
Residents Criticize Currency Reform Saying "We could've Died Without the Free 'Supporting Money'"
Climbing Food Price Raises Concerns


[Women/Children/Education]
Namhyang Middle School Students Collect Firewood
“No students are permitted outside” due to H1N1 Flu

[Accidents]
A Fight Breaks Out Over Haircut Charge
Seven People Died in Chungjin Within Two days After the National Currency Exchange

_____________________________________________________________
[Hot Topics]
Note: Hot Topics of this edition were released earlier as a separate edition.


[Food]
Good Harvest in Onchun County
The harvest in Onchun County in the South Pyongan Province was better than last year. Farmers worried that the harvest would not be good due to the weather condition and their lack of understanding for the new corn crop. However, the harvest revealed that Onchun County had the most harvest in the South Pyongan Province. The Farm Resource Provision Unit, a Provincial Farming Management Commission’s affiliated organization, supplied extra fertilizer to Onchun County. Because Onchun County is one of the primary suppliers of food, they were provided with ammonium nitrate fertilizer and neutral fertilizer from Heungnam Fertilizer Factory. Officers of the Onchun County Farming Management are thrilled saying, “We were worried that we might not have enough to cover the food shortage, but our harvest is better than last year.” Farmers are also delighted upon hearing this good news.

Decrease in Soil Quality Curtails Productivity in Kosan County Fruit Plantation
Deficient soil condition in Kosan County fruit plantation is causing a decline in the fruit production. To prepare the soil for the apple trees, the General Administration of Fruit Farming ordered the farmers to deposit calcium compound in the soil. Because the soil was becoming acidic, calcium compounds are needed to de-acidify the soil. However, with the calcium compounds not supplied to the farmers, farmers are essentially required to supply the calcium compounds themselves. The farmers are spread thin with the additional task of making the calcium compound on top of farming and maintaining the water supply system. Although they made the calcium compounds and deposited them into the soil in the apple orchard, it did not do much to rejuvenate the soil. Even though they focused their efforts during the 150-Day Battle, it was not enough to improve the quality of the soil. The quality of the calcium compound, yielded out of poor working conditions, was inadequate to improve the quality of the soil. Undeterred by it, the farmers vowed, “We must yield quality calcium compounds to maximize the apple production level.” They also vowed to complete this mission within the 100 days of ‘general combat mobilization.’

Experimental Farming of New Rice Resulted in Poor Production in Haeju City
Following the Policy of the Rice Seed Revolution and two-crop farming by the Provincial Party, the Haeju Provincial Branch of the Department of Agricultural Science, South Hwanghae Province, had conducted a rice grain production research from 2006 until last year. The Branch experimentally grew rice in 30 jungbos (One jungbo is approximately 2.45 acres.) this year after it developed a rice seed appropriate for the weather conditions and soil characteristics of Hwanghae Province. However, on October 29, the rice production was less than expected. When the new rice was developed, it was highly hoped that it would solve the food shortage problem. As a result, the Branch decided to do more research to increase rice production.

This Year’s Production of Bean with Two-Crop Farming is Three Times Higher than Last Year’s Production in Jungju City
Following the instruction from the Department of Agriculture, the Committee of Agricultural Management, Jungju, North Pyongan Province, used two-crop farming by which beans were raised twice a year and corn was grown all year. In the early spring, potatoes were planted, and then bean was chosen as a second crop. In order to increase the crop production, 80% of potatoes or bean seeds and 20% of corn seeds were sowed in every other ridge in the field. Although various experimental crop production methods during the past 2 years had failed, this way of cultivation produced three times higher the amount of the crops this year than last year. Therefore, this method of planting crops will be promoted to all collective farms in Jungju by 2010.
According to the research done by the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Agricultural Science since 2007, Jungju has the most appropriate weather and soil conditions for two-crop farming. Therefore, different ways of growing beans and corn were used. For example, they grew beans all year round or beans in 8 ridges and corn in 2 ridges in a field. After several experimental farming of the crops, the two-crop farming method was productive this year. It is likely that the Department of Agriculture will actively introduce this method of crop-raising to all farms across the nation.
There were efforts of farmers behind the success of this method of growing the crops. They have been suffering from the food shortage since this early spring. Neither many of them nor many of their children could go to work or school. However, they had to pay careful attention to the complex processes of raising the crops - proper sowing, weeding, and fall harvest. Although farmers complained about the complex processes, the officials did not listen to the complaints but only emphasized the spirit of the 150-Day Battle and the 100-Day Battle. Even regarding the crop distribution, farmers only received up to the November food ration. The officials said the rest of food will be distributed after the Year End General Peoples’ Assembly. Farmers said they would wait and see how much food ration they will get from the Assembly after the hard work they put in towards the increased crop production even without eating properly.

