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North Korea Today No. 346 June 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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Central Party Says, “If the electricity to produce Juche Steel runs out, officials will take the responsibility”
Many Hungry Laborers Are Absent Without Leave Even Though They Were Asked to Produce Juche Steel
[Investigative Report] What is Juche Steel?
Gimcheck Steel Mill Struggles to Prepare Food for June through August
Chungjin City Officials, “The City Party is also responsible for the Chungjin food crisis"
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Central Party Says, “If the electricity to produce Juche Steel runs out, officials will take the responsibility”
On April 1st and 12th, a molten metal that was rapidly boiling in the furnace to produce Juche Steel happened to harden all of a sudden in Gimchaek Steel Mill of Chungjin, North Hamgyong Province. This accident occurred as the supply of electric power was cut off. The full account of this accident was conveyed to the Central Party as the No.1 report. As soon as the Central Party who manifested a strong will in producing Juche Steel heard the report, it delivered an instruction that says, “Make sure there is no interference in producing Juche Steel even though the electricity may not be provided in every other areas of the society other than the area of military supplies.” It also warned that if the operation of the steel mill suspends again due to the electricity problem, every respective officials in the Ministry of Electrical Industry will take the responsibility. In addition, it emphasized again to accelerate the production of Juche Steel by saying, “How much more we produce Juche Steel determines how much we can purchase food from foreign countries.” Apart from the Ministry of Power Industry, the Provincial Party of North Hamgyong Province decided to reduce the amount of electricity provided in each city and county. “We have not received much electricity so far, but it seems like it will be even scarcer in the future, so the electricity problem is becoming extremely strained,” an official from the Chungjin City Party worries.

Many Hungry Laborers Are Absent Without Leave Even Though They Were Asked to Produce Juche Steel
As the policy of the party to “pour out every power without hesitation in producing Juche Steel as we need to resolve the strained food problem of the nation by exporting Juche Steel to foreign countries and exchanging it with food” was delivered repeatedly to Gimchaek Steel Mill of Chungjin. The Provincial Party of North Hamgyong Province is very interested in the production of Juche Steel in Gimchaek Steel Mill. However, the laborers themselves do not seem to be much enthusiastic. It is because they are too hungry. 90 laborers who reside in the dormitory of Gimchaek Steel Mill eat 150 grams of steamed corn meal only twice, in the morning and afternoon, and eat corn noodles that are heavily soaked in water in the evening. It is as if 8 co-residents are sharing 1 kilogram of dried noodles. Among the hungry laborers, there were many who were absent without leave in early March, but as the rations were distributed fully later, the number of absentees without leave was visibly decreased from late March to April. As the food ran out again in May, the number of absentees began to increase one by one. In steel casting workplace where it runs on two-shift rosters for a day, the number of absentees amount to 25 people among approximately 130 laborers. Approximately 75 people, excluding 10 people who went out to social mobilization and 20 long-term patients, are attending to work. The party officials demanded that the party members would take the initiative in working, and warned that the laborers who are absent without leave for more than a week will be punished at the Labor Discipline Center.

[Investigative Report] What is Juche Steel?
In North Korea the industries of steel, fertilizer and vinalon are regarded as the three major industries. They are also the symbols of 'Self-reliant People's Economic Policy' that prescribes 'the domestic resources, domestic skills, and domestic endeavors to develop the technology industry'. The self-reliant production of these three items is presented as the impetus for the Strong and Prosperous Nation. It would not be an over-statement to say that the national economy depends on the production of vinalon (2.8 Vinalon Plant), fertilizer (Namheung Chemical Plant), and Juche Steel (Sungjin Iron Works Plant, Gimchek Steel Enterprise). Juche Steel refers to the steel produced by using domestic coal rather than diesel and cokes that need to be imported.

