GoodFriends: Research Institute For North Korean Society

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North Korea Today No. 325 Full Version January 2010

[“Good Friends” aims to help the North Korean people from a humanistic point of view and publishes “North Korea Today” describing the way the North Korean people live as accurately as possible. We at Good Friends also hope to be a bridge between the North Korean people and the world.]
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[Hot Topics]
Note: Hot Topics of this edition were released earlier as a separate edition.

[Food]
Note: The food section of this edition was released earlier as a separate edition.

[Economy]
Cabinet Telephone Meeting, "Domestic Prices will be Stabilized Around 15th"
8,500 Won Paid to Miners in South Pyongan Province
1,500 to 2,000 Won per Ton Is Paid for Making Compost

[Politics]
Officials Punished for Disclosing Information about Currency Exchange
Female Prisoners at Jeungsan Re-Education Center Moved to Jeongurrie Re-Education Center

[Society]
Sariwon, Eighteen Died from H1N1 Flu
Sinuiju Begins to Provide Flu Treatment
Central Party Issued the Third Order with Criticism about “Taking Measures for H1N1.”
Families Concerned about Ban on Family Visits at the Re-education Center

[Women/Children/Education]
First Wave of Food and School Supplies Distribution to Orphanages and other Institutions in North Hamgyong Province
320 Admitted to School of Politics at Provincial People’s Police Bureau in the North Hamgyong Province

[Accidents]
Railroad Train Accident in Baekam County
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[Hot Topics]
Note: Hot Topics of this edition were released earlier as a separate edition.

[Food]
Note: The food section of this edition was released earlier as a separate edition.

[Economy]
Cabinet Telephone Meeting, "Domestic Prices will be Stabilized Around 15th"
In the morning of January 8th, the cabinet had a telephone meeting with government offices. The government proclaimed in the meeting that "All goods that belong to each city and county trading companies shall not fall in hands of individuals, and the market shall sell the existing inventory only." Officials who attended the meeting said that domestic prices will be stabilized around January 15th. They also said that if prices would still continue to go up, then the city and the County Party as well as the People's Council would take drastic measures to temporarily stop all the market activities. Moreover, if merchants would arbitrarily raise prices beyond the regulated prices set by the government, such goods will be confiscated unconditionally because they did not follow the government's measures. In addition, the market supervision and control will be strengthened. After the meeting, the market managers in each market ordered the merchants to "sell goods for only three more days and do not receive more goods," while collecting the market fees from them. The market surveillance team also warned the merchants that they will strengthen the crackdown of the merchants who raise prices.

8,500 Won Paid to Miners in South Pyongan Province
The laborers working in the coal mines run by Dukchun District Mine United Enterprise in South Pyongan Province in Jae-Nam, Wol-Bong, and Duk-Chun, were paid a wage of eight thousand five hundred won for miners who perform the hard labor of collecting coal and digging tunnels. Those who worked outside the mines were rewarded four to five thousand won as compensation. From now on, those who meet the goal of monthly production plan will be paid at least ten thousand won. Households with three or more miners will receive monthly wages of twenty thousand won or more and many of them purchased luxury items such as bicycles and TVs. Such potential for increased living standards have encouraged laborers to demonstrate more ardent work ethics and enthusiasm. Unfortunately, with the dawning of the New Year, prices have risen, bringing about complaints that wages have not increased enough to allow for a more affordable lifestyle.

1,500 to 2,000 Won per Ton Is Paid for Making Compost
A compost-making task is carried out in factories and public enterprises nationwide in order to accomplish the goals specified in the New Year’s Day Joint Editorial of this year. The Hamheung City in South Hamgyong Province asked the workers in each factory and public enterprise to turn in 1.5 tons of compost per person. They made a subtle demand saying that everyone must make the compost because they had received the full month worth of wages. They agreed that if the people fully concentrate on the compost-making task and accomplish the quota in January, the farms will pay 1,500-2,000 won for 1 ton of compost in February according to the new economic policy. There will be some sort of arrangements between the factories, public enterprises and the collective farm, and the transaction will be processed by the Central Bank. The compost-making task has been done every year, but it was never paid or remunerated before. This plan was brought out starting this year in order to proactively encourage the compost-making task. Now laborers can earn some extra money other than the monthly wage depending on how much compost-making work they do.

