GoodFriends: Research Institute For North Korean Society

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North Korea Today No.274

RESEARCH INSTITUTE FOR NORTH KOREAN SOCIETY
http://www.goodfriends.or.kr
[Weekely Newsletter] No.274 April 2009

[“Good Friends” desires to help the North Korean people through humanistic point of view, and publishes “North Korea Today” describing the way the North Korean people live as real as possible. We at Good Friends also hope to be a bridge between the North Korean people and the world.]

[Hot Topics]
Life as a Kkotjebi after Getting Injured at the Factory
Tale of a Disabled Family
“My Saddest Regret: I Could Not Offer Even a Bowl of Warm Rice to My Mother and My Sister”

[Food]
Central Party Repeats, “Hang in There with Patience.”
Monthly Food Rations of Gangdong County Mining Enterprise Cover Only Fifteen Days

[Economy]
Shortage of Applicants for The Shock Troop Brigade at Urang Hydropower Plant
Manure Collection, a Struggle Every Morning in the Northern Pyongan Province
Yeonan County of South Hwanghae Province Devoted to Securing Heukbosan Fertilizer

[Politics]
500,000 NK Won Bribed to Avoid Punishment for Watching Illegal Media
Kaechun City, Six Economic criminals Sent to Public Trial

[Society]
Chicken Factory Workers in Kusung City Pressured to Sacrifice All Corn in Advance of the 4.15 Holiday
Unrest Caused by Soldiers Unable to Pay Off Their Debts

[Women/Children/Education]
500,000 NK Won Will Buy Admission to Kyungsung Professional Medical School
Students Associate Only with Those in Their Own Economic Status Level
Haeju City Gives Textbooks Only to Students Who Do Well
Hyesan City Allowed Kkotjebi (Homeless) Children from Other Locations to Go to Secondary School

[Accidents]
Train’s Turnover in Ryanggang Province Causes the Loss of 28 Tons of Diesel Fuel
In Onsung County, Sharp Increase in Suicide Cases

[Commentary]
Ensuring the Right to Survive and the Protection of the Disabled

[Investigative Report]
[Correspondence from Sinuiju] “Purchase of Alcohol on Credit? You’ve Got to Wait for Payment”

_________________________________________________________
[Hot Topics]
Life as a Kkotjebi after Getting Injured at the Factory
Since Kim Soon-nyu (40s) of Dukheung-dong in the City of Danchun, South Hamgyong Province lost her husband to a heart attack long ago, she has been surviving with her daughter as a Kkotjebi. Ms. Kim was not a housewife, but has been working as a laborer at a timber-processing mill. Toward the end of March last year, a work-related accident involving an industrial saw caused one of her wrists to be amputated. Even though she was awarded a small sum of money as compensation for the accident, the amount was not enough for her to maintain her standard of living. She had to quit the factory to find her way elsewhere.
Ms. Kim said, “I ended up wandering around because I could not make a living. I begged for meager meals. It was a life of bare subsistence, a struggle for survival. My clothes turned into rags. I kept begging with my five-year-old daughter, wandering around all over.” She cried when she continued, “I did not realize that the lack of a wrist would cause such a scary handicap. I am really worried about my daughter. She is not physically growing in size now. She has more days when she does not eat than days when she does. She needs all the nutrition she can get to grow up. I am willing to donate my remaining wrist if that helps to get the care she needs.”

Tale of a Disabled Family
Miss Jang Gyonghee of Naemoon-dong in the City of Danchun, South Hamgyong Province, is ten years old, but she looks like only six or seven years old. That is because she did not physically grow in size due to long-lasting malnutrition. Attending school should be her only responsibility right now. But her main task these days is to wander around and beg for food. Her father is visually impaired. Her mother had her right arm disabled at work and cannot make a living. With no parent able to make money, the family has become homeless, moving around and begging for food to survive.
Residents are amazed that even when other healthy families have a hard time surviving, this physically challenged family of three is surviving without any help from others. Even many healthy people cannot hold families together and lose their lives to starvation. It is just amazing that this little child leads her family of three and can survive without any outside help. The sight of the little child leading her father wandering around and begging for food evokes a lot of sympathy, yet there are not that many people willing to help them. The little girl and her mother take different routes from each other while begging. In the evening, the family gets together at a predetermined place, where they must then find a place to sleep. This has been the pattern of their survival, until one day her mother did not return. While the little girl kept looking for her mother, her father collapsed and died. All these things happened together, one after the other. She got help from other village residents and could bury her father. But as she continued to wait for her mother to return, she could not leave the village. Miss Jang Gyong-hee is still waiting for her mother and surviving as a Kkotjebi.

“My Saddest Regret: I Could Not Offer Even a Bowl of Warm Rice to My Mother and My Sister”
Kim Gil-soo (40s) of Haean 2 Dong in the City of Danchun, South Hamgyong Province had a family of six. His mother was over seventy and his sister, a victim of polio as a little girl, could not move around and had to stay inside the house. The only way they could be outside the house was if he carried each one on his back or in his arms. His wife peddles at the market, but the business is not good, and most of the days they go hungry. During last spring when there was a severe shortage of food, worse than any other year, his mother collapsed and died. His sister followed her mother and died less than a month later. Kim’s eyes filled with tears as he said, “I could not offer even a bowl of warm rice.” He continued, trying to hold back tears, “I feel so sorry about my sister. She couldn’t even stand up. She could not go out and take a look at the world. Had I known that she would leave so soon, I would have borrowed some money to get a bowl of warm white rice. I feel so powerless and incapable. How can I ask for forgiveness from my late sister, my late father and my late mother? If my sister were born again, I wish she would never go hungry again, could run around as she pleases and meet a nice fellow to marry.”

[Food]
Central Party Repeats, “Hang in There with Patience.”
The lime fertilizer factory of Soonchun, in the South Pyongan Province, has announced the planned resumption of food rations in April. Factory authorities that had suspended food rations thus far said that, beginning in April, they would supply a fifteen-day portion of whole corn and wheat. The Central Party has kept dispatching workers to guide the fertilizer production and has shown great interest in the increased production of fertilizer. However, even its extreme concern does not help solve the problem. According to one worker at the factory, “Leaders from the Ministry of Agriculture visit the factory often and have discussions with the factory workers. The factory workers repeat that the situation at the factory is in such dire shape that factory management is so difficult. The visiting leaders do not seem to care about the living conditions of the factory laborers, but insist that the state cannot help the situation due to the poor conditions in the nation. They simply repeat, ‘Hang in there with patience.’ How could you expect to improve the living conditions of the laborers, then?” Presently, there are about five people per unit absent from work because of the food shortage.

Monthly Food Rations of Gangdong County Mining Enterprise Cover Only Fifteen Days
Between January and March, monthly food rations of the Gangdong County Mining Enterprise covered only fifteen days. This obviously is not enough, so more miners have been absent from work. In comparison with February, this March saw three to five more absentees in each platoon. Platoon leaders say, “Work assignment is difficult because of absenteeism, and consequently absenteeism affects the production of coal.” Mine staff workers once again passed a resolution to carry out the New Year’s Combined Editorial. They also had a discussion on how to expand the production pits in the new section of the mine. Accordingly, new technical platoons were to be assigned, but higher absenteeism caused by the food shortage has substantially affected the production level.

[Economy]
Shortage of Applicants for The Shock Troop Brigade at Urang Hydropower Plant
Urang hydropower plant has been advertising nationwide for applicants for the shock troop brigade but the shortage of applicants is a problem to every local enterprise. Some factories and enterprises in Chungjin, North Hamgyong Province have raised up the brigade under the condition of 100,000 NK won of payment for three months of service but some of them do not complete the service. Eight people ran away in March from the managing troop and platoon of Chungjin shock troop brigade. Four of them went back home without permission of a manager because no successor came for the rotation. Choi Myung-duk (alias, age 40s) who came back from construction site said, “The work (of the construction site) was too busy for the workers to endure. They make us work like inmate laborers at the Training Center.” As this news spread out, increasing number of people do not want to go to work for the powerhouse site mobilization. The workers of the labor mobilization department strongly encourage people to participate at the mobilization, saying applying for the construction site means making 300,000 NK won.
None of the workers at Chungam revolution-historic site managing office wanted to go for the mobilization. So, they decided to assign the lower lever workers first. They will rotate for the shock troop brigade every two month and will collect 150,000 NK won paid to the workers who are dispatched to the troop brigade. Similar to this case, many places gather the applicants with the collected money but it does not work well. The female troop brigade of Hyesan, Ryanggang Province, who had planed to leave for Urang hydropower plant did not leave on time because the supporting money was not collected even up to one third of what it is supposed to be. The members of the Democratic Women’s Union resisted giving money, saying that when they do not have money for food, how can they raise money for supporting.

Manure Collection, a Struggle Every Morning in the Northern Pyongan Province
As one of the agricultural support projects, the People’s Provincial Committee in the Northern Pyongan Province has instructed each city and county to collect farmyard manure. Thus, the Neighborhood Units in Jungju, Yumju County, Sakju County, and other cities and counties in each Province are hustling to collect manure every morning. The heads of the Units use loudspeakers to pester the households that don’t collect manure. In addition, since factories, Public Enterprises, schools, and hospitals also request manure, each household has to provide manure two or three times. In Dukchun, Southern Pyongan Province, the City Party and City People Committee has commanded each factory, public enterprise, and unit to collect manure on a large scale. Each worker is required to provide almost 700 kilograms of manure. In each city, the manure collectors collect manure after measuring the weight of it and then issue a proof for it.

Yeonan County of South Hwanghae Province Devoted to Securing Heukbosan Fertilizer
Yeonan County of South Hwanghae Province concentrates extensively on securing Haukbosan fertilizer. Workers of the County Party, the Executive, and the farming administration let DWU (Democratic Women’s Union) and labors go out to ‘peat production-war’ according to the production plan of Heukbosan fertilizer, saying, “My County, cultivate the soil well this year in order to resolve our food shortage problem so that we can continue in our self-sufficiency. The biggest issue this year is the need for fertilizer.” As a result, peat production reached about three million ton. On the one hand, in the Poongchun Collective Farm, an accident happened in which farmers digging peat were crushed to death under a heap of earth.