On December 19, 2009, while visiting the Sungjin Iron Works Plant in Gimchek City, North Hamgyong Province, Chairman Kim Jong-il said that, "(Successful) development for the production of Juche Steel using domestic technology is a greater victory than the success of third nuclear testing." A special statement of appreciation, issued on March 5 to congratulate the 2.8 Vinalon Plant production, said that, "The transformation of 2.8 Vinalon United Enterprise to a modern chemical plant and its fabulous ascent is an extraordinary event comparable to launching an atomic bomb and is a great victory for the socialism." There was also a large-scale propaganda about the fact that in Namheung Chemical Fertilizer Plant they were able to independently produce fertilizer using gas from coal rather than naphtha.
However, contrary to the gigantic propaganda in the country, there are a lot of problems in producing Juche steel, fertilizer, or vinalon using domestic resources. In cases of vinalon and Juche steel, the amount of electricity needed to produce them was so enormous, it was termed "an electricity-eating hippopotamus" and thus greatly reduced the economic rate of return; for the production of fertilizers where expensive high-heat coal was being used, there are even talks that it would be more efficient to buy fertilizers rather than using money to buy high-heat coal to produce them. That was the reason why even in the inside of the Central Party it is viewed more of a political propaganda than practical economic benefits.

Gimcheck Steel Mill Struggles to Prepare Food for June through August
Gimchaek Steel Mill has been able to continue its food ration thanks to Juche Steel production. On top of a ten-day portion of corn distributed last February, they were able to provide food for both first-half and second-half distribution with the corn produced from Hoeryong city in March. However, most products made from corn were low-end because farming did not go well. 190 workers were unable to receive food rations of even the low-grade corn product. In April, the situation got better due to the 4.15 Day of the Sun (Kim Il-sung’s birthday) and 50 percent of rice and 50 percent of corn were distributed to workers with certain positions and those in labor-intensive positions received a paycheck of 9,000 NKW. In May, corn for the first half of the month distribution was provided from May 3rd in some workplaces. After providing paychecks and rations, some of the food was released temporarily to the Chungjin Market as people tried to sell the food in the market. However, it is uncertain whether the food distribution for June through August can be made.

The Provincial Leading Party Secretary of North Hamgyong Province has been looking to export pig iron and import food from China. The workers begged the leading secretary to resolve food problems since people started to die from hunger. Although food distribution is made the amount of ration varies at different in each workplace. The leading secretary in charge of the provincial party stressed to the leading officials of Gimcheck Steel Mill that, “No matter what the situation is, we should make food distribution to workers as our first priority. Juche Steel production is directly linked to our nation’s food situation this year. And that shows how important it is that the workers work hard." He urged that food ration to workers should be guaranteed no matter what it takes.

Chungjin City Officials, “The City Party is also responsible for the Chungjin food crisis"
The officials of Chungjin City, North Hamgyong Province pointed fingers at the City Party that they did not fulfill their jobs. They said that even though food crisis is a nationwide problem the City Party was too passive about the problem and not proactive enough to resolve the food crisis. Below are some issues raised at the meeting.

First, the food crisis in Chungjin is due to the nationwide food shortage and stopped food distribution. Second, Juche Steel production did not meet the expectations despite efforts to increase production and secure food from its sale. Even the small amount of food acquired from China in exchange of Juche Steel exported went to other cities in in-land areas such as Pyongyang instead of being distributed in Chungjin. Third, although officials selected the poorest families and provided them with food, it only covered limited number of families. Only 2 to 3 families in each Neighborhood Unit received food. Among the 30 households in a Neighborhood Unit up to 14 to 15 households are considered to be suffering from hunger. As they focused on providing reliefs to only 2-3 households that were suffering the most they were unable to come up with plans for the whole residents which resulted in food crisis for the whole city. Fourth, food crisis is deepening even with blanket permission to open markets because goods do not circulate well and purchasing power is weak. Chungjin City officials stressed that people should not depend solely on Juche Steel production but also look for other ways to acquire food. It is reported that about 70 people died from hunger from March through May in Chungjin City based on the report from the People's Life Investigation Group deployed by the Organization and Guidance Department of the Central Party. A Chungjin City official mentioned that although the figure reported to the Central Party was 70 people died from hunger the actual figure was bigger than that.

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