[Politics]
Officials Punished for Disclosing Information about Currency Exchange
Three employees from a trading company in Pyongsung, South Pyongan Province, were arrested for divulging the rumor about the currency exchange one day before its implementation. On December 3rd, the Police Department in South Pyongan Province arrested them for treason of revealing a state secret. An offender confessed during the interrogation that he heard it from the officials from the Ministry of Foreign Trade, so two officials from Ministry were arrested based on the testimony. They were also discharged from their post for disseminating a state secret and the entire family was sent to somewhere. A financial directive officer from Suseong Re-education Center in Chungjin, North Hamgyong Province, was also arrested on December 2nd for disseminating confidential information about currency exchange. The authority is conducting inspection follow-ups in order to investigate whether there are any other similar cases between the officials and the residents since the currency exchange.

Female Prisoners at Jeungsan Re-Education Center Moved to Jeongurrie Re-Education Center
Six officials, including the director of re-education center of the People’s Safety Agency were removed from their position last October after inspections by the central prosecutor’s office and the Central Party. As a result, the size of the re-education centers was reduced by more than half. This is due to unsanitary conditions at re-education center and crowding of inmates in these facilities and high death rates caused by epidemics. Re-education Center at Jeungsan County, South Pyungan Province moved two of their re-educational division to Junguri Re-education Center at Heoryong City, North Hamgyong Province. On two occasions over last November and December, they mobilized a cargo truck and relocated female prisoners. There are approximately 4,500 female prisoners and 1,100 male prisoners at Junguri Re-Education Center. Prisoners are concentrated here with low number of amnesty or maturity release this past year. With a narrow capacity of the facility and unsanitary facility that has not yet been fully operative, they are vulnerable to infectious disease. Currently, there are five female re-education departments and there are six sub-sections within each re-educational department. After the dismissal of re-education center’s high ranked officials, there had been changes in prisoner’s daily life. They hold political session for two hours on Saturday morning and take bath and do laundry in the afternoon. Sunday is a day of resting where life managing staff brings television and video recorder to allow prisoners to watch at “the party’s consideration”. Also, they are planning to begin their expansion construction to hold the increasing number of inmates at re-education center starting March, 2010.

[Society]
Sariwon, Eighteen Died from H1N1 Flu

According to the report submitted to the City and County Party, eighteen died from H1N1 flu 2009 in Sariwon, North Hwanghae Province in December. Authorities in Public Health are focusing on sterilizing schools, day-care centers and kindergartens before starting a new semester in order to prevent children from getting the flu. The mortality rate is relatively low in economically stable households while medicine misuse and abuse is increasing in poor households. Due to the inflation after the currency reform, the parents let their children take cheap medicine which causes side effects and even death. Children with high fever and headache are suffering from hunger without proper treatment, shivering with cold in houses without heating system. According to a healthcare provider, even though the situation in North Hwanghae Province is better than North Pyongan Province, they should be on the lookout for the flu because it is spreading very fast."

Sinuiju Begins to Provide Flu Treatment
Sinuiju, North Pyongan Province has begun to provide flu treatment from December 25, 2009. Doctors are offering tablets to those who had a contact with the H1N1 flu patients while giving injection to or prescribing medicine for the patients. However, the health authorities do not relax their attention because the number of the patients has not decreased. Recently, four patients with H1N1 flu have died in Sinuiju People's Hospital. In particular, the death rate of children and those who are over late fifties is high. A physician said "Children and seniors cannot recover from the flu due to their physical weakness and lack of immunity. They suffer from the illness and die. Even though we received medicine from the UN, it is still lacking. It is difficult to purchase medicine on the market due to the extremely high price."

