GoodFriends: Research Institute For North Korean Society

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North Korea Today No. 319 Full Version December 2009

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

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

[Economy]
Farmers Received Cash Distribution of 14,000-15,000 Won per Person
Government-set Price is Higher than the Market Price, an Odd Phenomenon
Pyongyang Residents Wonder Why the Official Grain Price is More Expensive
Hamheung Sold Rice at 28 Won until Market Price was Announced
Female Merchants Beaten for Resisting Grain Prices Regulations
Only Half of the Steel Commodities Manufacturing Factory Workers Coming to Work in Kumya County

[Politics]
Investigations Continue after November Espionage Incident in Heoryong City
The Primary Party Secretary Committed Espionage by Calling his Defector Wife
All Spy Accomplices at Yusun People's Hospital are Dismissed
Forty Inspectors Dispatched in Yusun-dong, Hoeryong City

[Society]
Two-family Households Struggling with Currency Exchange of 1,000 Won
Elderly Woman Selling Spring Water Gets Fortunate Chance Due to Currency Change
After the Currency Reform, Officers of the 5th Division Based in Kosan County Avoid to Retire

[Women/Children/Education]
Elementary Schools in Hoeryong Burden Parents with Manure Collecting
Teachers Punished for Mobilizing Students to Collect Manure

[Accidents]
Sungchun County, a Kkotjebi Run Over by a Coal Train
__________________________________________________________
[Hot Topics]
Note: Hot Topics of this edition were released earlier as a separate edition.


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


[Economy]
Farmers Received Cash Distribution of 14,000-15,000 Won per Person

After closing the accounts for cash distribution for this year, results show that farmers received on average 14,000-15,000 won in cash per person. There are many farms that did not finish closing their accounts. However, those farms that have finished are issuing the full amount to farmers regardless of the number of days they have worked. The majority of families have more than two farmers in the household, so they received cash distribution of more than 30,000 won on average. In the case of a 4-member household, the cash distribution amount was up to 60,000 won. Those farmers who received cash after a long period of shortage are beginning to spend money to prepare for the New Year’s Day celebration. As a result, the prices of goods have more than doubled in the midst of instability in the market, as farmers spend a great deal of money to purchase goods for the New Year’s Day celebration. In the case of Sinuiju, North Pyungan Province, the prices are going up rapidly because farmers are going to the city and buying up refined rice, wheat flour, bean oil, as well as other items. The price of a five-liter bottle of bean oil is 280 won, but it is hard to obtain even at 380 won.

Government-set Price is Higher than the Market Price, an Odd Phenomenon
Disbursement of salaries for December for workers and retirement welfare money in new currency has been completed. The increased value of the new currency turned a salary of 2,000 won into a large amount of money that can purchase about 45 kg of rice (given the price of 44 won for 1 kg of rice). Two thousand won in old currency was not enough for even 1 kg of rice. On December 25, the price of pork was 120 won per kilogram in Sinuiju, but the price jumped to 140 won in less then half an hour. In Chulsan-eup, Chulsan County, North Pyungan Province, pork was selling at 170 won per kilogram. The selling price prior to the currency exchange was 7,500 won per kg, but now the price is equivalent to 17,000 won in old currency. Thus, there are goods for which the prices are going up by the hour, but at the same time there are items for which the government-set prices are much higher than market price because the prices remain as they were before the currency exchange. For instance, the price of a bar of soap called Bohmhyanggie (scent of spring) produced by a cosmetic factory in Sinuiju is 30 won, the same as before the currency exchange. The official price of a bar of soap prior to the currency exchange was 700-1,000 won each, which was 20 times more expensive than the government-set price of 30 won. However, things changed after the currency exchange. The government-set price is still 30 won, but in the market, it is selling for 10 won in the new currency. There is a small grocery store in front of Chaeha Market in Sinuiju, North Pyungan Province. Here, goods are being sold for one hundredth (1/100) of their previous price. People say, “There is always a stampede of people at the store. Previously, the government-set price was always cheaper than market price, but now for some items it is more expensive than the market price.”