[Politics]
500,000 NK Won Bribed to Avoid Punishment for Watching Illegal Media
A wealthy official (40s) in Chungjin, North Hamgyong Province got caught possessing illegal videotapes, but got away after bribing with a big money to avoid jail. In these days, some of the Chinese movies are classified as illegal media. He gave the inspector 100,000 NK won in order not to get into trouble. Then, the inspector responded, “Are you kidding me? It's not enough. I will report your case.” So, the official gave him 500,000 NK won, which made him happy. He got furious saying, “It is not just me. Most of police officers, their families, and security agents have watched these movies. What a rotten luck!”

Kaechun City, Six Economic Criminals Sent to Public Trial
Six people committed property crime were sent to the public trial in mid-March in Kaechun City, South Pyongan Province. Most of them were accused of theft, robbery, and homicide. For example, one shoplifted at market display space and at state-run stores for two years. One murdered a clerk at a state-run store while stealing from the store. Another one stole export goods at trade companies. Murderers and their accomplices were sentenced to life in prison and the others were sentenced to re-education for 12 years. In the meantime, five people were arrested for the crime of espionage in Kangye, Jagang Province. These were accused of selling domestic information to abroad on March 8th, which was the day before the election. A few days after they were arrested, nine additional people implicated in the crime were arrested on March 11th. As a result of preliminary investigation four of them were released later on and the rest were sentenced to life in prison.

[Society]
Chicken Factory Workers in Kusung City Pressured to Sacrifice All Corn in Advance of the 4.15 Holiday
A Chicken Factory in Kusung City, North Pyongan Province, made great efforts to significantly increase egg output in advance of April 15th’s ‘The Solar Day’ (The Birthday of Kim Il-Sung). Each resident was required to contribute one egg, but circumstances made this nearly impossible. At that time, the local egg-producing chickens were laying fewer eggs due to malnutrition. So, the factory workers held an emergency meeting and decided that each entry-level worker must contribute 20kg of corn to supplement the chicken’s diets. The intention was that these entry-level workers would serve as role models and inspire others to contribute chicken feed. Some of these workers voiced their concerns saying, “Now I am hungry. It’s amazing that I haven’t slaughtered and eaten these chickens yet. I do not have enough food to feed myself, so how am I supposed to contribute to these chickens?”

Unrest Caused by Soldiers Unable to Pay Off Their Debts
A military Unit (Gooboondae) stationed in Soonchun City, South Pyongan Province, held a hearing to discuss the growing number of complaints filed by civilians against soldiers who continue to buy food on credit, but are unable to pay down their debt. Formerly, the unit had the ability to hold soldiers accountable by punishing them and forcing them to pay down their debt with significant interest, but they have since lost the ability to enforce this protocol. Due to ongoing shortages, soldiers have been unable to obtain enough food for themselves through legitimate means. Between June and August of last year, the unit saw a significant decline in available rations. At that time, military officials were receiving a daily ration of 300g of crushed maize, 100g of potatoes, 30g of beans, 1500g of dried radish leaves and 3 spoons of oil. Meanwhile, enlisted soldiers received 100g of corn, 30g of potatoes, 10g of beans, 500g of dried radish leaves and one spoon of oil. The significantly reduced rations made it difficult for troops to maintain basic military readiness; so many of these soldiers resorted to visiting the local market to obtain bread and crackers on credit. As a result, many soldiers ended up with more than 50,000 NK won in cumulative debt. This forced restaurant owners to petition the local military unit and ask that the soldiers be forced to pay off their debts. Unit officials reported the request to the Department of Battalion Politics, which then reported it to the Department of Regiment Politics. After adjourning, the Department of Regiment Politics concluded that nothing could be done to force the soldiers to pay off their debts and that local civilians should be encouraged to cease their complaining.

[Women/Children/Education]
500,000 NK Won Will Buy Admission to Kyungsung Professional Medical School
The admissions examination for Kyungsung Professional Medical School in North Hamgyong Province has ended. The admissions exam was harder than last year due to high numbers of applicants. Although it was highly competitive, many of the rich paid their way into acceptance regardless of the exam results. Some admissions faculty bluntly asked for money. Students with very poor exam score were accepted after donating 500,000 NK won and students with somewhat better score but failed to make it above the cut-off point paid 300,000 NK won. A school worker said that this is relatively inexpensive because it is a professional school and it would cost hundreds of dollar to get into a medical school.

Students Associate Only with Those in Their Own Economic Status Level
There are increasing numbers of conflicts among students due to economic differences. Chung Kyung-mi (21), a student at Kyungsung Professional Medical School, commented, “I do not get involved in this because I am a ‘straight student’[1] but it is sometimes scary when I see those living in dormitories” There are fewer conflicts among ‘straight students’ because they commute from home to school. The rich students home-stay and are few in number so they do not cause any trouble. The major conflicts are occurring among non-local students in dormitory housing. Because dorm food is not enough, students with money go out to restaurants to eat. Poor students collect money amongst each other to cook. This is against the regulation, but they have no choice to satisfy their hunger. The complication worsens when dine-out students complain about such illegal activities during their collective meeting. Chung commented, “Male students usually get along well by jokingly fighting over food. Female students are very scary. They criticize vigorously that I think they might fist fight.” Lee Myung-sook (20) lives in dormitory shared similar story. “Last year there was a girl from Kiljoo called Myung-hwa but she left without completing school. Her roommates bullied her. They looked down on her because of her economic status when she tried to make something to eat. She ran away one day because she couldn’t bear the criticism. I haven’t seen her since then.” Lee said that their association changes due to their economic level and added, “They (students) associate amongst their own group only. Home-stay students affiliate only within their group, as do the dine-out students. Even students who secretly cook their meals differentiate themselves between those who eat crushed maize and those who eat soup.”

Haeju City Gives Textbooks Only to Students Who Do Well
The Educational Department of Haeju, South Hwanghae Province, has decided to provide only students who do well with textbooks for lack of paper. For the 2nd and 4th graders of elementary school, textbooks of Korean, music, and math have barely been printed for each student, but the number of other textbooks is critically insufficient. In this context, each elementary school has provided a classroom with 10 textbooks for each subject.

Hyesan City Allowed Kkotjebi (Homeless) Children from Other Locations to Go to Secondary School
Compared to other locations, Hyesan City in Ryanggang Province has many more Kkotjebi children. Residents describe and analyze the reason: “The circulation of trading items is good in this city, so it is a good place to live.” The members of Kkotjebi Welfare Institution of Ryanggang Province and the Youth Anti-Socialist Conscience Investigation Patrol of the province are rounding up Kkotjebi children with police officers. Some children are from a long way off such as Chungjin or Gilju of North Hamgyong Province. For a while now, the Organization and Guidance Department of Hyesan City Party discussed the issue about Kkotjebi children from other locations. From the meeting, these children were deemed orphans or homeless, and were allowed to go to secondary school in Hyesan even if they are not from the same district.

[Accidents]
Train’s Turnover in Ryanggang Province Causes the Loss of 28 Tons of Diesel Fuel
On March 21st, there was a major railroad accident in Ryanggang Province. A train that was transporting diesel fuel for the provincial forestry department’s United Forest Company Station 121 derailed and turned over. The accident caused a loss in 28 tons of diesel fuel, which had been acquired with a great difficulty and would have been used for increasing the lumber production set out by New Year’s Combined Editorial. It was a huge blow to the lumber production plan.

In Onsung County, Sharp Increase in Suicide Cases
In Onsung County, North Hamgyong Province, there have been multiple cases of suicide recently due to the presumed pressure to repay debts. On March 25th, a 38 year-old female was found dead from taking more than 100 pills. According to her neighbors, she incurred over 3 million won of debt from her failed businesses. Police are supposing that she took her own life because of harassment from her creditors, and they have been questioning her family members and relatives. On the evening of the 28th, a 46 year-old man was also found dead on a street. He was found lying down on the top of his neatly placed outer garments at the crime scene, which was located about 300 meters from his residence. Police are looking at it as another case of suicide due to the lack of evidence for any foul play. Although police have not concluded their investigation, his neighbors’ statements seem to point to suicide. They said “He was always a healthy person without any illness. I don’t understand why he suddenly passed away.” However, several days ago, I heard that the amount of his debt had grown larger.”

[Commentary]
Ensuring the Right to Survive and the Protection of the Disabled
One question I periodically get from curious North Korean defectors is "Why there are so many handicapped people in South Korea?" Defectors often seem surprised to see handicapped people visible and active in public places, such as the Seoul subway stations, train stations, bus terminals and on the street. They will often proudly reply that, "there are no disabled people in North Korea." When I challenge whether this is true, I am told that "[they] have never seen such people." While there are some disabled veterans, they report, there are never disabled people walking on the streets like there are in the south.
Until recently, basically nothing was known about the plight of the handicapped in North Korea. Even now, only the most basic information is publicly available: the number of handicapped citizens, their living conditions, and policies in place for their protection. Not even 'North Korea Today’ is able to provide much information on North Korea’s handicapped. Our reports have been limited to stories about disabled veterans or about the students at the school for the handicapped in Onsung, Sambong District who skip classes to beg for food and to stealing to survive (NKT No. 133).
North Korea officially enumerated rights for disabled citizens with the North Korean Disabilities Act of June 18, 2003. This act required that there be separate workplaces for laborers with disabilities, special educational facilities, and centers designed to care for disabled persons who are unable to work. While this may be true, it is extremely doubtful that these facilities are properly managed and maintained, as illustrated by the earlier mentioned school for handicapped children. In fact, we have been receiving a steady stream of eyewitness accounts that tell of inhuman treatment. We have obtained multiple testimonials that repeat the same things: "The handicapped are not allowed to live in Pyongyang, they are restricted to certain residential areas, they are commonly quarantined in camps, and they are forcibly sterilized." No matter what the regime claims, it seems unlikely that the handicapped are being properly provided for when the entire social support system has collapsed due to the ongoing economic crisis.
While we don’t want to rely too much on speculation, the reality of conditions faced by those with disabilities can likely be read between the lines of the daily news. When we hear these stories, we can only imagine the harsh realities faced by the physically handicapped and the struggle they must face to survive. "Even the healthy are losing their homes and disappearing from the world." There truly is no place for those with physical disabilities in North Korean society. When one man lost an arm, it became very difficult for him to produce enough to sustain himself, so the man was forced to turn to begging with his young daughter. Even begging would have been too much for another man, who was entirely dependent on his daughter who led her blind father around by the hand. Then there was the young girl who suffered from polio and was unable to get around outside without being carried on her brother’s back. She eventually died from prolonged malnutrition after living in neglect alone in her room. It is unquestionable that people with disabilities are neglected and left to die on a daily basis
The disabled in North Korea do not currently demand the right to move freely, to have access to decent medical facilities, educational facilities or to receive the assistance they need to flourish. To request such things would seem unimaginable, but what they need is not that different from what other North Koreas need. All they want is to be able to eat enough to survive, to be able to work and get paid enough to support themselves. They expect no more than the ability to have a meal. Protecting the rights of the disabled begins with ensuring they have enough food to survive, so we believe the current policies designed to support the handicapped should be revived and we look forward to the day the North Korean authorities’ take action and enforce support their citizens.