[Economy]
No Small Changes for New Currency Creates Difficulties to Market Transactions
In Soonchun in South Pyongan Province, a new rising wholesale market following Pyongsung, the market transactions have considerable difficulties due to the limited circulation of small changes. Buyers try to purchase with 500 won, 1,000 won, and 2,000 won bills at the market while the merchants run out of small changes. Both parties are willing to do business but they have no other option than just being worried.

Service Facilities in Sinuiju Continue Business Using Old Price
State-run stores in Sinuiju, North Pyongan Province sell products at a government-set price, which is disregarded by the residents that it is more expensive than the pre-revaluation rate.
Thus, some sales agents and the customers, who consider the old rate more reasonable, do business at the pre-revaluation rate. In Chungjin, Hoeryong and Onsung in North Hamgyong Province, some state-run stores also bring and sell only marketable products. Sixty percent of the total items are consigned by private merchants, who often had to withdraw the unsold products due to the high price. Ill-supplied, the national stores have lost customers increasingly. Home based business, which process food like corn noodle and fried corn powder with a rice-polishing machine at home, disregard the new price and continue doing business with the old price. They calculate the total price by adding a processing service fee to the old food price.

In Hoeryong, Merchants Arrested for Selling Rice for 100 Won/Kg
In Hoeryong, North Hamgyong Province, the rice price soared overnight from 60 won/kg to 100 won/kg on December 8. The sudden rise put market administration units into regulatory action. Around 4 pm on December 8, market patrols and police officers arrested the merchants who sold one kilogram of rice for 100 won. About 30 kg of rice in total was confiscated.
In the afternoon of December 9, security officers from the city police station and police officers from the district administration office, such as Osan police substation and Sanup police substation, started a joint regulation activity. This intensive regulation was to control the under-the-table price, which does not apply the 100-to-1 rate and is much higher than the pre-revaluation price. The regulation officers directed that “any price exceeding the 100-to-1 rate should be reported immediately” and warned that the intensive regulation will continue until the residents become more familiar with the new price.

Price Hikes are Uneven in Every City
Prices of goods and services in every city are going up unevenly despite the announcement of government-set prices on December 9. In Pyungsung South Pyongan Province, the price of 500g Chinese bean oil was 450 won, but it couldn’t be purchased even at 700 won. The government-set price of a 25kg wheat flour sack is 550 won, but the price went up to 1,000 won on the 13th. Although markets were not open on the 14th in Sinuiju the person-to-person prices show the price of rice (1.5kg) went up from 60 won to 70 won. 500g Chinese bean oil was 480 won, and 25kg of wheat flour in a sack was 750 won.

Rice is not Coming to Market As Price Inspection Begins
On December 8, due to government inspection the price of rice which was as high as 100 won per kg has dropped to 50 won now. Even though the price went down rice is not coming to markets. In Hoeryung the city Party issued an order saying, “Do not spend the new currency and the free money received. You should hold on to the money until the special goods from Pyongyang arrive in our city. Our city is the first one receiving Pyongyang’s special goods thanks to a special consideration of our Beloved Leader. So, spend the money then.” Nevertheless, people are complaining that the government says currency exchange was intended to enhance the quality of life, but it resulted in inordinate price hikes. The residents say, “We don’t know how much of Pyongyang’s special goods will come to our city, but we would be happy if they send us some food.” Currently, with the government control of rice price at 50 won rice merchants are waiting to see, instead of selling, when the new price will be announced and what kind of special goods will come from Pyongyang.

