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North Korea Today No. 321 Hot Topics and Food 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 No. 321]
Nationwide Distribution of Goods Made in Kaesung Expected in March
Nationwide Teleconference to Discuss Measures “to Supply Goods to Residents”
Central Party Meeting, “Allocate 40% of Defense Budget for People’s Economy”
Full Wages to be Paid for 6 Months Regardless of Performance
“Provision of Full Living Cost to Laborers” Ordered

[Food]
Two Tons of Rice per Jungbo Produced in Shinryung Collective Farm in Nampo
Double-Crop Farming Last Year Not Successful in South Pyongan Province
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[Hot Topics No. 321]
Nationwide Distribution of Goods Made in Kaesung Expected in March

The Central Party of DPRK plans to distribute South Korean goods made in Kaesung to state-run stores nationwide between January and March. At the same time, it will put a ban on all products currently traded in markets in major cities across the nation. Despite several crack-downs on banned items, private merchants and residents have secretly continued trade. The decision to distribute goods produced in Kaesung was made according to the policy: “Clear up the market and set a new inventory limited to state-provided products. The State will provide necessary items only through the state-run stores to meet the demand of the people.” Following the decision, the Central Party reaffirmed the policy that it prohibits individuals from privately trading the same items supplied by the State.

Nationwide Teleconference to Discuss Measures “to Supply Goods to Residents”
On December 29, the Central Government held a teleconference with Party Committee in every province, city, and county. The participants were Party secretaries and managers of factories and companies in cities, counties and provinces. The agenda was “to discuss how to supply consumer goods to residents in the aftermath of the currency exchange.” The action plan resulted from this meeting is to release goods in Pyongyang first and then distribute daily necessities nationwide. From January 2, residents must buy all products at fixed prices newly set by the State. As of January 3, they are busy preparing measures to curb the price hike in the market.

Central Party Meeting, “Allocate 40% of Defense Budget for People’s Economy”
On December 10, the Central Party held a meeting with Organization and Guidance Department, economy management officials in the cabinet, and industry management officials in each department to discuss how to boost people’s economy. The contents of the discussion were as following: “We have heavily invested in national defense for the past years and achieved great results which we can proudly announce to the whole world. However, we have had difficulties with domestic food production due to natural disasters and their impacts on agriculture. Although we were unable to supply enough food to residents, and the nation suffered from temporary hardships, it is time to face the problem. In order to boost people’s economy, we should allocate 40% of defense budget to many sectors of people’s economy and realize the Strong and Prosperous Nation. We need to revitalize factories and companies that produce consumer goods. For various reasons our nation has suffered continued hardships for the past 15 years. It has affected people’s lives badly which might have led them to distrust the government’s policies. However, we will accomplish the goal of Strong and Prosperous Nation by 2012 and show our triumph to the world on the 100th anniversary of our Great Leader’s birthday on April 15, 2012.”

Full Wages to be Paid for 6 Months Regardless of Performance
Central Party announced a policy that directed factories and public enterprises to pay full wages to laborers regardless of the production performance until April, 2010. The wages paid in December were counted as November wages, so it adds up to 6 months from November to April. This policy is to demonstrate “the nation’s will to improve the living standards of laborers and farmers.” The officials seemed to be in an awkward position to hear the new order because when the wages were paid in December, the plenary meeting decided that the pay will be commensurate with the total output and working days beginning in January 2010. An official in Pyonsung, South Pyongan Province, said, “We have no other option than to follow it, since it is an order. We decided to keep it a low profile for the moment and announce it when we pay laborers next month.” He also reemphasized that the order was “our government’s will to assure that laborers, office workers, and farmers will definitely have improved living standards.”