[Investigative Report]
[Correspondence from Sinuiju] “Purchase of Alcohol on Credit? You’ve Got to Wait for Payment”
I was born in Sinuiju and was married in 1994 to a military officer who was stationed in the City of Gaesong, Gaepoong County. We had two sons and when my husband was discharged from the army in 2005, we moved back to Sinuiju. It has been four years since we moved to Sinuiju and we had to share someone else’s house because we could not afford our own. When we moved, we sold all the furniture and other household items. Because the exchange rate skyrocketed, we could not afford anything here at all. Sometime ago we found a small office with an area of thirteen Pyong and remodeled it as a space in which to live. There were several attempts to take it away from us, but we overcame each one because my husband was a former military officer. My husband was assigned as a laborer, but he earned money doing other kinds of work after paying a bribe of one hundred dollars a year. He worked at the Office of Military Commerce Control, in the Provincial Security Agency and used to earn around 200,000 NK won a month. Nowadays, the river crossings to China are completely blocked and he cannot even make 1,000 NK won a day. I earn money bootlegging with powdered corn bought for 950 NK Won per Kg. I sell the liquor in the market and dregs are used to feed pigs. Because I need good fuel when distilling the liquor, I buy fifty packs or a hundred packs of coal. A pack of coal used to cost 200 NK won, but now it costs 160 to 170 NK won. But it does not bring in much profit because of credit purchases. Close to our house, there is a military training center. Soldiers there usually buy liquor on credit. But collection on those credit purchases is a big problem. At first I tried to appease and entreat, but it did not work. My husband tried threats. But where would soldiers get money to pay for it? I just wished that soldiers would try anything, including stealing, to get money to pay us.
I tried to borrow 200,000 NK won from an acquaintance to make some liquor on the occasion of February 16 celebration (Lunar New Year’s Day). I explained what I needed money for and he said, “Would it not be better to stay as a military officer and live in Gaesong? Why are you having such a hard time here?” I will tell you why. Gaesong is not fit for anyone to live. During the period of the Arduous March, Gaesong probably lost the largest number of residents to starvation. What is good about its being the old capital of Goryo Kingdom? Severe lack of food caused many residents to eat herbs and different grasses, which resulted in permanent health problems for many people. There were so many like them in our village. Sinuiju is much better even if one ends up living as a Kkotjebi. We are barely surviving with one meal of bean-curd scraps, and yet we still think we made the right decision to come here. Nowadays, there is a saying among people, “Sympathy is a trap, purchase on credit is free, and delayed payment is missing.” And such is the truth. I am having such a hard time in daily life and my cousin keeps saying she regrets not realizing that “sympathy is a trap.” There is a family who used to enjoy the privileges of a high-ranking party official, even driving a Mercedes-Benz. They are now relocated to Sinuiju. Their eldest son was drafted into the military. When they were relocated, they had another son who was in the graduating class of a middle school and a 25-year-old daughter. Even though they were once enjoying lives as high-ranking party officials, nobody recognizes them as such in rural areas. Even though their daughter was serving as a nurse, she said she could not save enough for her wedding with the rations and wages from the provincial clinics. She started peddling. She pays 10,000 NK won a month to her employer without ever showing up for work. This daughter used to buy some items from my cousin. My cousin sells cotton clothing. She was happy to see the young lady working so hard in peddling and ended up allowing some purchases on credit. Now three months have gone by without the young woman paying my cousin. My cousin ended up visiting her house, but was told that their daughter does not come home. My cousin did not get paid for over ten pairs of cotton clothing. She literally got sick in bed and kept moaning, “Sympathy was a trap.” Nowadays, all we hear is about swindling. More people seem to think that swindling is the only way to make a profit. How can a strong nation be built with such a spirit among its citizens? I am worried and doubt that the goal of establishing a strong nation can be accomplished by 2012.
[1] The University is formed of straight students and discharged military personnel. The student who attends the university immediately after the middle school is called a ‘straight student’ and anyone who attends after their military service is called a ‘discharged military personnel’.

North Korea Today No.273

RESEARCH INSTITUTE FOR NORTH KOREAN SOCIETY
http://www.goodfriends.or.kr
[Weekely Newsletter] No.273 April 2009

[“Good Friends” desires to help the North Korean people through humanistic point of view, and publishes “North Korea Today” describing the way the North Korean people live as real as possible. We at Good Friends also hope to be a bridge between the North Korean people and the world.]

[Hot Topics]
How An Ordinary Laborer Turns Into A Criminal
How A Party Leader Turns Into A Criminal

[Food]
Plain Construction Laborers of Goksan Say, “The Biggest New Year’s Wish is Unglutinous Rice”
Yangpyeong Farm of Dancheon Produced 1,600 Tons of Corn Last Year
In Jaeryeong County, Farmers Who Worked Every Day Received Less Than 150 kg of Food

[Economy]
Unpreparedness for Semi-Annual Farming by Collective Rice Farm in Sariwon
The Southern Hwanghae Province has Begun Bangshik Sanghak for Semi-Annual Farming

[Politics]
Hamheung City Strongly Fortified Electricity Inspections
Bochun County, Forty Police Officers Dismissed Before the Election
Hoeryong City Announced “Advance Two Years Earlier to Build a Powerful Nation”
Power Supply Department Assigned Amount of Power Supply to Each City

[Society]
Thieves Discovered to be Taking Advantage of Social Welfare
Even Rotten Pork is Scarce, Leaving Soldiers only Enough to Make Soup

[Women/Children/Education]
The Democratic Women’s Union from Sunggan County became a Model of the Shock Troop Brigade for Uhryang River Power Plant
A Powerful Chairperson of the Democratic Women’s Union for Chungjin
Pyongsung City also Sent Kkotjebi Children to Farms

[Accidents]
A Criminal of Arson and Murder was Arrested in Three Days of the Crime in Sinuiju

[Commentary]
A Society Where Efforts to Find Food Makes One a Criminal

[Investigative Report]
General Manager Of A Light Industry Factory Faces His First General Meeting

_________________________________________________________
[Hot Topics]
How An Ordinary Laborer Turns Into A Criminal
Cho Joong-nam (40s) of Gilju, Gilju County, North Hamgyong Province was an ordinary laborer and the head of a household with a wife and two daughters. He was an employee of a paper factory in Gilju and his wife was a domestic laborer. Beginning two years ago, it become difficult to make ends meet, and his absenteeism from factory job began to increase. He spent more time collecting firewood to sell and cultivating a small patch of field to earn a sufficient living. One day, his patch of field was confiscated because he did not have any permits, and he lost his means to make a living. His wife, in the meantime, started peddling in order to help the household. She made little items at home and traveled all over South Hamgyong Province to peddle those items. Her peddling business did not bring in much money because all of the other families, themselves struggling in poverty, could not afford to buy her items.
Convinced that they could not make a living from peddling, Mr. Cho had to make a decision. “Hardships remain no matter what. Death seems to be our only option.” Thus he convinced himself that it would be better to use illegal means to make a living. He started to cut communications lines made out of copper and resold the material. He succeeded twice but he was caught the third time. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in jail.
In the meantime, Mrs. Cho returned home after ten days peddling in Shinuiju, North Pyongan Province and found the house empty. She was in tears, saying she could not find her children. Her children waited for their mother and got so hungry that they went out to get something to eat. So far, they have not returned home. Mrs. Cho keeps searching for her children all over. With her husband in jail, she does not have anywhere to turn for help. She wanders around the rail station, market area or streets. Whenever she sees children in dirty clothes, begging for food or getting beaten by someone, she runs to them trying to identify who they are. Mr. Cho was in real agony and cried when he heard from his wife that their children became wandering beggars. He said, “It was my mistake that I took the path of a criminal, but at the time, that was my only choice. Why should my children be punished for my faults?”

How A Party Leader Turns Into A Criminal
Joo Jung-hak (pseudonym), former general manager of the City Construction Division in the City of Hoeryong, was reclassified as a common laborer less than a year after he was appointed as the general manager. Before his appointment, he could not even afford solid meals of corn. The problem was how he spent his newfound wealth after his appointment. It was reported that he owned all kinds of electronic devices, which did not seem to match his income level. Some laborers made complaints, which resulted in an investigation. Almost immediately after that, he was relieved of his job. He was reclassified as a laborer in the Rural Construction Section of the City Construction Division, City of Hoeryong.
Last February, the head of the Commerce Management Center was demoted to the status of an ordinary laborer in the Building Repair Center. He sold support materials in the market, which were delivered from the province without the city’s permission, then used the money to expand the warehouse of the Commerce Management Center. In November 2008, he embezzled some of the children’s clothing and food items supplied from a foreign country and used them as bribes to the city party leaders. In addition, he did not provide residents with essential basic food items, such as bean paste and soy sauce, giving the excuse of a lack of transportation equipment and gasoline. Those failings were reason enough for him to be fired from his position.
The general manager of the Basic Food Factory was also demoted to the status of ordinary laborer. Under the pretext of revitalization and modernization, he sold raw material in the market. He claimed that he needed money for construction material, and sold several tons of soybeans and corn that are raw material for bean paste, soy sauce and soy oil in the Chungjin market. However, instead of acquiring construction material, he conspired with the factory party secretary to embezzle a substantial amount of money. He was charged with embezzlement, the verdict stating that, “He promised to receive all the necessary raw material for producing basic food items, but failed because of mismanagement that created a huge obstacle to production between last November and this January. He also dared to ignore the party’s instructions to make provisions for the occasion of the big New Year’s celebration, which is unforgivable.” He was removed from his position and placed in the White Apricot Factory as a laborer.


