GoodFriends: Research Institute For North Korean Society

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North Korea Today No. 331 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]
Ministry of Interior Convenes an Urgent Meeting to Discuss Starvation
Starvation Hits South Pyongan Province in February
News of "Imminent Death from Starvation" Floods the Central Party

[Food]
Pyongyang DPRK Academy of Sciences Provide Rice at 23 won/kg Beginning February
At Pyongyang Joong District Lecture, “Rice to be Provided at 24 won/kg in February”

[Economy]
“Do not Import Any Commodities Other Than Food”, Trade Companies Were Told
Economic Forum to Convene at the Treasury Department

[Politics]
Heoryong City Concentrates on Arresting Political Offenders Responsible for Alteration of a Propaganda Phrase

[Society]
Wonsan Veterans Demonstrate for Food

[Women/Children/Education]
In North Hamgyong Province, People can Hardly Distinguish between Normal Cold and H1N1 Influenza, “Had people got better, it would have been cold and died, it would have been H1N1”
A Student at Dongmyung Middle School Dies of H1N1
Majority of Chungjin Nam-Hyang Middle School Absent due to Flu
Pyongsung Jurye Middle School Experiencing Nearly 50% Absence Rate Due to Sickness or Hunger

[Accidents]
Soonchun Confiscated Worm-Infested Pork

[Investigative Reports]
The Background to the Joint-Statement by North Korea’s National Security Policy Agency and National Safety Security Agency
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[Hot Topics]
Ministry of Interior Convenes an Urgent Meeting to Discuss Starvation
In addition to Danchun City, South Hamgyong Province, it has been reported to the Central Party that the residents of Pyungsung City, in South Pyungan Province, are dying in large numbers due to starvation. In order to address the starvation, the staff of the Central Party and the Ministry of Interior convened an urgent meeting on January 27th and February 1st. The meetings did not lead to a resolution of the food shortage, prompting residents to protest, "[They] said that 'more deaths from starvation must be stopped' and boasted that they would come up with a revolutionary measure, yet there are no signs of improvement." After conducting a survey of conditions in the area, the Central Party learned that Danchun, South Hamgyong Province and Chungjin, North Hamgyong Province, had a large number of deaths due to starvation. The Party also discovered the Soonchun City and Pyungsung City in South Pyongan Province were suffering from starvation, seeing more deaths than even Danchun or Chungjin. It is believed that the City Parties of Soonchun City and Pyungsung City took 65% of last year's harvest for military use and distributed only 5 months' worth of food to the farmers, exacerbating the food shortage.

Starvation hits South Pyongan Province in February
Starting in February, major cities in South Pyongan Province, including Soonchun City and Pyungsung City, have been seeing an increasing number of deaths due to starvation, a problem that is gradually spreading throughout the entire region. The economic situation in Pyungsung City declined during the six months following the abolition of wholesale markets. With the currency exchange policy, workers who used to depend on trading to make a living are dying off. Over a half of the population in Pyungsung City did not eat for more than a week.

An official from the Central Party said, “When you look at the National Regional Statistics, you can easily see the change in the number of deaths due to starvation after the new currency exchange. The worst situation used to be in Danchun, South Hamgyong, followed by Chungjin, North Hamgyong Province, then Sinuiju, North Pyungan Province up until mid- January. These days, it is Pyungsung and Soonchun in South Pyungan Province that are suffering the most, along with Hamheung City and Danchun in South Hamgyong, then Chungjin, North Hamgyong Province. There have been an increasing number of deaths due to starvation since mid- January.”

An official from Pyungsung City commented, “Chungjin City used to have the highest number of deaths after Soonchun City, but it has recently been surpassed by Pyungsung City. After the national initiative to circulate more currency, farmers are faring better but city workers are still starving to death. There have been no reports on the situation before January. A significant number of Pyungsung City Residents died from starvation because they could not buy food and grains even when they had the money.”

