GoodFriends: Research Institute For North Korean Society

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North Korea Today No. 338 March 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]
“Every Price Must Be Converted at the Rate of 100:1,” Central Party Directs
The Foremost Commerce of the Country Is Food,” Central Party Emphasizes Again

[Food]
March Food Distribution Completed in Pyongyang
Food Shortage Crisis in N. Hwanghae Province Worsens, Worst for Laborers

[Economy]
Foreign Currency Unstable, Rice Price Plunges

[Politics]
Police Authorities Across the Country to Remain High Alert to Any Sign of Commotion

[Society]
Reduction in Bus Service from Chungjin to Hoeryong
Lecture in Neighborhood Unit, Sinuiju: hoof-and-mouth Disease is Reported in S. Pyongan Province

[Women/Children/Education]
Young Students in Sinuiju Mobilized to Plant a Field of Fruit Trees

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[Hot Topics]
“Every Price Must Be Converted at the Rate of 100:1,” Central Party Directs

The Central Party directed that the Cabinet adjust prices so that, “every price be converted at the rate of 100:1.” The Central Party changed its stance because it would previously announce to the people through various seminars that “the goods are not to be traded at the rate of 100:1 simply because the currency was exchanged at the rate of 100:1.” In the beginning of currency exchange, people traded goods by converting at the rate of 100:1 and response was favorable because the value of the money increased as well. However, the authorities had delivered instructions that the goods should not to be traded by converting at the rate of 100:1. It was intended to stabilize the market price by setting a government declared standard price. However, contrary to this intention, the price skyrocketed. Because there was no food in the market, starvation became a major problem. Therefore, in March, the Party made a decision to set the price at the converted rate of 100:1. During the first Cabinet meeting, it was said that, “the price had some tenfold increase than the government-set price, which led to dishonesty on the part of the government. The price should be at the rate of 100:1 as people initially recognized and the management and organization of national enterprises should follow the same path.” In the second meeting, it was decided that every Cabinet Office must organize a “small group to guide the price of 100:1” and dispatch them to each city and county. Pursuant to this instruction, the City and County Parties have decided to enforce the instructions and regulations to execute the price of 100:1 by electing a People’s Assembly and security members. The 100:1 Standing Committee of the Central Party sent an education outline, which could guide the price of 100:1 to City and County Parties nationwide. Each City and County Party educated the members of the 100:1 Standing Committee according to the material during March 16th and 18th. Currently, the patrol members are out in each market attempting to regulate the prices.

The Foremost Commerce of the Country Is Food,” Central Party Emphasizes Again
The Central Party conducted a meeting with the Cabinet officers regarding “how to immediately improve the lives of people.” The Central Party emphasized that, “the largest and most important commerce of the country is food” and repeatedly directed that “the importing of food must not be limited, regardless of the country it comes from, and that every source of commerce within the nation must be mobilized to prepare food.”

[Food]
March Food Distribution Completed in Pyongyang
The recent food imports from China were used to complete the first-half and the second-half March food distributions in Pyongyang. The ratio of rice to corn for the first-half March food distribution was five to five; for the second-half March distribution, the ratio was changed to four to six. A father and a son, who work at the National Science Institute in Pyongyang, were supposed to receive 700g of food but received 450g instead, just over half of the original amount. When calculated, the 450g of food they received a day for 15 days amounts to 6.75kg of food for each. A housewife was supposed to get 300g, but actually only received half the usual amount. She received an amount of 2.25kg of food for 15 days. In total, this three-member family received 15.75kg of grains. Although the ratio of rice to corn changed from the beginning to the end of the month, the family received a total amount of 31.50 kg of food, proving that the food situation has gotten better. However, residents in other parts of the country did not receive anything other than corn powder from the February 16 holiday distribution.

Food Shortage Crisis in N. Hwanghae Province Worsens, Worst for Laborers
The number of deaths due to starvation has been increasing in the areas of Sariwon, Hwang-Ju, Seo-Heung, and Bong-San County. In farming areas, there are households with less than 2 to 3 months worth of food after supplying for military food sources. However, they are better off than laborers who earn a day’s wage and survive through the day. This is because farmers who remember the food crisis in 2008 have some crops in their hands. Furthermore, due to the cash they received from the last currency exchange, farmers do not need to sell their crops. On the other hand, laborers have limited cash, there aren’t sufficient crops in the market, and the grains are too costly for laborers, making the situation more difficult for them to alleviate. Due to the lack of public distribution of foods, most households that purchase food eat ground corncob porridge or noodles. In addition, increasing number of people are experiencing swollen faces, feet, and hands or lack of strength to go to work because of lack of nutrition caused by their on-and-off meals. Moreover, the level of fear among residents is increasing as murder and robbery cases occur one after another. All over North Hwanghae Province, it is difficult to see people in the street after 7 pm.