[Politics]
Chungjin, Public Execution for Burning Old Currency
Last December 5, a resident of Suwon 1 Dong was arrested and executed in public at Soonam Market in Chungjin City, North Hamgyong Province. He was charged with burning the old currency. He was arrested on the spot when he burned about 18,500,000 Won which became obsolete due to currency exchange. To prevent any similar incidents, he was publically executed the next day for reactionary activity with no hearing or trial.

Nampo City, Warrants Issued for Motorcyclists who Dispersed Old Currency
On December 4, the Safety Bureau of Nampo City, South Pyungan Province began to look for people on a motorcycle who dispersed old currency like leaflets. They are conducting investigations on those who own a motorcycle and keep old currency instead of turning them in to the government as reserve money. As of December 10, 5 people have been arrested at the spot for throwing off old currency, and they are charged with reactionary act and treason.

Old Currency Discarded in Various Methods
Numerous incidents of people putting old money into a plastic bag or a sandbag and dump it in the water occurred near Sinam District at Chungjin City North Hamgyong Province. Similar such incidents as dumping money bag in the sea, garbage collection area, or sewer are still continuing. After public execution on the 5th, residents who can’t burn money are trying to discard the money in such manners. The police department is conducting patrols everyday but they are unable to stop them. An official described, “I think those who are not happy with currency exchange are expressing their dissatisfaction in these manners.”

Urgent Arrest of Eight People Who Abandoned Large Sums of Old Money in Hamhung
From December 1st to 6th, a police station in Hamhung City, South Hamgyong Province, made an urgent arrest of 8 residents who had abandoned large sums of old money. They were charged with throwing away large amount of old money to sewerages, riversides, public restrooms and dumping grounds. It was declared that abandoning the money that has the portrait of the late President Kim Il-Sung to dumping grounds and restrooms constitutes contempt of authority, and abandoning the money in lieu of placing it in the bank in custody constitutes treason that reflects discontent of the policy of the current government. The Central Party instructed every security authorities that after the announcement of the currency reform, such instances upon discovery must be strictly regulated and punished.

Hoeryong Security Authority Summons a Man of Wealth with One Hundred Million Old NK Won
On December 8th, a wealthy person relinquished one hundred million old NK won to a bank in second district of Mangyangdong, Hoeryong City, North Hamgyong Province. Same day in the morning, officers from the bank went to the civic service office in person, retrieved one hundred million NK won, and issued a deposit certificate from Central Bank. The bank officers appreciated and complimented the sincerity of the man for not throwing away the old money but delivering it to the state. However, shortly after the bank officers left, police officers came in and summoned the wealthy person, to find out how an ordinary resident was able to save money as much as one hundred million NK won.

[Society]
Kaechun city, Currency Reform Brought Downfall of a Wealthy Family
In Kaechun City, many neighbors are showing sympathies for a family whose wealth was lost overnight due to the currency reform. After losing about 76,000,000 NK Won overnight, the man passed away within a few days from the shock. Although his family wanted to give him a funeral, they could not afford it because markets were closed and they only had 2,500 NK Won. The City Party helped the family by allowing additional exchange of 100,000 NK Won of the old currency for the new currency. Nevertheless, it was not enough to give the man a proper funeral. Many neighbors who attended the funeral cried, “The currency reform brought on this tragedy for this family.”
After the funeral, when the bank collected the old currency left in the house, his wife committed suicide by swallowing a big chunk of opium. As the tragic news spread, neighbors said, “Before the currency reform, this family was one of the wealthiest in this area. The currency reform has made them the most miserable one.”