After the Pyungsung Provincial Party investigated the food situation in each unit, they found that no households were eating meals composed entirely of rice and that only a few can afford to eat a mixture of corn and rice. Most Pyungsung City residents are having difficulty just trying to make grass soup. Some cities, including Pyungsung and Soonchun, are reporting directly to the Central Party that, “More than a half of South Pyongan Province is facing severe starvation. If we do not act promptly, it will be difficult to avoid death on a scale similar to the Arduous March.”

News of "Imminent Death from Starvation" Floods the Central Party
An officer of the Central Party revealed, "The Central Party has received approximately 15,660 messages concerning food shortage and imminent death from starvation. Among those messages, more than 2,000 listed the name of the suffering city, the county, and the name and number of the people who have died."

The contents of messages make reference to the fact that at present there is no trading and no food rationing. They also mention that residents survive day by day by eating anything and everything they can lay their hands, including the leftovers from sake and tofu production, corn husks, and other material that could barely be called food. Residents say that the currency revaluation had been carried out while people are already in a difficult situation. The closure of markets immediately caused disruption in the supply of everyday necessities and food, which has lead to starvation.

An officer said that, "After the currency revaluation, the markets were completely closed down. Starvation and death among city workers can be attributed to the lack of any system to supply daily necessities as well as the end of food rationing." It is true that the farmers' livelihood temporarily improved when their goods were purchased thanks to the new 'consideration money,' but living conditions for city workers have steadily deteriorated. In some branches of the Party, it has been suggested, "closing down the markets without resolving the food rationing was a hasty decision, that's why the city laborers are dying of starvation."

[Food]
Pyongyang DPRK Academy of Sciences Provide Rice at 23 won/kg Beginning February

DPRK Academy of Sciences in Pyongyang provided regular ration of 700g to the head of household and 300g to the dependent (wife) in January. Kwon Eunjung (alias), whose husband is an employee at the Academy, said they received 16 kg of provision, 40% rice and 60% mixed grains, in early January. The proportion of mixed grains depends on the season and it can be 50% or 30%. In early January, rice was provided at 46 won/kg, but in late January, it was 56 won/kg because it had a higher proportion of sweet rice. However, beginning in February, rice will be provided at 23 won/kg.

At Pyongyang Joong District Lecture, “Rice to be Provided at 24 won/kg in February”
On February 6, Joong District in Pyongyang announced in a neighborhood unit lecture that the government-set price will be 24 won for 1kg of rice, and the price of crushed maize will be adjusted according to the price of unglutinous rice. The government-set prices of 1kg of bean oil and facial soap are to be 180 won and 25 won respectively, and the price of one egg was adjusted from 12 won to 8 won. Provision has not started yet as of February 10, and it is not certain whether the price will be implemented as stated.

[Economy]
“Do not Import Any Commodities Other Than Food”, Trade Companies Were Told

The Cabinet Office instructed all trade companies in the country “not to import any commodities other than food.” It is spurring the purchase of food by delivering an ultimatum stating that a trade company that cannot import food will be dissolved. The Central Party directly instructed the customhouse as such: “Inflow of food is the foremost priority. There will be a preferential treatment for food, and any act that regulates or disrupts it will be severely punished.” On February 7th, fruits such as oranges, apples and bananas that allegedly came in free of charge for February-16 holiday have been rejected on the bridgehead in Sinuiju. A security guard in customs authorities explained, “The instruction of the Central Party is to prohibit the entering of every commodity other than food. If a person allows in such commodities even if they are of free supports, he will be severely reprimanded. Until now, the goods purchased by the powerful organizations for their interest have been connived to be entered under the pretext of being free supports. This will not work anymore unless it is rice.”

He also said, “People are starved to death even in Sinuiju, a city that other people envy for its high standard of living. So, who would figure out how many people are dying in other regions such as Kangwon Province? As many people in the country had died of hunger this time, the Cabinet Minister has apologized to the whole country and abolished the decree to prohibit the use of foreign currency which was announced from the Safety Agency. As one can see from these measures, the situation is grave. A person who can aid the Republic with rice right now will be a true patriot.” “Right now, the most destitute and urgent problem is food. Many people are suffering tuberculosis, H1N1 virus and epidemic disease, but even if they can take good medicines, they cannot survive without eating. Food is in need,” said the residents in Sinuiju in unison.