Pyongyang Residents Wonder Why the Official Grain Price is More Expensive
Pyongyang City has started to distribute rice at 46 won for 1 kilogram as of early December. The residents are wondering how the price of goods could remain the same while the currency has been deflated by a ratio of 1:100; every price should also have been reduced by 1/100. However, the government-set price of rice remains high. There was rumor of state-run stores will have enough supply of goods in the beginning of January but at this point, it is not likely to happen. To make matters worse, people can no longer import grain from foreign countries. Importing rice for profit has been prohibited, and only free food aid from abroad is allowed. If a company is caught while importing rice, the level of punishment is expected to be very grave even as to jeopardize the existence of the company itself. Meanwhile, the State having collected only 30% of the old currency so far continues to trouble collection efforts. The heads of the Neighborhood Units were instructed again to “Turn in the old money”.

Hamheung Sold Rice at 28 Won until Market Price was Announced
Hamheung Distribution Office at South Hamgyong Province had been selling rice at 28 won per kilogram until an official document regarding the distribution price was delivered on December 19th. On December 8th, the rice was selling at 44 won per kilogram; it dropped to 35 won the next day and fell to 28 won on the 12th. The market price was 30-40 won at the time, so the residents did not buy the rice from the market but instead purchased it from the distribution office. Some residents expected the price of rice sold by the distribution office to fall even further since it fell down to 28 won, so they held off on buying the rice. On the contrary, the merchants anticipated that the price of food would soon rise as supply continues to dwindle in the supply station. So they asked around for residents who have not yet purchased rice, and hoarded as much rice as possible from the supply station. Some merchants even purchased more than 300 kilograms of rice using this method. The distribution office sold the food until the morning of the 18th, but the transportation of food was not going smoothly so the sale was interrupted until the 20th. Starting on the 21st, it began to sell at 44 won, in accordance with the announced price. On the other hand, the market price of rice has increased from 30-40 won per kilogram to 50 won as of the 23rd.

Female Merchants Beaten For Resisting Grain Prices Regulations
On December 8, conflict arose between female merchants and the police who were enforcing the grain prices at a market in Soonchun in the South Pyongan Province. Around 5 p.m., a policeman approached a female merchant who was selling rice for 60 won per kg saying, “Are you resisting the Party policy of lowering market prices?” The female merchant, who came from Kangan-dong, denied such the accusation. The policeman then brought two people who bought rice from her, questioned them, and assaulted the female merchant for lying. A similar incident occurred on December 17 in Hamheung in the South Hamgyong Province. A woman who was selling corn for 20 won per ear was questioned by inspectors. When she talked back to them, they assaulted her for resisting the authority. These incidents resulted from the Department of National Security’s directive to all police stations in the nation for “inspectors to severely punish residents who disobey the rightful regulation in order to establish public regulations and order.”

Only Half of the Steel Commodities Manufacturing Factory Workers Coming to Work in Kumya County
The steel commodities manufacturing factory in Kumya County in the South Hamgyong Province is worried because the workers’ attendance rate still remains low during the 100-Day Battle as it did during the 150-Day Battle. Of the 350 workers, only 190 workers are coming to work. Of the 160 absentees, 70 of them are chronically ill. Because these 70 have been absent for so long, the factory’s labor department no longer counts them as its workers. The other 90 absentees have not come to work since July. Many of them stopped coming to work after the 150-Day Battle when the food shortage grew worse in July. The factory tried to raise the attendance rate during the 100-Day Battle, but the workers will not come to work unless they receive food. On September 28, the factory was able to get all of the workers to come to work when they distributed 10kg of corn per person. However, this did not last long, and since October 2, only ten workers have been coming to work.