[Food]
Plain Construction Laborers of Goksan Say, “The Biggest New Year’s Wish is Unglutinous Rice”
Laborers of plain construction, located in Goksan County of the North Hwanghae Province, eke out an existence with porridge from day to day. Therefore, they are on the verge of saying in unison, “Eating unglutinous rice!”, in response to the question, “What is your biggest New Year’s wish?” Laborers complain of food shortage problems by saying that corn porridge and watery cabbage soup are all they have. Naturally, construction should have been finished last year if on schedule, but construction progress didn’t go well because of a food shortage. We are trying to finish before April 15th, but there are still many difficulties. It is unclear whether the working schedule will be enforced as is. The number of laborers has decreased from about 16,000 to 10,000 because of food shortage problems, as well as casualties.

Yangpyeong Farm of Dancheon Produced 1,600 Tons of Corn Last Year
Yangpyeong Collective Farm of Dancheon, in the South Hamgyoung Province, produced a total of 1,600 tons of corn last year. A worker said that the harvest was the result of planting a mixture of ‘Hamnam 3’ and ‘Hwangjoo 1’ corn species, according to their own conditions. Eight hundred tons of this was sent for army provisions. Farmers are not going to work to perform such tasks as farmyard manure mobilization, because they have not received three months worth of food. Yangpyeong Farm was the only place where there was no death from starvation, even during the Arduous March. Although its productivity is not that high, food did not run out easily. However, recent difficulties in obtaining food have affected this area as well.
This farm was directed by the great leader Kim Il-Song himself in the past, so it receives one of the highest levels of attentions in the country. Government officials often visit here, too. The farmers, who take pride in being a member of this farm, now say that they are tired of everything. Seo Myeong-deok (alias, age 50s) said, “When officials visit from the Central Party, they do not bring anything helpful, but only lip service. And when they return, they bring food for themselves. With their visits, farm officials only bother us to cook chickens and dogs”. Early this year, with the news of the Central Party Officials’ visit, an old man in his seventies said, in front of farm patrols, “Officials’ visiting does not solve any problem. They repeatedly say the same thing. They only act like they are the district magistrates in ancient times. So, what can be achieved?” He also added, “They’d better distribute foods or chemical fertilizers. Or they should at least bring vinyl-thin film. If the great leader Kim Il-Song looked at this farm turned into this ruin, he would feel sorrow.” The Chief of the Management Committee was not able to respond to this, only returning with a flushed face.

In Jaeryeong County, Farmers Who Worked Every Day Received Less Than 150 kg of Food
Each worker of Samjigang Collective Farm in Jaeryeong County, South Hwanghae Province, received 80 kg of food as a result of last year’s harvest. Workers who had full attendance at work received about 70 kg of whole corn and 130 kg of unhulled rice, which are quite good values. Many people received less than that, however, because 150 kg of food was taken as an extra duty besides the regular tax and pork meat supply for the People’s Military. It is said that some households are already out of food. In the case of Samjigang Collective Farm, 24 households are absent from work due to the lack of food. Households that are suffering from food shortage problems are increasing in Gaeseong city, Ryeohyeon of Gaepoong County, Gyejeong of Geumcheon County, and Hanpo of Pyeongsan County. The attendance rates of workers on farms and of students in schools are decreasing. Furthermore, the fact that people in this area tend not to register their children in school has become a problem. Workers of the Military Party, as well as teachers, visit house to house and encourage people to send their children to school, but households that are short of food do not listen.

[Economy]
Unpreparedness for Semi-Annual Farming by Collective Rice Farm in Sariwon
The Collective Rice Farm in Sariwon of the Northern Hwanghae Province has decided to attempt a semi-annual farming cycle starting this spring. However, due to the lack of preparation by the 8th Work Unit, which is supposed to demonstrate the farming, the farm hasn’t been able to make much progress. Mr. Jang (40s), a farm worker, said, “We are supposed to decide a test farming this year and to plant high-yield crops. However, the authorities impelled the workers to carry out the farming under situations in which there are not enough farming tools and the technology is not ready yet. How can they expect the farming to work? ” Mr. Kim (50s) called the semi-annual farming plan a failure, saying, “The workers are doing as they were told, but the farming is a mess. Advance preparations such as procuring farming materials, seeds, and the deployment of manpower should be well organized to start the semi-annual farming”. Kim added, “From now on, instead of rushing to try something, a thorough plan is needed first.”

The Southern Hwanghae Province has Begun Bangshik Sanghak for Semi-Annual Farming
The South Hwanghae Province will choose exemplary farms from those engaged in semi-annual farming to implement Bangshik Sanghak. The wheat and barley (species name: Haeju 1) planted last September is expected to be harvested this June at the Kiam Collective Farm in Taetan County. Because the Farm is estimated to produce a good harvest, Bangshik Sanghak will be carried out there. Bangshik Sanghak is the process of demonstrating how a farm uses new farming methods to other farms’ workers.

[Politics]
Hamheung City Strongly Fortified Electricity Inspections
On March 13th, Hamheung City, South Hamgyong Province, strengthened cross-inspections on the search of illegal drawing of electricity, which had been conducted along with South Pyongan Province. As a result of the tightened inspection, most of offenders detected by the authorities consisted of workers, factory or enterprise managers and chief engineers who made personal use of electricity. The seven offenders were prosecuted for a serious crime against national electricity regulation at the Central Party. They were sentenced to re-education centers, expelled from the Party and dismissed from their office. Meanwhile, the authorities, Heungnam City, cracked down an electric engineer working in a metal commodities factory. He was charged with his unlawful decision to allow a drug manufacturer to use industrial electricity. He was sentenced 9 years and 6 months and immediately sent to the prison for the charges of aiding the drug manufacture.

Bochun County, Forty Police Officers Dismissed Before the Election
Bochun County, Ryanggang Province, forty police officers were dismissed or discharged from the party. It was the first time that such a big number of police officers were discharged at the same time. The incidents happened due to illegal trafficking of scrap metal. Over the past several years, police official’s wife and her accomplices have sold scrap metals for 600 NK won. The residents said that "Nobody have tried to report their illegal trade because they are police officers’ family.” Now they seemed happy that police officers’ illegal trades were caught. A factory manager in Haesan City (40s) said, “Illegal trade is very common in Ryanggang Province. They bought scrap metal 50 NK won per Kg, which became 300 NK won in Haesan City. If they sell it directly, they could get 500-600 NK won. People do not care much about illegal trafficking.” It was not surprising that police traffickers got caught. They said, “Since even police officers did the wrong things like this, ordinary people would’ve done it if possible. It is the first time as many as forty officers got caught at the same time.”

Hoeryong City Announced “Advance Two Years Earlier to Build a Powerful Nation”
Last March 10th, Hoeryong city adopted a resolution in the committee meeting consisted of all party-city council members that “They will build a Powerful Nation two years in advance by 2010.” This was followed after Chairman Kim Jong-IL’s visit to Hoeryong city last February. He seemed to be satisfied with city management works, industrial facilities and education system. This inspired a great enthusiasm among city councils. They called a meeting to discuss plans for revitalizing industrial production, factories, and enterprises providing workers with tasks. This meeting continued from 10 in the morning till 11 at night.

Power Supply Department Assigned Amount of Power Supply to Each City
On March 15th, Power Supply Department held a meeting with regional workers. They stressed, “Currently, power supply is the hurdle for industrial development. The industrial power should not be used for any other purposes. Such an action against Power management rule is regarded as crime, which cannot be forgiven. The have made decisions that” Power supply should be guaranteed for the production of munitions. Factories and companies should not produce items that are not necessary for people’s everyday life and try all their effort to consume less electricity. The government will require each city and county to use only certain amount of electricity. For example, Heoryung in North Hamgyong Province received 576,000 kWh per month and supplied it to each factory and public enterprise according to Power Distribution Station guidelines. Pyongsung, Chungjin, Nampo, as well as Wonsan Cities are in the same boat. The cities above had a difficult time with shortage of power supply allowed by the Nation. The managers of each factory and public enterprise are visiting Power Distribution department to complain.

[Society]
Thieves discovered to be taking advantage of Social Welfare
On February 18th, two thieves were discovered to have committed robberies after having registered to receive social welfare from the district office in Wonsan, Kangwon Province. To date, they have reportedly stolen hundreds of items; including 580 bicycles, 20 refrigerators, 30 washing machines, and 10 used Japanese motorcycles. A woman from Hae-an village reported, “With the number of robberies they have committed and the amount they have stolen, I think they must have committed more crimes than any other thieves in the area. I overheard some police officers discussing how these were highly wanted criminals and that they had been keeping the City Court very busy. I wonder what will happen to them.”
Even Rotten Pork is Scarce, Leaving Soldiers only Enough to Make Soup
In Yeomjoo County, North Pyongan Province, almost all the pork stored by the Support Bureau of the 8th Commanding Unit spoiled due to malfunctioning refrigerators. The Bureau had been storing much of this pork for several years after having collected it from residents throughout North Poyongan Province to support the Korean People’s Army, but two years ago, ‘Refrigerator 2’ broke down and was not repaired until the following April. During that time, 9,000 kg of pork spoiled. Then, in September of last year, another refrigerator malfunctioned and four months passed before it was repaired, so the meat it contained also began to rot. Of the 5.2 tons of beef and 7,000 tons of pork stored in the refrigerators, more than 80 percent spoiled. Workers at the Support Bureau requested urgent approval to distribute the food that was going bad. Eventually, the spoiled meat was distributed to the various divisions of 8th Military Unit, as well as the military and tuberculosis hospitals. Military doctors provided instructions to the employees of units receiving spoiled meat on ‘How to cook rotten meat’. One employee working at Support Bureau said, “Even though it is rotten, the soldiers are happy to be eating meat.” At the same time, the employee expressed concern that even the rotten meat isn’t being properly distributed to the soldiers. He reported that, “Because a lot of the meat is going to the private homes of military officials, many soldiers only have enough meat to make soup.”