Economic Forum to Convene at the Treasury Department
On January 28th and 29th, the Treasury Department convened a forum to address economic crisis based on the latest household economic statistics. In order to address the rising inflation and number of starving household, the Treasury Department gathered financial experts from each region. The rarity of nation-wide meeting of experts from each Province speaks well for the current crisis on the brink of collapse. The participants discussed the ways to recover from the economic crisis, and the Treasury Department made public its plan to continue the forum with the experts.

The Treasury Department stated, “National economy will recover quickly if financial experts in each Province have clear understanding of the economic policy and work with integrity. Some of the officials at the Treasury Department have been intercepting tax revenue and spending government employee payment. We need to enhance the department’s transparency to combat corruption. Officials working in financial sectors should have the interest of the country in mind and work to boost the economy and make contribution to the development of Strong and Prosperous Nation.”

[Politics]
Heoryong City Concentrates on Arresting Political Offenders Responsible for Alteration of a Propaganda Phrase
From January 31, 8 p.m. to February 1, 6 a.m., the propaganda phrase on a bulletin board in a bookstore in Osan-Dong, Heoryong City, was altered, which can become a big social issue. On February 1, there was a large crowd of onlookers who stopped on their way to work to look at the altered bulletin board. This issue was reported to the Central Department of Propaganda and agitation (CDPA) because it happened it the hometown of Mother Kim Jong-Sook.

On February 3, the CDPA criticized the officials of the City Party, saying, “The Heoryong City Party officials failed to provide residents with well-planned political lectures.” The CDPA issued an internal order stating, “The officials who allowed this political issue to arise should be questioned and held responsible; however, at this time, we will focus our efforts on arresting the offender and intensifying the lectures for the residents in order to promote solidarity.” The original phrase on the bulletin board read, “Building a sound ethos of learning political ideology.” However, someone had altered the phrase to read, “Building a half-hearted ethos of learning political ideology” by changing the consonants. The national Security Agency, in cooperation with the City Security Agency, mobilized members of Labor Organization and Youth Union to specifically ask the residents about their whereabouts in order to locate the offender.

[Society]
Wonsan Veterans Demonstrate for Food

On January 30, veterans of the Korean War rushed to Shinheung district office of Wonsan City in the Kangwon Province to complain about the people’s disastrous situation and ask the City Party for food. They complained that the number of starving households has drastically increased saying, “Even veterans experience shortage of food and daily necessities such as heating coal.” Although the Primary Party officials were able to persuade them to return home, they could not stop them from coming back. Since the veterans are entitled to special treatment by the nation, officials could not ignore their requests. The City Party could not help but come up with an emergency plan as the crowd of onlookers watching the veterans’ demonstration grew. In the end, the secretary of Primary Party and the officials provided some food and 100 coal blocks with their own money.

[Women/Children/Education]
In N. Hamgyong Province, People can Hardly Distinguish between Normal Cold and H1N1 Influenza, “Had people got better, it would have been cold and died, it would have been H1N1”
Throughout the North Hamgyong Province, a flu (suspected of H1N1) is going around in every school to the point where it is hindering academic growth. Almost over a half of thirty students in fourth to sixth grade of the Kim Ki-song 1st Middle School, and those in third to fifth grades in Obong Middle School, Hoeryong City were absent due to the cold virus. Even though difference in the number of absent students among schools and classes exists, it is common thing that teachers have a hard time maintaining classes. Students in the second and third grades of Mangyang Middle School and Kangan Middle School confronted a worse situation. In a class that consists of 30 students, only seven to eight students show up. More than 20 students could not come to school because of a cold. These schools suspended all classes because it seemed pointless to continue classes with only a few students. The academic schedule is delayed because vacation started one month earlier due to H1N1 and the length of vacation was extended as well. In order to catch up with the delayed schedule, school officials have extended class hours from morning hours only to until late afternoon. Yet, they have to delay the schedule again. As such, schools are raising this issue to the Education Department of the City Party.