[Politics]
Investigations Continue after November Espionage Incident in Heoryong City
Heoryong City, North Hamgyong Province is still reacting to November’s major espionage incident that involved a Primary Party Secretary and doctors at the People’s Hospital in Yusun-dong. Last November 10, a nurse working at Sanwon Hospital was caught at the Defense Security Command Checkpoint while carrying a fountain pen that was being used to videotape the harsh living conditions in major city markets and residents. As soon as her interrogation was finished, 60 people at the People’s Hospital in Yusun-dong were arrested, including the primary party secretary and six doctors that had possibly worked together with the perpetrator. There are over 20 people who fled as soon as the Primary Party Secretary at Yusun Hospital was arrested. The Province National Security Agency of North Hamgyong Province commanded lower level agencies to catch everyone who fled using all means and methods. The Province National Security Agency Investigation Bureau and Counter Intelligence Bureau announced, “We will penalize any spies who leaked the party’s and the country’s confidential information through infiltration of the party and government organizations during the period of reconversion for the Strong and Prosperous Nation.” The arrested suspects were criticized for wasting foreign currency, breaching the security of the party and the leader, and for benefiting the nation’s enemies. Some of those who were arrested knew that their actions would aid the nation’s adversaries, but many arrested without acknowledging their culpability. Whether they were aware of the consequences of their espionage or not, they are all being treated as spies. A month after the incident, investigations have continued in the area near Yusun-dong, including Kangan-dong and other districts, in order to find out more about the espionage case.

The Primary Party Secretary Committed Espionage by Calling his Defector Wife
The Primary Party Secretary who was arrested revealed his long-term espionage to be the result of his relationship with a North Korean defector. The National Security Agency discovered that he helped his wife and his daughter flee to South Korea and had been in phone communication with them. It was during his communication with his family that he began to work as an informant. When his family fled the country, the City Organization and Guidance Department protested, “We need to follow regulations and relieve him of his position for failing to fulfill his duty in the family revolution as a party officer.” However, the Secretary of the City Organization and Guidance Department at the time did not dismiss him from his position after receiving a sizable bribe from the Primary Party Secretary. After continuing their interrogation of those individuals connected to the Secretary, the Providence Security Agency of North Hamgyong Province has concluded that approximately 20 people aided in the espionage directed by the Elementary Party Secretary at Yusun Hospital. The Secretary of the City Party Organization and Guidance Department were arrested and interrogated for not dismissing the Primary Party Secretary in a timely manner. Another individual was dismissed from his office amid accusations of bribery and failure to carry out regimental responsibility.

All Spy Accomplices at Yusun People's Hospital are Dismissed
All spy accomplices at Yusun Hospital have been dismissed or fired. Six City Party officials, nine public enterprise officials and managers, and five farm managers have been dismissed and expelled to the toughest enterprises and farms. On December 22nd, while attending a City Party meeting in Hoeryong City, Central Party workers publically criticized the City Party workers and secretaries on the effectiveness of the 150-Day and 100-Day Battles claiming that neither campaign has helped to strengthen the nation. They attested that officials were only concerned about serving their own selfish interests and lacked a sense of loyalty for the State. They also pointed out that corruption among party officials was prevalent and pronounced it as a serious issue. Sixteen officials were dismissed at this meeting without any prior notice and new appointments were made. Newly appointed officials were chosen based on the Party's trust and confidence. The new officials were encouraged to work hard to make the country strong.

Forty Inspectors Dispatched in Yusun-dong, Hoeryong City
It is reported that more investigators will be sent to Kangan-dong as well after dispatching of forty inspectors to Yusun-dong following the spy ring incident at People's Hospital in Hoeryong City, North Hamgyong Province. Secretaries of Yusun-dong People's Hospital and their accomplices were arrested and tried, and since then more people have been arrested. The effective duration of the inspection has not yet been determined. There is rumor that some residents could be expelled to other parts of the country once the investigation is over. An internal order was issued saying not to tolerate those who interfere or express discontent with the investigation activities of inspectors even at the cost of reorganizing the whole city. After the news was announced, residents immediately complained about the need for such censorship and retorted that some people are forced to break laws in order to survive.