[Economy]
Foreign Currency Unstable, Rice Price Plunges

After rations were distributed in March in Pyongyang, rumors circulated about rice coming into the market soon, causing the price of food began to sharply decrease on the third week of March. In the first week of March, the price remained at 800 to 850 NKW, then down to 680 NKW on the 15th, and 300 NKW on the 20th. Chungjin, a city located in the North Hamgyong Province, had prices up to 1,400 NKW per kg on the 5th, then plummeted to 450 NKW on the 20th (See Chart 1). The foreign currency prices are also unstable with continuous fluctuations. On March 4th, the exchange rate was 2,300 NKW per dollar, then it went down to 1,500 NKW on the 9th, 1,450 NKW on the 12th, 1,300 NKW on the 14th, 800 NKW on the 19th, then finally 400 NKW on the 20th. However, as of the March 22, it rose up to 700 NKW, showing unsteadiness in the market (See Chart 2).













[Politics]
Police Authorities Across the Country to Remain High Alert to Any Sign of Commotion
The Central Party ordered all police bureaus to stay alert against public unrest, particularly in the big cities. At the first sign of public unrest following the currency reform, the police were ordered to be on alert for 24 hours. As the living conditions worsen for residents and the number of death by starvation rises, distrust of the government is now at an all-time high. Safety Bureau is being extremely vigilant about any change that can be translated into symptom of violence.
War veterans in Sinuiju County in the North Pyongan Province are protesting to the City and Provincial Parties of hunger. In Danchun and Pyongsung, the war veterans continue to complain persistently, albeit peacefully, because the Party prohibits any demonstrations and other gatherings to deter any escalation of tension in society. In Soomoon Dong and Minpo Dong, which are considered areas of sever poverty, hunger keeps children from attending school. Instead, the children roam the streets looking for food. In Kangye, Wonsan, and Hamheung, the situation is so bad that people are worried that the streets will soon be full of dead bodies. As hunger and starvation stir up anger, police in those areas are staying extremely alert.

[Society]
Reduction in Bus Service from Chungjin to Hoeryong

After the currency redenomination negatively affected business, bus service between Chungjin and Hoeryong was also reduced. While the bus used to run six times a day, these days it runs only twice a day. Even with the reduced service, there are occasions when the bus sits idle for lack of passengers. The rising price of fuel and a lack of gasoline have also resulted in periodic disruptions in bus service. As the number of bus in service decreases to a large degree, the price of a bus ticket continues to rise. A bus ride that cost only 600 won in February costs 1,500 won starting on the first of March.

Lecture in Neighborhood Unit, Sinuiju: hoof-and-mouth Disease is Reported in S. Pyongan Province
Hoof-and-mouth disease has broken out in various areas of South Pyongan Province. Although it originally affected domestic animals, some people have showed symptoms of the disease. The Neighborhood Unit reported to residents that the disease came from foreign countries.

[Women/Children/Education]
Young Students in Sinuiju Mobilized to Plant a Field of Fruit Trees

Local middle school students in Sinuiju of Pyongan Province, have been ordered to cultivate a field of fruit trees at a nearby chicken meat packing plant. On March 19, 2009 young students were mobilized, without being fed lunch on a rainy day. They were directed to “dig a trench”, in other words to dig a hole 5 meters deep; however, the work was difficult because the ground was stony. Students have to pay 600 NK won for a roundtrip-bus fare in order to get the workplace and they can only take two lunch boxes. On the fourth day of working they were exhausted. Daily Labor(“일공노동”) is scheduled for 8 hours a day. It is too hard for adults so the children are not allowed to do it; therefore, young students are mobilized in the morning and return to their home after working for a short time in the afternoon. But this Daily Labor(“일공노동”) assigned to students has made them exhausted within a few days. Parents of working households were ordered to provide 200kg and those from supporting households to provide 250kg of gravel, which will be used to pave a road. If they can’t afford to do, they have to pay 4000-5000 NK Won, or 20 NK Won per kg. There is a second task of carrying out human manure. Each family has been assigned to carry out two tones of human manure. They have to pay money if they can’t meet their assigned target. Starving children and parents have protested against the imposition of the burdensome assignment.
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