The City Party again took the issue to the Province Party, and so the Province Party ordered the officials of the City Party and the County Party to go to the areas of the problem and resolve the issues because following the South Hamgyong Province, the North Hamgyong Province was proliferated with H1N1. The party also ordered the Health Bureau to make every effort on the prevention of H1N1 and supply of medicine. Some doctors, however, confessed that “we are incapable of discriminating H1N1 from the normal cold since there is no standard to determine the H1N1 virus.” A doctor in Chungjin lamented that “if a person got better, then it would be a cold but if they were dead, then it would have been H1N1.”

A Student at Dongmyung Middle School Dies of H1N1
A sixth grade student at Dongmyung middle school in Hoeryong city North Hamgyong Province passed away on January 28th after suffering from five days of a high fever. After close inspection of the patient’s records during his illness, the workers of the city hospital concluded that the death was due to the H1N1 virus. It was notified to the City Party immediately, and the Party in turn notified each institution, public enterprise, and school. The instructions given were that the virus going around had a possibility of being H1N1 and to come up with measures to prevent any infection. Despite such warnings, institutions and public enterprises were not coming up with definite precautions. A factory worker expressed that, “The people don’t care about the dangers of the H1N1 flu when it is difficult to even sustain our lives with barely enough food,” and that there have been no actual precautions being taken.

Majority of Chungjin Nam-Hyang Middle School Absent due to Flu
In February, due to the widely spreading flu, increasing numbers of students have been absent at Nam-Hyang Middle School of Chungjin City, Pohang district, North Hamgyong Province. A doctor said, “The virus going around this winter is more severe than that of last year, making it hard for patients to recover. Symptoms included sore throat and high fever, but some children had shown little signs of recovery even after more than 10 days of treatment and medicine.” A faculty member of Nam-Hyang Middle School expressed his concern and noted, “Even in my class, 23 of the 31 students are not coming to school due to the flu. Other classes have had at most 5 to 6 students to 15 students. Approximately half of each class is absent these days.” The teachers have been having difficulty in covering new material in classes, and said that they are reviewing previous material instead. An official of the Chung-Jin City Party said that “other regions are reporting the same occurrences,” and they are nervous as to whether the sickness is just a simple regular flu, or the H1N1 flu.

Pyongsung Jurye Middle School Experiencing Nearly 50% Absence Rate Due to Sickness or Hunger
Low attendance rates at Jurye Middle School in Pyongsung City of South Pyongan Province are preventing children from learning. More than half of the students from the first to sixth grades are not able to attend school. Typically, a full class seats about 30 students and a class with twenty students would be considered good attendance, but most classes have been reporting less than ten students, making the average attendance rate to be about 50%. Most of the student absences seem to be attributed to hunger. The next frequently cited reason for absence is sickness due to low levels of immunity caused by malnutrition. Similar trends are appearing in other schools as the food shortage problem in Pyongsung City continues to worsen.

[Accidents]
Soonchun Confiscated Worm-Infested Pork

On Jan 27, one female merchant was caught selling pork that was infested with tapeworms at a market in Soonchun, South Pyongan Province. It was discovered when a customer, whose husband was a sanitary inspector at the City Hygiene and Disease Prevention Office’s Emergency Disease Prevention High Command, had bought some pork to make soup. Her husband found a slice of pork with tapeworms. He bought more the next day from the same stand and returned to the quarantine lab for further examination. He discovered that there were about 150g to 200g of meat infested with tapeworms mixed in with every 1kg of meat. As soon as he confirmed this, he returned to the merchant and confiscated the entire 30kg of pork that was being sold there. As this incident had become widely known to the public, some affluent consumers who had purchased the pork voiced their anger, while there were poor people who wished to have eaten the pork regardless of infestation.

