GoodFriends: Research Institute For North Korean Society

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North Korea Today No. 329 Full Version February 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]
Nationwide Food Shortage Opens Markets Temporarily in Regions

[Politics]
Families of Suspects Involved in the Yusun Espionage Case are being Persecuted
The Officials Respond Coldly at the Dismissal of the Organization Secretary of Hoeryong City Party
A Nationwide Spy Warning
Central Party Support is Likely to be Reduced for Hoeryong City

[Society]
The Elderly in Pyongyang Flock to Subways to Escape the Cold
Elaborate Weddings Become More Simplified

[Women/Children/Education]
Chungjin Second College of Education Students Spent One Month’s Living Expense in 3 Days due to Soared Prices

[Accidents]
Robberies Increase in Eunduk Country after the Currency Reform

[Editorial]
Note: The editorial section of this edition was released earlier as a separate edition.
__________________________________________________________
[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]
Nationwide Food Shortage Opens Markets Temporarily in Regions
As skyrocketing food prices are worsening the living condition of the residents, temporary markets are being allowed to operate nationwide. The biggest reason behind this is the report of increasing number of households that are starving after the currency reform. As reports from regions increase, direct reports are being sent to the Central Party on a daily basis. The Central Party held a meeting with the provincial level officials to take measures. Meanwhile, some regions like Sinuiju in the North Pyongan Province have decided to provide Chinese rice to the poorest households in the neighborhood.

[Politics]
Families of Suspects involved in the Yusun Espionage Case are being Persecute
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The close investigation of the recent espionage case in Hoeryong City of North Hamgyong Province is causing ripple effects as questionings continue of those arrested by the security unit and new suspects and facts are being revealed. Among the twenty or so that have been arrested already, some happened to have been involved without even realizing that they were committing espionage. Considering that the case is “one of the largest in the case of espionage in the northern half of the country”, people in North Hamgyong Province believe it is unlikely for anyone accused to avoid punishment even if they had no knowledge of espionage and only played a minor role. Also, North Korea’s guilt-by-association system will even punish family members of those involved. Family members, including elders and children, are currently under surveillance by the security unit. The investigation was so strict that even residents who had close connections to Party official were arrested. One official suggested that the punishment will be severe saying, “Many of the arrested residents have revealed their political affiliations, so their family members can also be taken to the Political Criminals’ Detention Center.”

Those involved in the espionage are said to be sent to a closed off area in the 22nd Detention Center for Political Crime. People are concerned for the children, saying that “children are not to be blamed. The young detainees will be persecuted even as adults. This type of confinement is utterly deplorable for people who have been accused for vague reasons.”

The Officials Respond Coldly at the Dismissal of the Organization Secretary of Hoeryong City Party
It is discovered during the interrogation on December 18th, the director of the Yusun People’s Hospital stated that he was on close terms with the Organization Secretary of the City Party, and that he photographed, photocopied and sent the party documents. The hospital director stated that he visited the party and the house of the City Party Organization Secretary as much as he would like, collected many official documents and handed them over. Pursuant to this testimony, the Central Party directed the Organization Secretary to be dismissed in the first place. At the time, the City Party Organization Secretary had a surgery and was receiving a treatment as an inpatient in the City People’s Hospital. Even though the Provincial Security Department wanted to summon the City Party Organization Secretary, it was not able to do so because he was a patient who just had a surgery. As this statement will be included in addition to the fact that the City Party Organization Secretary was bribed and connived at the defection of the wife and the daughter of the Primary Party Secretary of the People’s Hospital to South Korea five years ago, the punishment is expected to be more severe.

The City Party Organization Secretary served as the Organization Secretary of the Buryung County Party before he was transferred to Hoeryong City Party, but he did not get along well with the Leading Secretary of the City Party, creating conflict with him. It has been rumored that from 2007 to 2009, the City Party Organization Secretary influenced the fall of six City Party officials who were on close terms with the Leading Secretary of the City Party. So, quite a lot of officials actually welcomed the dismissal of the Organization Secretary. Several officials even revealed their grudges against the Organization Secretary without reserve: “he was accustomed to hassling people and he fired people without hesitation for irritating his nerve.” “He is arrested for espionage that is related with the enemy activities of South Korea, so he will never be able to extricate himself from the troubles no matter what he does. He is in a terrible situation. It serves him right,” people responded. These words are mostly of the people who hold some grudge against the Organization Secretary, but even the officials who are not related with him do not feel so sorry for him.

A Nationwide Spy Warning
Local authorities nationwide have been lecturing about the spies caught in the town of Yusun in Hoeryong City. The government is asking for people’s awareness, saying “If citizens are not on guard, spy groups will threaten the nation’s security and tear down our socialist accomplishments.” The North Korean security authorities have warned about defecting and spying activity by stating, “Even at the cost of spending foreign currency there should be investigations into the current state of North Koreans who have defected, have been contacting the South by cell phone, or who have been showing signs of political subversion. These people should be separated from the general residential districts.” In addition, lecturers have warned that “90% of current refugees are the families and relatives of people who have already escaped to the south,” and advised that the public should watch out for any defectors within families. Authorities threatened executives in particular, saying that if they want to upgrade their status, they should manage their families. After this admonition, a large number of executives in Hoeryong City were fired and the positions were filled by members of the provincial party of North Hamgyong Province and officials form other cities and counties.

Central Party Support is Likely to be Reduced for Hoeryong City
In the aftermath of the Yusun Spy Affair, the Central Party as well as the National Security Agency have criticized that “the Hoeryong City Party officials are preoccupied with personal egotism and do not pay proper attention to the condition of their own people.” At the same time, “the crimes that occurred within this city have been caused by party members and their subordinates.” There have been an increasing number of official evaluations finding that the Hoeryong City Party has become corrupt beyond redemption and has been unable to achieve much from the 150 and 100 days battles. The City Party is also likely to receive less support from the Central Party and cabinet in the near future. Hoeryong City, a once-prosperous place well known for being the birthplace of Kim Jung-Sook’s (Kim Jong-il’s mother), will suffer from this spy incident financially as well as politically.