“Provision of Full Living Cost to Laborers” Ordered
On December 28, the Central Party ordered “full provision of the living cost to laborers after the implementation of government measure.” In addition, it was also directed that “there should be no cases where some officials appropriate the money fraudulently to one's own use in the name of social mobilization and other reasons and do not distribute the total amount of laborers living costs the national bank had provided.” The current status report of factories and public enterprises in major cities nationwide reveals that factories and enterprises not-in-operation, enterprises in non-production sectors, and construction companies are not paying the set wages. The base wages of regular laborer is set to be 1,500 won, but in many cases, about 1,200 won was paid depending on the number of attendance. In Hameung, South Hamgyong Province, a laborer who showed up for 15 days out of 25 business days in November was paid only 500 won.
Farmyard manure assignment in December precluded laborers from going to work but the wages were reduced based on the attendance, raising complaints by laborers. As they were required to submit 1.5-1.7 tons of farmyard manure individually, laborers argued that they could not rest on their days off and even had to be absent from work in order to gather or make the manure. They expressed resentment that the factory officials said on the one hand “food problem should be solved to realize the Strong and Prosperous Nation, so wages will be cut unless you fulfill the manure assignment,” and on the other, the officials also say the wages would be paid only for the days the laborers actually worked, so they were perplexed. The laborers complained that this must be a scheme not to pay the full wages after all. Without the manure assignment fulfilled, the laborers are kept at work until 8 or 9 at night to be criticized and verbally abused, so naturally the laborers became tired and exhausted. Some laborers even request that “I would rather not receive the wages, so give me less social assignments and make me work only for the amount of time set by the National Labor Administration Regulation.” Cho Guanhyun (alias) in Hamheung said on the popular sentiment that “The officials do not hold themselves accountable, but they enforce bureaucratic exploitation and oppression and impose strong labor rules. Among laborers, it is often said that now that the country says this national measure intends to improve farmers’ and laborers’ lives, then a blindly imposed labor like this should be stopped now.”

[Food]
Two Tons of Rice per Jungbo Produced in Shinryung Collective Farm in Nampo
Grain yield at Shinryung Collective Farm in Nampo, South Pyongan Province is reported to be low. Just two and a half tons of corn and only two tons of rice per Jungbo (2.45 acres) were harvested. Three tons was the highest and 1.5 tons was the lowest yield produced per Jungbo. The farm officials analyzed that the last year’s weather was to be attributed. When it comes to cash distribution to the farmers, farm laborers with full-attendance (no absence) were paid 14,000 to 15,000 won and those who were absent for 2 to 4 months received 6,500 to 9,500 won. The allocation was decided at the Ri farming management commission according to the farming performance and number of attendance. However, for the farmers who took grains in advance during the last year’ food crisis, the equivalent value of money was deducted from the cash distribution. Three farm households took 30kg of early ripening potatoes and 24 kg of barley, equivalent to 20 days of meals, in advance, and they had to pay 580 won at the cash distribution. Farm laborers paid 500 to 800 won on average depending on the amount of grain they borrowed.

Double-Crop Farming Last Year Not Successful in South Pyongan Province
Officials of Farming Management Commission in South Pyongan Province evaluated that the outcome of double-cropping was not impressive after examining the last year’s yield. One official reported that following the Party’s agricultural revolution order that aimed to raise the grain yield in the year of the transition to the Strong and Prosperous Nation, the banner of increasing the grain crop by double-cropping was put up high last year, but the crops did not succeed due to the lack of agricultural materials and technical skills. Particularly, the farms that introduced double-cropping for the first time had low yields. It was due to the inexperienced and unskilled management overall; rice transplanting and fertilizing were not done on time and the labor force was not allocated appropriately. Technology officials of the South Pyongan Province Farming Management Commission inculcated the farm officials of the lower units with the idea that “double-cropping needs to be implemented regardless of the crop yield because the Party’s agricultural revolution order of double-cropping should be accomplished.”
A significant amount of grains planted for double crop died in Soonchun City, Pyongsung City, Daedong County, Pyonwon County and Munduk County. Farm management officials said that had Korean cabbage or white radish been planted on the areas that were used for double-cropping, enough amount of fall vegetable would have been provided. Farmers of South Pyongan Province said, in order to succeed in double-cropping, land improvement projects should be revamped to make the land fertile and reach the grain production goal. The farmers observed that agriculture officials only insisted on orders without creating the environment for successful farming, which resulted in crop failure and loss. Kang Sungae (alias) said “It is frustrating to work on the unproductive projects that officials insist. We farmers suffer from double torture of double cropping labor when we suffer from not having enough food for us.”

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