Central Party Issued the Third Order with Criticism about “Taking Measures for H1N1.”
H1N1 is gradually spreading from North Pyongan Province to southern areas. According to the Health Department officials, more patients have been reported in inner land areas such as North and South Hwanghae Provinces than in northern areas. H1N1 is known as a new type of flu to North Koreans, and its spreading does not seem to decrease. Accordingly, last December 30, the officials of the Health Department and the Emergency Disease Control Center held a meeting “to prevent and eradicate H1N1 from North Korea.” For the first time this year, the Central Party sent the Health Department officials an order with criticism about “preparing definitive measures to treat H1H1 patients.” Two orders with criticism were already issued in December last year and this is the third.

Families Concerned about Ban on Family Visits at the Re-education Center
The Re-education Center in South Pyongan Province prohibited family visits in an effort to control the outbreak of the H1N1 flu virus. People who have families in the Re-education and Labor Training Centers are concerned that their loved ones may suffer from hunger and severe weather due to inadequate provisions available at these centers. Families will do anything to supply their relatives with the necessities needed to survive; however, even before the prohibition, families were prohibited from directly delivering the goods to their kin at these centers and consequently, were not able to confirm whether the supplies have been properly delivered. “[People in the centers] would die from starvation and the cold before dying from H1N1,” which is a concern that resonated with many families with relatives at these centers. Meanwhile, as H1N1 continued to spread, the levels of restriction also began to increase. As the elderly became among the most affected by the flu virus, some asylums for the aged in South Pyongan Province blocked entrances and strictly regulated the admission of people into the center. Healthy people among the staffs were chosen to take care of the old. A complete ban on visitation is in effect at re-education centers in South Pyongan Province.

[Women/Children/Education]
First Wave of Food and School Supplies Distribution to Orphanages and other Institutions in North Hamgyong Province

With the currency reform, the North Korean government distributed food, daily necessities, and school supplies to nursing homes, stepmother’s institutions, and orphanages. Last December 28, before New Year’s Day, North Hamgyong Province assigned the officials of the Commerce Management and receiving staff to begin distributing the items. One ton of imported rice was originally planned to be sent to Wonsan-ri nursing home in Hoeryong, but only 400kg of rice was sent. Only 15 blankets out of originally assigned 30 blankets, 15 beds out of 30, and 10 individual eating tables out of 40 were distributed as well. Winter boots, warm underclothes, and school supplies for elementary school children in the Jongsung Labor District at Onsung County were provided. The same amount of items that Jongsung elementary school received was also sent to Gilju elementary school.

320 Admitted to School of Politics at Provincial People’s Police Bureau in the North Hamgyong Province
On September 15th 2009, 450 applicants, including jail guards and college graduates, took the entrance exam for School of Politics to be a police officer. There are 12 subject areas in the exam in total, including Kim Il-sung’s and Kim Jong-il’s rojak (editorials written by Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il), math and physics. Of the 450 who took the exam, 320 applicants passed. Until 2003, the school ran a thorough background check on three generations of family members before granting final admission. However, since 2004, the applicants can be admitted even if they do not have good background so long as they have money. Many of them give 900,000 won (old currency) in bribe money, which they can make within a year if they become police officers by taking bribes from ordinary people. In September, many students who were not qualified borrowed money from lenders or sold their homes to pay the bribery. One school official said about 30 percent of the students is admitted through bribery.

[Accidents]
Railroad Train Accident in Baekam County
In Baekam County of Ryanggang Province, 4 out of 12 workers died at the scene at a logging yard in Limsan at a mining timber company while transporting a railway sleeper. A loop attached to the train broke causing two steam trains loaded with timber fell down, killing 4 workers and seriously injuring 5 workers. These steam trains were old and worn out because they had been built during the 1940’s when Korea was occupied by Japan. Even before this accident, 5 to 8 people were killed or injured annually from traveling into the rural farming village on these trains.
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