[Women/Children/Education]
The Democratic Women’s Union from Sunggan County became a Model of the Shock Troop Brigade for Uhryang River Power Plant
The Democratic Women’s Union from Sunggan County, Jakang Province became a model of the Shock Troop Brigade to support the Uhryang River Power Plant. The Central Committee for the Democratic Women’s Union ordered, “All cities and counties must adopt the Sunggan County Democratic Women’s Union’s model of organizing and sending members of the Democratic Women’s Union to the construction sites of the Uhryang River Power Plant. Everyone should concentrate on building a great country by 2012. The details were ratified on March 13 in ‘The Central Party’s Organization of the Shock Troop Brigade of the Democratic Women’s Union.’ In response, all cities and counties are busy drafting members of the Democratic Women’s Union for the Shock Troop Brigade.
The Committee for the Democratic Women’s Union from Heoryung City, North Hamgyong Province decided to appoint a person in primary level of the Democratic Women’s Union from each Village Office, a total of 230 people, and send them to the Uhryang River Power Plant Combat Unit. It is hard to suddenly join the Shock Troop Brigade because these Democratic Women’s Union members are family supporters. For this reason, they decided to join and return in order of precedent. For now, they decided that the Shock Troop Brigade members are sent to work for 10 days and return. Women who are sent to the Shock Troop Brigade will receive 1kg of non-glutinous rice. In addition, the primary level group of the Democratic Women’s Union promised to provide 4kg of corn to all families of those members. Heoryung City Authorities reported to the Central Party that their City Party Secretary and Workers pledged on their will and determination to lead other cities on creating the Shock Troop Brigade of the Democratic Women’s Union.

A Powerful Chairperson of the Democratic Women’s Union for Chungjin
The Democratic Women’s Union members from Songpyung District’s Eunjung Village Office of Chungjin City, North Hamgyong Province made a remark, “Chairperson of the Democratic Women’s Union is very powerful”. This remark began when the chairperson severely scolded a member of the Democratic Women’s Union who acted insincerely at the ‘Qualified Livelihood’ event on March 12. Kim (40s) who attended this meeting was discomforted about this and commented, “She criticized using vulgar expressions and hurled insults which could easily create an atmosphere for defamation of one’s reputation.” Kim added, “We are immune to insults and criticism but it is still unpleasant. I am still uncomfortable when I get insulted at the general resident’s meeting where we conspire against each other- my friends and neighbors criticize me and I condemn them back. However, it is unpleasant when the Chairperson (of the Democratic Women’s Union) uses vulgar expressions even if it is none of my business.” This time, they strongly criticized members of the Democratic Women’s Union who did not attend the Organization Livelihood due to their family problems or divorces. On the other hand, Committee of the Democratic Women’s Union from the Village Office and the Vice Chairperson collect fines from members who do not act well in the Organization Livelihood. The chairpersons of the primary level collect 1,000 NK won if one misses the general resident’s meeting and 3,000 NK won for missing a group event or operation. They claimed they will collect these fines and spend it on propaganda and purchasing new instruments but this was never carried out. Instead, Kim said that the Chairperson of the Democratic Women’s Union and the Chief of village office from the primary group secretary spent money on buying new clothes this winter.

Pyongsung City also Sent Kkotjebi Children to Farms
The Pyongsung City Party of South Pyongan Province decided to send Kkotjebi children to farms as laborers. Currently they have selected 35 children from travelers’ concentration centers and 29 children from Kkotjebi Welfare Institutions. According to the previous process, these kids should be sent to Stepmother’s Institutions, but this year they will work for the farms as members of Youth Independent Units. Meanwhile when Kkotjebi children were sent to Stepmother’s Institutions, many of them ran away from, so the previous relief project of Kkotjebi received criticism about their effectiveness. However, the farms can secure the needed workers and children can eat some food with this new project, so it seems to be a win-win. In this context, the City Party and the Province Party have prepared for this project and sent Kkotjebi children to secretaries of farms from last March 1. Authorities of Pyongsung City stated, “Secretaries of Li Parties must take care of these children especially for their board and lodging to provide them some comfort. Because the farms that received these children did not have enough food, heads of working units, secretaries, and elementary members of Youth Union and Farming Laborer Union had a meeting about this issue. Like Hoeryong, Pyongsung decided that members of each unit contribute 20kgs of grain. If they do not have any food, they will provide side dishes such as bean paste.

[Accidents]
A Criminal of Arson and Murder was Arrested in Three Days of the Crime in Sinuiju
Last February 11 there was a case of arson and murder in an apartment in Shinwon-dong, Sinuiju, and North Hamgyong Province. At that time, Kim Hyung-cheol, (alias, a teenager) who was busy preparing for his middle school graduation examination came back to his home to get some things he left behind. His father was on a business trip in Russia, his eldest brother was performing his military service, and therefore his mother was left home alone. His mother traded medication in the market place so she usually stayed at home in the morning when the market was not open. It seemed strange that she did not open the door or respond when he knocked. He thought that his mother went out for a while and waited for her by buying and eating some food at a stand in front of his apartment. When he looked up at his apartment, he saw smoke coming out from the windows of his apartment. He was shocked and cried “Fire!” When he broke into his house with members of the Neighborhood Unit, he found that his house was filled with fire and smoke. When they tried to get water from a water tank in the bathroom to put out the fire, they felt there was something in it. When they took out the object, they realized that it was the dead body of Hyung-cheol’s mom. After three days, on the 14th of that month, the criminal was arrested. He was Mr. Jeong (22) who lived in the same apartment as the victims and was retired from his military service because of family economic problems. Hyung-cheol stated, “The guy put out the fire with me and cried when he saw my mother’s corpse in the tank.” This statement made people scared. Residents said that it was a hideous crime and consoled Hyung-cheol who went through this terrible incident by himself. Hyung-cheol was out of his mind halfway, but prepared a funeral for his mother

[Commentary]
A Society Where Efforts to Find Food Makes One a Criminal
A North Korean defector I met one day told me that he escaped by swimming down the river. He became a suspect for cutting the telephone lines and selling them for over a year. He had risked his life by crossing the river with nothing in his possession because if he got caught, he would definitely be executed. With innocent eyes and gentle voice, he told his story. One year before his defection, he saw his brother dead from starvation. To keep his nephews alive, he had to do dangerous works, banned by the government. During the Arduous March those who cut the telephone lines or sell them had often been executed in public. Risking one’s life in order to live – they were just ordinary neighbors who eked out a tiresome life day by day, doing illegal activities.
The terrible situation of the food factory worker in Giljoo County introduced earlier is no different. His story shows how ordinary North Korean people make living now. The factory was not in operation. There is no food distribution. He climbed the mountain to cut trees and worked on small patch farm. His wife traveled around peddling homemade goods. There were many more people selling than buying. So the peddling business didn’t go well. Moreover, the economy was getting more difficult and food shortage was getting worse. He tried many different things without success, and eventually entered the life of crime. The results are already outlined in the article. He was sentenced for life in imprisonment. The children left home while his wife was out peddling because there was nothing to eat. Not knowing that their mother is searching for them desperately, the children would most probably be drifting around as Kkotjebis. A family is destroyed and scattered tragically.
What about those in relatively high-ranking positions? It seems they use their position to make their living easier and more comfortable. Corruption of high-ranking officials is so pervasive that stories of someone being dismissed and demoted to a laborer are no longer news. However, statement such as "Someone who could not afford to have meals of corn suddenly begins to have all kinds of home electrical appliances after becoming a manager" is significant. It paradoxically reveals the harsh reality -- without abusing the position, life is difficult.
These episodes show that the ordinary workers broke the law to eat and live, while officials broke the law to eat better and live better. The numerous crimes often committed by people regardless of the social class, gender, and regions are crimes of “finding food to live.” Ultimately, the goal is “eat to survive.” The story of “Les miserable” in which a man stole a piece of bread because he was too hungry and ended up serving 19 years in prison is happening everywhere and it breaks our heart. We sincerely hope that there will be people-friendly economic cooperation between North Korea and South Korea so that the residents can make living on their own without breaking the law.

[Investigative Report]
General Manager Of A Light Industry Factory Faces His First General Meeting
Toward the end of March, the true meaning of the word "hostage" became clear to me. I felt so confident about myself when I was appointed as the general manager of the Light Industry Factory, despite the warnings from my family members. Now I am at a loss and do not know what to do. Pretty soon there will be a general meeting with the factory’s party members at the end of the first quarter. I am supposed to present my self-criticism and I do not have any clue as to what should be done as a new general manager. Something a young party secretary told me yesterday has stayed in my thoughts. “Comrade General Manager, you should present a good self-criticism at the quarterly party general meeting. (note 1) You have not been on the job for a long time, but all the party members have trusted you and cooperated with you. However, the situation at the factory has not improved. Of course, you are not responsible for everything, but our Beloved Leader had trust in you and placed you under special consideration. Aren’t you, Comrade, the one who was given special consideration? Please present a balanced assessment of your assignment during the quarter.”
“I will give you, then, a direction. Listen carefully. Firstly, you need to self-criticize on the aspect of insufficient loyalty toward our Beloved Leader. Secondly, present a serious self-criticism about your ability to execute the instructions of our Beloved Leader unconditionally, citing specific examples. Thirdly, self-criticize your unsatisfactory relationships with other members of the project organization (note 2), such as party leaders and other technicians. Fourthly, you should self-criticize your inability to understand your position as a general manager, that is, you will take overall responsibility, ignoring that the overall responsibility rests with the group decision. You need to provide some specific examples. Lastly, in case you have any suggestions to the party, you should provide them as mutual criticism. Don’t make them lengthy, but present them in a constructive manner, in such a way that counsel with the superior party leadership would help us.”
“How in the world can I act as a general manager?” I almost shouted, but of course, without uttering any sounds.
Soon I fell deep into worry. Our factory received only 10% the necessary raw materials during the quarter. We have a motto, “All the factory raw materials should be replaced with domestic products.” Everyone, including me, memorized the motto. I never realized, though, that I was responsible for the conversion. All the raw materials needed in producing a toothbrush, for example, are imported. The same is true for producing socks. All the resin, nylon, threads, chemicals to soften and harden, etc. are imported. How could I replace them with domestically produced raw materials? All these things in my head literally gave me a headache. Walking into my office and sitting at the table, as soon as I tried to start writing my self-criticism on a sheet of paper, the factory chief engineer came over to see me.
“Comrade General Manager, the direction the party secretary has given you is very general in nature. Here is the self-criticism I have written for myself. Please use it as a reference. A word of advice for you is that self-criticism should be ideologically strong. Specific examples should be directed toward ‘superior organizations’ and you need to make them accountable (note 3). Don’t do damage to our own party organization. The reasons for failure to make quarterly production quotas should be shifted toward the superior organizations. Make it consistent in this manner. Here are some specific materials. Do not shrink from standing tall. Please present fair and just self-criticism. The quarterly general meeting is nothing. You are new here. The first, the second and the third need to present strong ideological criticism and precise examples. All of your predecessors have done that. When you do that, this factory will survive and our party organization will survive. And that is what the counsel from the superior organization wants.”
He left the original of his self-criticism. I feel grateful that he realized that I was tense as I faced the first quarterly general meeting and that he tried to be of help. I felt much more confidant and calm having been given something I could reference.
Notes:
(1) Organizational general meeting
(a) Weekly Meeting: Party cell (The lowest organization) holds the meeting Monday mornings usually.
(b) Monthly Meeting: At the end of every month, the party cell secretary summarizes the accomplishments on all the assignments. Solutions for failures are presented.
(c) Quarterly Meeting: Local party organization holds it. All the cells of the local party hold a meeting. Factory party leaders present self-criticisms. Examinations of the factory party leaders are conducted.
(d) Bi-annual (upper-half and lower-half) Meeting: Local party holds it. Upper-half (or lower-half) of the year is assessed.
(e) Annual Meeting: Local party holds it. Accomplishments of whole year are assessed.
(2) Economic management system of North Korea. It is not centered around the General Manager, but rather the Party committee consisting of a General Manager, Chief Engineer, and other Party leaders is responsible for running the factory. An economic management system with group decision-making.
(3) Raw material should be provided, and yet it does not appear. Therefore, the responsibility should be shifted to ‘higher ups’