[Society]
Two-family Households Struggling with Currency Exchange of 1,000 Won

Struggles for money are evident after the currency change. There are fights within the two-family households as to who should get the 1,000 won. Some families complain to the banks, who tell them they will exchange the old currency to new ones. Consequently, families who discarded their old currency are trying to retrieve the old currency. Some who were unable to obtain the old currency advertised that they will give 300 won in new currency in exchange for 100,000 won in old currency. It has also been discovered that the families of military officers have been allowed to exchange up to 3,000 won.

Elderly Woman Selling Spring Water Gets Fortunate Chance Due to Currency Change
An elderly woman who lives in Sukha-dong in Sinuiju County in the North Pyongan Province said her living condition changed for the better after the currency change. She had been selling spring water to the apartment residents on credit. Due to the currency change, she is receiving the money in new currency which has increased value. She had sold 10 liters for 500 won (old currency). She is happy that she sold those on credit because she has received the amount owed in new currency and has made over 500 won (new currency). This elderly woman has sold water tirelessly in summer and winter. In the winter, she filled the water bottles and traveled the icy roads to deliver the water to the apartment residents before 8 a.m. Looking at the elderly woman in the cold, the apartment residents would ask, “Why do you work so hard for something that doesn’t earn much when you are so old?” She would answer, “If I don’t work, then who would feed me? This is better than doing nothing and starving.” The residents were happy to see the elderly woman’s life change for the better due to the currency change, saying, “There are some people whose lives got better after the currency change.”

After the Currency Reform, Officers of the 5th Division Based in Kosan County Avoid to Retire
After the currency reform of North Korea, officers serving in Kosan of Kosan County, Kangwon Province, are reluctant to retire from their service. In the 5th Division’s quarters, a lecture has recently given to more than 130 officers who were going to retire soon. The main topic of this lecture was the currency reform. More than ninety officers of them delayed their retirement after taking this lecture. It is unusual that so many people put off their retirement, given that it was rare to find officers who delayed retire in Kangwon Province last year. Regarding this, an officer stated, “I heard that the economy has been worsened after the currency reform. As such, many officers worry about their life after retirement because in case their wives lose their jobs, life can be worse. They do not want to be Kkotjebi (homeless) from their first step in the society, so many of the officers have delayed their retirement.”

[Women/Children/Education]
Elementary Schools in Hoeryong Burden Parents with Manure Collecting
Last December 15, elementary schools in Hoeryong, North Hamgyong Province, asked parents to collect manure. Teachers used to mobilize their students to secure it every year, but they did not get students’ help because the school began the winter vacation earlier than usual due to H1N1 Flu. Although this job was teachers’ duty, they visited students’ parents to ask for help, so some parents were obliged to contribute the fertilizer. Currently the 3rd sub-team of the 2nd working unit in Dukheung Seed Production Farm has priority for the usage of this fertilizer because the field has been acidified. This farm has been known for its extremely poor productivity because it has produced less than 2 tons of corn per Jungbo (unit of land, 2.45 acres) for last 3 years. Therefore, the City Party has decided to use manure on this field first when they secure it at the end of this year or early in the New Year.

Teachers Punished for Mobilizing Students to Collect Manure
At some lower and middle schools in Chungjin, Hamgyong province, teachers called out students on their break to collect 1 ton of manure, which was imposed on the teachers. This has been reported to the City Party because the nationwide vacation has started due to H1N1 Flu. The City Party is going to punish the teachers for disobeying the state orders, which prohibits mobilizing more than one student to protect students from the pandemic disease.

[Accidents]
Sungchun County, a Kkotjebi run over by a Coal Train

On December 16th in Sungchun County, South Pyongan Province, a homeless street kid was found under a coal train. The child had crawled under the train to steal a piece coal fallen on the track from the train. The boy tried to crawl out of the track when the train started to move, but his backpack was stuck on the wheel, trapping him underneath the train. The child was identified at the Sungchun police office and they found out that the child was from Wonsan City. They sent a notification to the police station there, but there was no reply, so the scene of accident was cleaned up.

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