[Society]
The Elderly in Pyongyang Flock to Subways to Escape the Cold

Pyongyang is deeply concerned about the unusually cold winter weather. Many apartments in Dangsang-Dong in the Mankyung-Dae district, which were built with bricks, composed of silica and lime, lack proper heating. While the apartments provide for cool summers, it is difficult to keep the cold out during the winter unless the house is covered with vinyl. This winter has been so cold that the goldfish have frozen to death in their bowls. While young people leave for school or work during the day, the elderly remain in the cold apartments. Many elderly can be seen entering the subway with lunchboxes in the morning because the underground subways provide more heat than the apartments in the winter. As a result, the subway is full of elderly people. Many of them spend the entire day meeting with other elderly people, returning home at night. Subway workers try to chase the elderly away because they cause social chaos and are disorderly. However, the elderly would step out momentarily, only to reenter the subway once the subway workers leave. Although this happens every year, it has been more noticeable this year due to the unusually cold weather and the inflation from the currency reform which makes heating difficult.

Elaborate Weddings Become More Simplified
Towards the end of last year, in Chungjin city, Hamgyong Province, 300 couples were newly wedded. Due to the recession in the economy, most weddings are now having to size down the celebration. Mr. Kang Pan Geun (alias), who lives in the district of Songpyung said “Weddings are a burden nowadays when government food supplies are diminishing, businesses are being forced to shut down, and everything else is in bad condition. In our household, we suffered trying to throw our son a wedding last year”. Sticky rice cakes, which were traditionally given to wedding guests, are difficult to purchase now that the price of rice has risen. Wedding guests do not stay for long even if they would like to congratulate them because they do not want to be a burden on families of the bride and groom. Also, family relatives who come from another part in the country only stay for the day of the wedding instead of staying for a couple of days like the old times. Spending a couple of days means taking away the family’s already small food supply. Most of the food at the wedding is rented from the market. Wedding gift exchanges are also downsized. Both in-laws are minimizing wedding costs by having a celebration that is only long and big enough for them to become familiarized with one another. Nowadays, the small amount of money saved from the wedding is given to the new couple, so they can start their own farm. Finding a living quarter for the couple is also a difficult task now for husbands. Due to difficult conditions, couples are living on couches of other family homes. Wedding guests and villagers pity the couples instead of giving them blessings because others cannot even afford to have a wedding.

[Women/Children/Education]
Chungjin Second College of Education Students Spent One Month’s Living Expense in 3 Days due to Soared Prices
The Second College of Education in Pohang district, Chungjin, North Hamgyong Province started classes on January 10. Among the students who visited home in rural areas during the break, many brought 4,000-5,000 won for a month’s living expense. They thought the money would last a month if they use it sparingly, but the skyrocketing prices make it difficult to rely on the money even for three days. The dorm-provided meals are not enough for the starved students, and they would eat at the diners near the campus. However, they are not able to eat out with money any more because most of the private diners are closed because they fall short on food. They argued that it does not make the ends meet to buy food from the market and sell the dishes to the students. Students seem to lose motivation to study, saying that it is not even a month after the first day of class but they already starve like this, and they would most likely to drop out if the situation continues. Families are also feeling burdened saying to support college education became more difficult.

[Accidents]
Robberies Increase in Eunduk Country after the Currency Reform

The police authorities of Eunduk County, North Hamgyong Province, have been troubled with the increasing number of robberies after the currency reform. At the end of last year, three wives of coal mine workers in Obong Labor District were robbed on their way back home after selling grains in Saebyul. To sell the grains, each of them prepared 4,000-5,000 won, which included the money they exchanged after the currency reform and the money each borrowed from relatives. They were on their way back home after they purchased corn, cowpeas, and yellowish beans (which are used to make tofu). When they got off the servi-car at their village entrance past 9 p.m., four solider robbers appeared and quickly took them to a nearby hill. The robbers took all the money and grains away from the women. One of the women shouted, “Kill me if you dare,“ and bit one of the robbers’ fingers. Then, another robber beside her hit her head with a stick, breaking four of her teeth. The soldiers took one of the women, abandoned her on a bridge and ran away. The woman’s life was saved thanks to a farmer who was passing by the bridge at dawn and found her. However, her face was too swollen to be recognized and her leg was broken as well. The women’s husbands reported the robbery to the Eunduk Police Station right away after they heard about it. After a thorough search from Jongsan-ri, Saebyul County, where the robbery occurred, to Cheolju-ri, the police found a military camp in Cheolju-ri, Eunduk County where the robbers possibly served. The camp strongly denied the robbery by insisting that no soldiers could go outside due to their training and that no unit of the camp went for outside work. After hearing the camp’s claim, the women indicated that they themselves wanted to find the robbers because one of the robbers was bitten on his finger. Although all soldiers were gathered to be checked, the women could not find the criminals. Mine workers firmly believe that the camp is covering up its soldiers’ robbery and hiding the soldiers. They also think that the camp is taking the action not to be punished for its poor management of soldiers in case the robbery is reported to the superior military office. The women and their families, who became penniless, were outraged at the attitude of the camp. Residents’ complaints are growing, not just from the robbery case above, but because robberies by soldiers have been increasing greatly with almost no arrests. Some residents complain, “How can we survive when the new money has no value, prices are soaring, and, at the same time, we are being robbed? How can we build a Strong and Prosperous Country without catching any robbers?”

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