North Korea Today No.272

RESEARCH INSTITUTE FOR NORTH KOREAN SOCIETY
http://www.goodfriends.or.kr
[Weekely Newsletter] No.272 April 2009

[“Good Friends” desires to help the North Korean people through humanistic point of view, and publishes “North Korea Today” describing the way the North Korean people live as real as possible. We at Good Friends also hope to be a bridge between the North Korean people and the world.]

[Hot Topics]
Outcry Raised By Residents Unable To Earn a Living from Peddling
Tight Control Resumes After 3/8 Elections

[Food]
Pyongyang Issued an Advance Notice about Cutting Food Ration in Half Beginning April
Hoeryong Distributed 7.2 kg of Corn in Early March
Kimchaek Steel Enterprise, No Ration for March
Residents at Chungju Mountainous Region Subsist on Sweet Potatoes

[Economy]
Women Under 40 Years with Living Hardships Are Allowed to Do Business in Markets

[Politics]
Internal Situation at Unease with Anticipated Missile Launch
The Country Should Make a Model of Hoeryong City
A Fishing Boat in Chungdan County Faced With Hardships on the Suspicion of Escape to the South
Laborers at Aquiculture Enterprise of Chungjin, Flee from Baekdoo Mountain Construction Shock Troop Brigade

[Society]
Elders Waiting to Die
A Whole Family Becomes Homeless at a Train Station
Family Destroyed from Mistakenly Spoken Words

[Women/Children/Education]
They Say that "Kimkisong First Junior High School in Hoeryong City, Named the Role Model School Nationwide”
Her Mother Left Home, Her Father Died, and Her Brother Left Home as well
Three Devoted Kkotjebi Brothers Take Care of Their Metally Ill Father

[Accidents]
Goldmine of Hoeryong, Inmates of the Discipline Center of the National Security Agency Involved in Safety Accident One After Another

[Commentary]
To Help the Residents Make a Living by Themselves

[Investigative Report]
Tale of a Woman’s Relocation To A Rural Village; “The empty grain sacks were collected with the promise of being filled with rations, but that promise was a lie.”

________________________________________________________
[Hot Topics]
Outcry Raised By Residents Unable To Earn a Living from Peddling
Throughout the nation, residents have begun to protest the new obstacles to making a living from peddling. Drastic restrictions have been placed on which items can be peddled. Peddlers who cannot earn enough money are not buying any essential grain items, such as rice and corn. Consequently, many markets have been brought to a standstill. “We cannot make living peddling. All the items are inspected. Even the items manufactured in China are prohibited from being sold. There are no items we can sell. Even though grain prices have not gone up much recently, we cannot afford rice,” said Jang Yung-sook (age 40), a peddler of footwear at Nampo market in South Pyongan Province. Throughout the nation, the price of rice hovers at 1,700 NK won and corn is around 700 NK won. Jung Man-ho (40s) said, “Most residents have forgotten the word ‘ration’. And yet, party leaders can purchase grain at official prices. Rice costs 1,700 NK won per kilogram at market and party leaders pay only 45 NK won. The price of corn is 750 NK won at the market and party leaders pay only 28 NK won. Moreover, they sell what is bought cheaply at the market price, which makes them rich. In the meantime, ordinary people cannot afford a solid monthly meal of corn.”

Tight Control Resumes After 3/8 Elections
Tight control of activities at markets throughout the nation has resumed immediately after the March 8 election of delegates to the Supreme People’s Assembly. Females under the age of forty are prohibited from engaging in peddling and a list of prohibited items has been announced. A manager of the Soonchun Market said, “A list of prohibited items in the market was posted. Items manufactured in South Korea, U.S.A., a Joint Venture Factory, any electronics devices, toys, wooden furniture and any heavy equipment is prohibited in the market. Even among the manufactured items, one cannot sell five ready-made pieces of clothing to a person, and can only sell ten in total. The maximum amount of grain that can be sold is 20 Kg. All the prices of fruit are set.” The information board says that any items in violation of the regulations will be confiscated and transferred to stores run by the state. The Democratic Women’s Union (DWU) at Soonchun City has begun a widespread advertisement that states, “Stores in Pyongyang are full of merchandise. Prices are much lower than in the market. At this time of approaching a strong nation, let us transfer all merchandise to those stores.” Han Myung-soon (40s), a participant at the DWU meeting, said, “Everyone at the meeting laughed at the idea. No items are allowed in the market. What could we do? They peddle illegally at home. Those who need items do not have any choice, but pay whatever price is asked. People do not have any option in selecting items. What good do these tight controls do? For whom?”

[Food]
Pyongyang Issued an Advance Notice about Cutting Food Ration in Half Beginning April
It is known that the amount of April-May food ration will be cut down to half in the central district of Pyongyang city. An official of the Pyongyang said, “Currently, there are two cities, Pyongyang and Hoeryong, and military bases that receive food rationing. For Pyongyang (We) had been supplying to the central district but beginning April the amount will be decreased to half.” The department of food and its workers had several meetings, but there is no way to solve food problem for now. He said, “There is no foreign country either to import food from.” Officials of the Central Party asserted that the government has to guarantee some portion of food supply to the residents of central Pyongyang district without delay. Answering to this request, food department of Pyongyang People's Assembly decided to check whether there are extra grains from last year’s harvest. Officials of food department of Pyongyang even went to the area where National Planning Committee reported higher grain productivity to check the actual amount of food.

Hoeryong Distributed 7.2 kg of Corn in Early March
Hoeryong city supplied 7.2kg of corn to each household in early March. The city also allowed women who head the household to buy corn at 340 NK won per kg. As the corn is sold at 600NK won per kg at the market, the price is 260 NK won cheaper. However, the maximum amount to buy per household is 5kg. When the government distributes the corn, corns have to be dehydrated first and then grinded at a rice mill before rationing. But the corns purchased in a hurry were not dehydrated and not grinded properly due to lack of electricity. Therefore the whole un-dehydrated corn is heavier than the powder, which means that the real food amount is smaller because the food is distributed by its weight. Furthermore, mistakes during the weighing process and loss during the delivery cause shortage of corn. The office of food distribution calculates the loss too high and reduces the amount of ration to the people. In this way, workers of the food distribution office in Hoeryong collected 600 kg of food and divided it among the workers.

Kimchaek Steel Enterprise, No Ration for March
Kimchaek Steel Enterprise made no rationing in March. The only rationing provided this year was 15 days worth of wheat and corn for 2.16 Holiday. At this time, high-ranking workers and laborers with full attendance record received 3.5kg of wheat and 3.5kg of corn. According to laborers at Kimchaek Steel Enterprise, many families have difficulties buying remnants of bean oil. Chung Jin-sung (30s) said, “Most families survive solely on corn noodles for their three meals and more than half of families are surviving on mixture of remnants of bean oil and corn powder.” Kim Pil-joong (40s) added, “They send us to training because of the political situation and we get nothing in return. Nowadays it is hard to buy even remnants of bean oil.”

Residents at Chungju Mountainous Region Subsist on Sweet Potatoes
Until recently Shim Young-hee (Alias, 40s) was a respectable citizen of Pyongyang. She lived in a plentiful and stable environment and had 6 months of food stored until her husband, a former Central Party Official was caught during an inspection. Her husband was sent to the Re-Educational Center and she was exiled to mountainous region of Chungju, North Pyongan Province, together with his aged mother, his unmarried brother, and her two children. This mountainous village has only about 70 households, of which only 5 are natives to this region. All other households were exiled here like Shim. Because it is a mountainous region, food is their main concern. Households who can afford soup are considered well off and there are several households surviving on steamed sweet potatoes. Shim shared her shocking first impression of the region, “It was unbelievable but this was the reality,” and continued, “Our whole family were able to get loads of firewood so we didn’t need to worry about firewood.” They were able to trade one load of firewood for 1kg of sweet potatoes. She said they would soon adapt to this reality of surviving on sweet potatoes instead of rice. Her main concern was children’s education. The eldest child, who attended 2nd year of middle school in Pyongyang, cannot go to school yet. “It is too expensive to buy uniform, backpack, school supplies and shoes. There is no method of earning money. It is not just my kids but most kids in this region cannot afford to go to school. There is no way to earn money at this point but I really want to solve my children’s education problem.” She forced a smile and said she wishes that “my husband took care of himself at the Re-Educational Center and that we reunite one day.”

[Economy]
Women Under 40 Years with Living Hardships Are Allowed to Do Business in Markets
Young women who have a hard time making a living in Chungjin and other areas in the Northern Hamgyong County are cautiously allowed to do business in market areas. One party official said, “So many people have raised the issue to the Provincial Party indicating that these young women will starve to death if they are not allowed to do business in market areas.” According to the official, other officials visited these young women and allowed them to do business after verifying whether they were badly off because they had to take care of their parents-in-law, couldn’t make wages because their husbands are college students, or they can’t make their living unless they do some business in market areas. These young women are relieved and happy about the news.