[Investigative Reports]
The Background to the Joint-Statement by North Korea’s National Security Policy Agency and National Safety Security Agency
On February 8, 2010, North Korea’s National Security Policy Agency and National Safety Security Agency announced a joint statement. On the surface, it was a warning about “South Korea’s attempt at overturning the Republic (DPRK).” However, there are internal suggestions that the joint statement was in effect a proactive attempt to head off any post-currency revaluation social confusion. The basis of their suggestions is as follows:

First, crackdown on the North Korean defectors:
The merchants would not release their merchandise to the market in the chaotic aftermath of the currency revaluation, resulting in a nationwide economic crisis. There were even reports of individuals starving to death, heralding worries of another widespread famine. Confusion in the social order is increasing because the government is not able to provide any food as individuals are dying of hunger in each city. The government has judged that the people – with already 200,000 plus North Korean defectors and families abroad – will not stay still and starve to death this time around like they did during the mid-1990’s Arduous March years. Keeping the potential of a mass exodus of North Korean defectors in mind, they released the joint-statement primary as a tool to crackdown on the would-be-defectors. They also wanted to prevent any anti-DPRK actions by hostile groups who are keeping tabs on domestic difficulties through North Korean defectors network.

Second, tightening control over potential domestic social unrest:
Although it hasn’t risen to the level of a violent protest, the people are venting their displeasure in an increasingly aggressive fashion. As a case in point, In Danchun City, South Hamgyong Province, there was a protest led by the veterans of the Korean War. Similar aggressive protests led by veterans against city administrative offices occurred in Pyongsung in South Pyongan Province, Hamheung in South Hamgyong Province, Kangye in Jagang Province, and Wonsan in Kangwon Province. Unlike regular citizens that could be dealt with quickly by the authorities, the veterans presented a problem since any misstep in dealing with them could spread into widespread demonstrations. Further, the local authorities could be blamed by the higher-ups and even charged for not taking proper care of the war veterans. However, with the war veterans pouring insults against the city workers and generally acting uncontrollably, the authorities were worried that the situation might spread. Therefore, they decided to label the demonstrators as “anti-revolutionaries” who “led an anti-republic effort at the behest of hostile nations.” Since not even old-time independence fighters, let along war veterans, would not be able to escape from the weight of such serious charges.

Third, crackdown on domestic crimes:
Along with people starving to death in places across the country, there is an upsurge of crimes such as robbery, murder, and drug dealing that are attacking the society’s foundation. This joint-statement shows that they will treat crimes as anti-national acts and will penalize the perpetrators accordingly.

Fourth, preventing defections of overseas North Korean officials:
On the other hand, there is also the intent to block the possibility of overseas officials from entertaining thoughts of a possible defection. They don’t want any overseas officials, who might be looking to take care of themselves thinking that North Korea is on the verge of a collapse, to defect when they are overseas. Therefore, they are ordering the overseas officials to send them children – aged from 5 to 16 – back home to North Korea. There was a similar attempt before but, at that time, many people either paid money or asked their higher-up’s to avoid having to send their young children home. However, this time around, everybody is facing having to send their kids back home since the order included a warning that even the supervisors of relevant officials would also be punished if the order is not followed.

In such fashion, North Korea is using a dual strategy of carrots and sticks to deal with the current difficulties. As the premiere personally asks for understanding for the post-currency revaluations confusion and promises to supply food in the near future, the Central Party’s Organization and Guidance Department sent out an order to local security apparatus across the nation for them to not crackdown on food selling and allow the markets in full. At the same time, they are also tightening their grip on the outside to get the situation under control.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sounds like they really need rice. They aren't even considering fruit to be food. They want rice. How can we get it to them?

brett said...
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brett said...
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Anonymous said...

Truly sad. The North Korean people are suffering dearly but as usual the Kim regime is indifferent to their pleas for help. I truly hope his despicable regime comes tumbling down and he is tried by the ICC and spends the rest of his life...albeit rather short rest of his life in a prison.

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