Residents Criticize Currency Reform Saying "We could've Died Without the Free 'Supporting Money'"
Those without much money were not critical of the currency reform. Rather, they thought that everyone, wealthy and poor alike, could have a brand new start at the same starting point. However, as the shortage of goods and inflation continues, people are beginning to criticize the currency reform. The residents in Chaeha City of the Sinuiju County in the North Pyongan Province complain, “We would have died without the supporting money.” They also worry that the currency reform may hurt rather than help the residents. As more people suffer from hunger, the City Party has reduced the price of imported rice to 45 NK Won per kilogram and made available in proportion to the size of the family in addition to corn rations.

Climbing Food Price Raises Concerns
As the inflation continues, many families have been surviving on corn porridge since December 1. Many daily wage earners are saying “Everyday is a matter of life and death.” Since the currency reform, it has been difficult to purchase anything due to the great price increase. Under the currency reform, the price of rice which was 2,000 NK Won in old currency is now as high as 100 NK Won. This means 2,000 NK Won (old currency) per kilogram now sells for 10,000 NK Won (in old currency) per kilogram after the currency reform, a five-fold increase. After compulsory mediation, the price of rice has been reduced to 50 NK Won (new currency) per kilogram, but the price still remains high as it converts to 5,000 NK Won in old currency which is 2.5 times more expensive than before. Similarly, the coal price has gone up, with a bucket of coal which used to cost 500 NK Won is now selling at a price equivalent to 2,500 NK Won in old currency as of December 8. As a result, daily wage earners cannot even dream of purchasing rice and coal. Even if laborers receive their full paychecks, the new currency would be useless if the inflation continues. The residents continue to suffer as the announcement of price adjustment is delayed.

[Women/Children/Education]
Namhyang Middle School Students Collect Firewood
Namhyang Middle School in the Pohang District of Chungjin City in the North Hamgyong Province asked the students to gather firewood to heat the classrooms during winter. The Education Department ordered the schools to have students collect firewood rather than burdening the parents with taxes for classroom heating. The Education Department cannot afford to impose additional burden on the parents, because the number of students attending school has dropped due to other taxes imposed on the parents for the students’ activities. Although the teachers ordered the students to collect firewood from November 26 through 28, more than half of the students refused to participate. The students declared that they would rather pay than collect firewood. Consequently, the school tried to mobilize the students who could not pay. However, because the teachers cannot afford to take only half of the class to collect firewood, the school is having trouble properly heating the classroom. Without firewood, the students continue to study in cold classrooms until the winter break. Meanwhile, the problem of H1N1 flu virus forced the school to start the winter break early on December 4. Many students are glad that they do not have to pay or collect firewood. However, for teachers who covered their living expenses from the taxes collected from the students, the early winter break is not good news.

“No students are permitted outside” due to H1N1 Flu
The department of education issued a notice to all the school in the country to “not call students to school during the vacation” due to the H1N1 flu. Students were strictly prohibited from holding any club meetings. As for the delay in the progress of classes due to the early winter break, the teachers were told to resolve the issue by conducting home visits. The teachers are expected to review the homework and the progress of the students by visiting each student’s home. Furthermore, they were requested to come up with plans to increase the learning ability of the students.

[Accidents]
A Fight Breaks Out Over Haircut Charge
In the afternoon of December 8th, a fight broke out at a barbershop in Hoeryung when soldiers and officers got involved in an argument over haircut charges. The barber asked for 20 Won for two people since the government-set hair cut price per each person is 10 Won, but the soldier and officer claimed it was too expensive and refused to pay. The haircut that would have been 300 Won before the national currency exchange is now raised to the equivalent of 1,000 Won in the old currency. So, they refused to pay for the charge. Eventually, they beat up the barber and left the place.

Seven People Died in Chungjin Within Two days After the National Currency Exchange
In Chungjin, Northern Hamgyong Province, seven people reportedly died of heart attack and other causes within two days after the announcement of the national currency exchange. They are known to be three men and four women. The range of their savings shows the minimum of 48,000,000 Won to the maximum of 95,000,000 Won.

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