[Politics]
Internal Situation at Unease with Anticipated Missile Launch
With the expected missile launch, the North Korean government authorities have been talking to military executives on the essential matters of the currently tensed situation. The talk was mostly about North Korea’s stance that “In relation to our missile launch, the U.S., South Korea, and Japan are reacting very strongly. If the hostile countries disturb our launch, then we will not just sit back and watch.” The country is at a state of tension due to the missile launch. Along with the Reserve Forces, Civilian workers and farmers, and Red Flag Young Army are all getting ready for battle. All men except those discharged from military service, were ordered not to travel. Also, the People’s Army has been prohibited from leaving the military base. On one hand, there was a TV announcement from Department of the General Staff on March 9th that telecommunication with South Korea would be cut off. Kim, Kwang-Min (40s) who lives in Pyongsung said, “It feels like right before going to war”, expressing the heightened tension in the country.

The Country Should Make a Model of Hoeryong City
On February 24th, leader Kim, Jong-Il said, “Out of all of the cities that have been inspected, Hoeryong City is the best well-managed.” Kim then said, “The country should make a model of Hoeryong City”, ordering others to follow this “exemplary” city. One party member said, “This would be something that is only said between the members, but the city looks better than when Yon, Hyong-Mook of the Jagang Province worked for it.” On the 8th, right after the 12th Supreme People’s Assembly was over, each member responsible for his/her city and province came to visit Hoeryong. The Hoeryong city council is quickly preparing for the visits by repairing old houses and buildings on the side of the roads and repainting buildings. With this new task on hand, the officers in the village office are getting citizens to help out to clean every morning, afternoon, and night.

A Fishing Boat in Chungdan County Faced With Hardships on the Suspicion of Escape to the South
On February 10th, a fishing boat in Chungdan County of the Southern Hwanghae Province rode out into international waters and was caught by the navy patrol boat. The boat belonged to the Marine Products Enterprise stationed at the Foreign Currency Earning Base under the 4th Corps and was used for foreign-currency earning business. The captain and crewmembers of the boat were immediately arrested because they were considered heading toward the South. The Fourth Army Corps Security dealt with this incident very seriously. Thus, during the preliminary hearing of whether the ship was heading south or not, one of the crewmembers was severely beaten to death. In early March, six crewmembers were released, but the captain, the chief engineer, and the three boatswains are still under investigation.

Laborers at Aquiculture Enterprise of Chungjin, Flee from Baekdoo Mountain Construction Shock Troop Brigade
Laborers at Aquiculture Enterprise at Chungam District of Chungjin City, North Hamgyong Province joined Baekdoo Mountain Shock Troop Brigade and dispersed after 4 days. The Aquiculture Management workers invested huge sum of money and created a sea cucumber farm but their productivity level did not even reach 200kg last year. Last February 27th, the Aquiculture Enterprise Party Committee sent all laborers to Baekdoo Mountain Shock Troop Brigade with an exception of small number of workers necessary in maintaining the sea cucumber farm. However, most workers returned home after few days of overwhelming work from the Baekdoo Mountain Construction site. Because of this incident, the Aquiculture Enterprise Management Chairman and the Party Secretary were criticized and punished by higher department and were forced to close their enterprise as punishment for their lack of management skill.

[Society]
Elders Waiting to Die
Lee Jae-ok (70s) living in Bokcheon Town, Danchun City, South Hamgyong Province lost her husband during the Arduous March. She lives by herself since her son is in the army and her two daughters are married. Up until a couple years ago, she made a living farming on a patch of field. However, her aged and ill body is not responding well. When she had difficulty walking and working, she visited her eldest daughter but returned soon thereafter. After few days, she went to visit her younger daughter but could not stay for long. Their food troubles were unspeakable. She had to leave when she saw her grandchildren barely eating rice-bran gruel. She could barely walk with a cane and had to beg for food so her malnutrition worsened. She requested government aid but she only received few kilograms of raw corn from the Head of the Neighborhood Unit and nothing was provided after that. She is waiting to die because no one is looking after her. Cho Chum-soon (70s) from Naemoon-dong, Danchun was in similar situation. Her husband passed away long time ago and had no children. She had to live as a day laborer because the government did not take care of her. As she got older, she begged for survival but last year she was bed-ridden due to illnesses. She spent her last days sighing and regretting life, but no one took care of her. Everyone was having difficulties and was not able to look after her. She spent her last day home by herself starved to death. Her heartbroken neighbors commented, “The government neglected to help a poor elder. What happened to this world?”

A Whole family Becomes Homeless at a Train Station
There is a broad range of Kkotjebi(homeless) from kids to the elderly at the Wonsan train station in Kangwon Province. Included is an entire family begging at the station. Han Suk-ki (40) and his family are also begging for money at a station. Mr. Han came from Liwon County, South Hamgyong Province. He has been working for the automobile company for more than 10 years after being discharged from military service. He became a Kkotjebi last year. The following is his story: It seemed okay a few years ago. Things got bad since 2006. There were nothing to eat and nothing to wear. However, he had a job at a company at that time. He endured many days with nothing to eat. He couldn't help but quit his work and tried to do anything he could to make money. He washed for gold and sold trees in the beginning. Those did not go well. Then, he got into business. What he did was to carry around something heavy for a boss. He picked up corn from Sepo in Kangwon Province and sold them in a northern area. He also bought seafood in the Northern part and sold it in Shinuiju, North Pyongan Province. He did everything he could do to support his family. Nothing went well. He thought it cost too much for him to commute a long distance for peddling. So he did 'short distance peddling' by buying and selling to the local. But he barely made a profit. There were so many peddling people who were doing same type of trade. He and his wife were not able to make his business work well. In order to obtain some food he and his family made visits to his older brother's house in Danchun city and his parent's in law in Myungchun city, North Hamgyong Province. The last year was the worst. It was the toughest time for him to get some food. Some of his co-workers died from hunger last summer. As he lost money, he started leading a wandering life with his family. They have moved from one train station to another and ended up at Wonsan station. They could survive day to day where there were a lot of people. But recently, the authorities are getting stricter over the homeless. He was not even sure how long he could stay in Wonsan station. When the police chased them away, they just moved to other places. He felt there was no hope for the future. They barely lived from hand to mouth. He felt so sorry for his wife and two daughters.

Family Destroyed from Mistakenly Spoken Words
Kang Bong-rim who lives is Heochun town in Heochun County, South Hamgyong Province, had his family ruined because of wrongly spoken words. He lamented, “We are the only country suffering famine. Higher authorities are well off and do not care for their citizens. The world needs to turn upside down for us to survive. Even for a day, it would be a fruitful life to eat well, dress well and live well. Who would care when everyone starves to death?” After this complaint, Kang was arrested by the Security Agency who called this a ‘Verbal Rebellion’. His wife ran away after his arrest. His aged father took his own life worrying about his son. His young children had no one to look after them and died of starvation in the midst of cold. Kang yet does not know what happened to his family.

[Women/Children/Education]
They Say that "Kimkisong First Junior High School in Hoeryong City, Named the Role Model School Nationwide”
The Department of Education advised to follow the example of Hoeryong city Kimkisong First Junior High school. According to one central party official, the Dept. of Education presented a guideline on February 24 after Chairman Kim Jong-Il made a visit to the school and was satisfied with it. As it was thought that Kimkisong First Junior high school was better than Kanggyesije First Junior high school in Jagang Province, The officials visited and observed the Kimkisong First Junior high school. Principals and vice-principals in South Pyongan Province observed the school on March 17. Principals and vice-principals in North Hamgyong Province made visits on the 15th and 17th of March. After observing the school facilities and educational material, they evaluated the school and commented that "Under the circumstances that people had a difficult life, but the educational level seemed higher than expected here."An anonymous official mentioned "Sixty percent of the materials and facilities in Kimkisong First Junior high school were from extra contribution from students. The rest of them were purchased with City money. All were possible because the students of this school are from the wealthy family." "It would be impossible in other cities beside Pyongyang and other than the First schools." Another official said "It would be a good idea for this school to become a role model school. But it is not realistic or practical for most schools, which really concerns me."

Her Mother Left Home, Her Father Died, and Her Brother Left Home as well
Today Seo Hyo-rim(9) hangs around again at the market with her grandmother to search for her brother, Jang-sun(11) who left his house at the end of last year. After her father passed away in December of last year, her brother visited his grandmother and left home in a few days. Hyo-rim and her grandmother have worried so much about him that they have searched for him here and there, but they have had no news of him at all. According to the grandmother, as the economic crisis became extremely severe, Hyo-rim’s mom left home and went far away to peddle. Since then they have not heard any news from her. Hyo-rim cursed her mom, but she said that she misses her so much. Her father, who was a laborer at a quarry of Riwon County, South Hamgyong Province, starved, but he did his best to feed his children by gathering firewood in the mountain or picking seaweed on the seashore. However, last year brought the worst season of spring food shortage in the history. Because her father could not endure the difficulties, he sent her to her grandmother. The father searched with his son in all possible ways and looked around every place he could think of to get food. When winter began, he suffered from severe weather and malnutrition and become sick. Because he did not have money to buy even a single dose of medication, he did not get any treatment and finally passed out on the street last December 20th. He did not recover at all and soon passed away. Left alone, Jang-sun went to his grandmother and his sister. However, their living condition was not much better than his. In order to reduce their burden, Jang-sun left home. Hyo-rim did not mind eating thin gruel every day, but she really wanted to live together with him and her grandmother, so she anxiously searches for her brother again.

Three Devoted Kkotjebi Brothers Take Care of Their Mentally Ill Father
Three kkotjebi brothers, Kim Dong-Hwan (12), Dong-Hyuk (11), and Dong-Cheol (8), in Danchun, South Hamgyong Province are well known for their devotion to their father. The head of the Neighborhood Unit who knows them said that he wanted to help them because they are very commendable. The following story is what the head describes about these brothers.
Dong-Hwan’s father was a laborer of a factory of caustic soda and his mother was also a laborer of a salt manufactory. He had an old grandmother who sold some trivial items at the market and took care of house chores. Meanwhile, since 2007 or around that, their living condition began to change for the worst. The head of the household and his wife could not go to work anymore and barely maintained their family living. However, their condition got worse in May and June of last year. The husband gathered firewood in the mountain and his wife fed their family by making food with grass and barks of tree. Meanwhile the grandmother who suffered from malnutrition died early July of last year. The children’s mother also suffered from malnutrition and could not move and became bedridden. The husband did his best to save his wife. Our Neighborhood Unit provided them with a few kilos of corn. He did not have money, so he was not able to provide any medicine for his wife. Although he did his best, he could not save his wife. After a while, she passed away. Eventually, due to his tremendous debt, he lost his house. Since then, the three brothers stopped going to school. When only their father was left to provide for them, the eldest brother, Dong-Hwan, led his brothers to leave home by saying, “We should not be a burden on our father because he cannot secure enough food for us even with his best efforts.” They began to beg for food here and there and wandered more than 10 kms a day in the effort. They told me later that they lived in a cargo train last winter. While the father worried about and searched them, the children tried to live by themselves in order to reduce the burden on their father. Early this year, when the children accidentally found that their father became insane and was wandering around on the streets, they brought him to the house. When I visited them last New Year’s Day, I found the three little children putting food they had gotten from their begging in their metally ill father’s mouth. I cried, heartbroken from such a scene. When we gave the boys some used clothes and kilos of corn, they cried bitterly. Even with my best efforts, I could not help crying along with them. The sight of these boys, only barely school aged, begging on the streets to take such care of their sick father would touch anyone’s hearts.

[Accidents]
Gold mine of Hoeryong, Inmates of the Discipline Center of the National Security Agency Involved in Safety Accident One After Another
Safety accidents happen one after another in a gold mine that Changdoo Daeheung administration in Hoeryong of North Hamgyong Province manage. The mine is such a dangerous place that even laborers specializing in mining often get into an accident. Inmates in the Discipline Center of the Security Agency doing mining for the first time were called up for a drilling mining practice at the entrance, which is located at a 45-degree slope, therefore making the risk of an accident higher. Last March 10th, a woman 19 years old fell down being hit by a mound of stones pouring down on her head while training for the digging mining at the entrance. It was a condition that safety helmets weren’t provided to students of the Discipline Center. In the afternoon of the 15th, two male inmates were pressed in the middle of working for erecting mine timber in the mines because two-meter sections collapsed. The sufferers broke limbs and they were transported quickly to a nearby hospital by large truck. Although it was fortunate that their lives were saved, they had to be transferred to the People’s hospital in the city because they were unconscious. Witnesses to the accident have a lot of words about the members of the executive of Changdoo gold mine. One miner (40) working in the Changdoo gold mine raised voice of his criticisms, “It was the fault of the chief of management and the secretary of primary party of Changdoo gold mine. They should let skillful miners do the initial mining operation. We who have been specialized in this work are really careful in working. It is much strange that accidents don’t happen although people who committed societal crime are forced to work without any preparations. Is it right that in a few days time, three young people became disabled person for the rest of their life?
[Commentary]
To Help the Residents Make a Living by Themselves
People clamor that there is not much trading in the whole country. The food price has not increased significantly, but nobody is buying. “The spring has come, but (people) can’t feel spring.” So, in North Korea, people's sensory temperature is still below zero. As for the reasons for slow business, the first is the control on residents’ movement from one place to another. Moving around was not done freely in the past either. On top of that, dilapidated transportation and outdated system, and if you add high travel expenses, not many people can afford to travel to different places. But this time, the election of delegates to the Twelfth Supreme People’s Assembly conducted on March 8 served as the biggest variable. As the election drew near traveling from one place to another was strictly controlled for the whole population. Businesses can only thrive when people and money move around. When the movement is prohibited businesses stay frozen.
Second, as an extension to the first reason above, residents do not have money. Except for some moneylenders, farmers and workers have no sources of income. For farmers their cash receipt for the year is at most 2,000-3,000 NK won. They can’t even buy one kg of bean oil (5,500 NK won) with that money. They have to sell food to get money to buy other necessities, but food is not selling because city workers are not buying. Many of the city workers make a living by doing business. But the logistics of the traffic control was too strict this time. So, the merchandise could not be traded. In addition, a significant restriction on business merchandise (items) made the situation even worse. This is why people are not buying food, even though the price was not drastically increased.
Even though the election is over the market is still not gaining vibrancy. Right after the election, the North Koran authorities announced restrictions of the marketplace again. Throughout the nation, Hoeryong and Pyongyang are the only cities where people are receiving food distribution. They have announced that from April the amount of distribution will be cut in half even in the central district of Pyongyang. Other local residents have to take care of food problem on their own. The attempt to put restrictions on the marketplace again doesn’t seem to be appropriate step under this circumstance. If they put restrictions on the market after having alternative solutions in place, it would not be too late. Repeated crack down on marketplace, even though it is ineffective, only creates difficulties in the livelihood of the people, and lowers the people’s trust in the Party. If people have to take care of food problem on their own, they should be allowed to do business for a limited time.
It is reported that in some areas they are beginning to allow young women in difficult economic situations to do business. This is one step in the right direction, and we welcome it. Those women in vulnerable class that has difficulty earning a meal a day should be given room for breathing. Anyhow, people can only make living when the marketplace is alive. People’s survival issue is too crucial to sacrifice the function of the marketplace because of some partial problems. We look forward to a day when people feel the warm spring, the sooner the better.

[Investigative Report]
Tale of a Woman’s Relocation To A Rural Village; “The empty grain sacks were collected with the promise of being filled with rations, but that promise was a lie.”
Last fall, all of our family moved to Sungchun County of South Pyongan Province. This so-called move was really an exile. When I first found out about the exile, the whole world looked so gloomy. All I could think of was, “We are all dead.” I was born in Pyongyang and have lived all my life there. I performed well academically all the way through college. I expected to live in Pyongyang and never imagined that I had to leave Pyongyang. All of a sudden, the head of our household received an order committing him to exile because of some work-related problem in the field of foreign trade. There was nothing we could do. I thought that I could somehow survive wherever I might be. I was determined to survive no matter what. However, when I first arrived at the village, I quickly found that everyday brought its own new shocking development. The following are some examples.
It was just before harvest time. It was announced that the assessment of the expected crop output was good. There would be enough grain left for us after setting aside the military provisions. The leftover grain will be divided among the farmers like us. Everyone was happy and worked hard during the harvest.
We were greatly encouraged when we each received a bowl of white rice from the new crop. I really did not appreciate a bowl of white rice that much because I always had meals of white rice while living n Pyongyang. What I found out later was that during last spring, many people living in the area had lost their lives to starvation. I was told that there was no family that had not lost one or two members to starvation. It was hard to believe at first, but experience tells me that all the families were too poor to afford even corn porridge, not to mention solid corn meals. I thought I would probably end up like them. Anyhow, these are the people who could never afford white rice meals, and a bowl of white rice as an evening snack made them look really happy.
Something started happening. When harvest work started, soldiers came. They worked hard with us, the farmers, which made us think they volunteered to support us. When the harvest work was done and the filled grain sacks were stacked up, military trucks came and left with all the filled grain sacks on them. They even took some grain that the work unit manager hid in anticipation of a food shortage in the spring. It was scary and surprising. Was I the only one who saw this?
A few days later, we were asked to donate two empty grain sacks for a ration of 98 Kg of unprocessed rice that would last our family of three two months. We felt grateful and tried to give two new sacks, upon seeing which the woman next door said, “Why do you want to give up new ones? Give them old ones.”
“Isn’t the ration real?”
“That talk of ration is a lie.”
I followed her advice and gave the old ones. I could not believe it, but no rations appeared ever since we gave away those old sacks long ago. In the meantime, they handed us a pound of noodles made of rotten corn, and told us that it was in place of the ration. I was stunned, and asked the woman next door.
“How come nobody protests this?”
The woman looked really amazed and said.
“To whom? How? Watch your mouth. You might get arrested.”
I thought to myself, “Isn’t this a modern version of slavery?”
There is another thing. At around the time when general residents met for cash distribution, I asked several people how much they received. The most amount any family received from the annual distribution was 2,800 NK won after all the deductions. Some families even asked me not to mention it.
“Minus. Minus. What else is there to say? Don’t even talk about it.”
“Then where do you get the money to buy oil, soap, footwear, matches, and everything else you need?”
“Trade with corn. There isn’t even a single grain of corn left. A box to serve as furniture and a blanket, that’s all we need. We cannot afford the oiled-paper cover for the floor in the room.”
Things are happening which I could not imagine while in Pyongyang. These hardships are reality here. I was with my youngest daughter when she started kindergarten. She needed to be relieved and I took her to the restroom. There was no hygienic tissue. Do you know what you are supposed to use? You are supposed to wipe out with corncob.
I was stunned and didn’t know what to say. My child started whining and I ended up hitting her rear because I got angry with myself.
In another episode, the head of our work unit asked for a loan of 100,000 NK won. He promised to pay it back with 200 Kg of corn. I loaned him that amount because I thought I could trust him, and I could afford that amount. It turned out that I was naïve. All he paid back was 100 Kg of corn. It was useless to fight with him. He said he didn’t have any corn. I am worried. Our family needs at least 300 Kg to last until the next harvest time. While we lived in Pyongyang, I did not have any problem with two meals a day. But here, I feel so hungry. Working at a farm, collecting water and gathering firewood, all these chores make me really hungry. People say the scariest time is the spring. They say you should never fill your stomach even when you have enough to eat. You should save and save food. Because we do not know when our money may run out, we do not even dream of eating bowls of white rice. And yet, we could not eat as others do. Other families have two meals of porridge made of ground corn and the third meal of three or four boiled potatoes.Would you believe that there are so many thieves in this poor village? These days, there are many people coming to this village mining gold dust and gathering firewood. One day, a family reported a theft of a few boiled potatoes and corn porridge that was prepared for a family of five. Even the dried turnip greens for two puppies were stolen. Village residents whisper that the thieves might be the soldiers from the military hospital that treats soldiers suffering from malnutrition. We thought theft was someone else’s problem, not anymore. We understand why the thieves took corn, but can you imagine anyone wanting to take large cooking pot from the kitchen? Stunned and amazed, I did not know what to say. Everyday is a day of shock. Now I understand why people call our republic the “Pyongyang Republic,” and I feel it every day. I wrote a letter asking my sister who lives in the Joong District to send some money: “Older Sister, Be appreciative of living in Pyongyang. Do not become like me. You should never leave the city.” No matter what, I should survive. It does not seem easy to survive.
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