North Korea Today No. 353 July 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.]
North Hamgyong Province Party Holds Daily Meetings to Cope With Hunger Death
of 230 Deaths in Heungnam Between February and June are Due to Starvation
Onsung County Border Guards Instructed, “Take what you can take from those crossing the river to China and then report them.”
Use Rice as Animal Feed while Our Own Brethren Die of Hunger?
North Hamgyong Province Party Holds Daily Meetings to Cope With Hunger Death Going into July, there are still no signs of solution to the starvation crisis in North Hamgyong Province. Therefore, the Provincial Party has been busy holding meetings to solve the crisis. In Chunjin, the Party is taking steps to renew and extend the closing hours of the businesses. Though the General Market closes at 7 in the evening, those who wish to continue business are allowed to do so outside the Market or in a nearby area. The thought of being able to buy corn when they sell more goods motivates the business people to continue working late into the night. More active business people are also said to have lit a gas lantern to continue working into the night. However, the Provincial Party does not have a clear solution to end the hunger crisis. As such, the Party officials and the factory and enterprise managers have been trying to visit their relatives in China or looking for any individuals who have trade experience with China. At the moment, the Party is directing all of its efforts to importing food from China.

Most of 230 Deaths in Heungnam Between February and June are Due to Starvation
The Residential ID Registration Department of the Heungnam Police Station in the South Hamgyong Province compared the residents’ preexisting residential ID cards against the Residence Registration Numbers before the new residential ID cards are issued. The comparison showed that from February to June 15, 230 people died in the various areas including the farming areas. The family members of the dead commonly cited diseases followed by a long period of starvation as the main cause of death of their family members. The family members said that those who died would have been able to live a little longer even with such diseases if they had been given some kind of nutrition, but they eventually died of hunger because they could not eat well for such a long time. This severe food shortage situation is not only occurring in Heungnam but also in nearby areas such as Hamheung, Shinpo, and Kowon in the South Heungnam areas. The suffering Hamheung residents say, “Our people are filled with so much anger and live with so many difficulties. We are probably the only country in the whole world where the people are starving to death or struggling to survive even without raw corn to eat.” Even the Hamheung Party officials criticized the former Party Leading Secretary, Tae Jongsu, who falsely reported that there are no starving people in South Hamgyong Province. They also lament, “We thought there would be some improvements regarding the food crisis after the Central Party grasped that many people were starving to death, but nothing has changed.”

[Table] The Exchange Rate and Food Price Trends for the Third Week of July in Hamgyong Province

Onsung County Border Guards Instructed, “Take what you can take from those crossing the river to China and then report them.”
Cases of people trying to cross the river to China at night are ending up dead are still continuing from time to time. In mid-May, a family of five consisting of a young couple, their two children, and an elderly, were swept away by the current and drowned as they tried to cross the Tumen River near the Joowon district, Onsung-Eub, Onsung County in North Hamgyong Province. It was revealed that this family had sold their home and property beforehand and established a connection with the Border Guard. When the Border Guard officials educate the guards, they emphasize, “Whoever bribes you to cross the river, you should take whatever you can take from them but make sure you report them.” However, they were told to make arrest immediately of anyone who they think is involved in espionage without taking bribes. Around the time that the family of five died, a man who sold news, pictures, and video clips about North Korea’s domestic affairs to South Korea was arrested. However, the man accused a Border Guard officer of having helped him of this crime, so the officer was arrested by the National Security Agency. The Border Guard officials re-emphasize that even when the guards are taking the money from the residents, they should always be careful not to be accused of national treason.

Use Rice as Animal Feed while Our Own Brethren Die of Hunger?

On July 6 the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Fishery, and Food announced that to relieve the problem of rice overstock it is actively exploring a plan to convert the surplus rice, a crop of year 2005, to animal feed (at a rate of) about 30,000 ton a month, a total of 360,000 ton, and distribute them. Due to long storage, the quality of the rice had deteriorated and it is not suitable for human consumption. Other than using them to make rice drink, there is no other usage.
In South Korea a proper level of reserve rice is about 720,000 tons, but the current reserve is about 1,400,000 tons. The cost to maintain the reserve alone is about 42 billion won. Good harvest in recent years contributed to the surplus reserve rice but the main cause would be the changing patterns of diet and subsequent decrease in the demand for rice.
Another contributing factor for increased reserve is that the current administration suspended food assistance program to North Korea. The previous administration used domestic rice for the North Korea food support program despite the fact that the domestic rice price (1.74 million won ($1,783) per ton) was about five times higher than international commodities market price ($330/ton) in order to resolve the problem of reserve rice, to prevent the price drop, to reduce the cost to maintain the reserve, and as a means to support the domestic farmers. If the food support to North Korea continues to be suspended, surplus rice is expected to be about 15 tons per year.
When the minimum consumption amount (per person) figure is used, the shortage of food in North Korea is estimated about 1.09 million to 1.4 million tons while the total amount would be 2.29 million to 2.6 million tons. Even when the South Korean administration's estimate is used, the shortage is above 1 million ton. However, as the actual harvest in North Korea falls far below the administration's estimate, the shortage could reach more than 2 million tons. Since the currency exchange, food situation had severely deteriorated, and the North Korean government had issued 5.26 Party Directives, which announced that as the food shortage cannot be solved by the government on short term, the residents should resolve the food issues by themselves.
In one side, people are going to use rice as animal feed because there is too much surplus, while people are dying of hunger because there is nothing to eat in the other. We would like to ask this: no matter how difficult South-North relations are and no matter how confrontational the situation is, does your conscience allow you to feed surplus rice to animals while your own people are dying of hunger? We also like to ask whether the current administration's stance to never supply rice to North Korea unless the South-North relations are improved would be morally justifiable. Is this really the way to love North Koreans, and is this the only way to achieve unification? Even if unification is achieved, what good is it when the people have been neglected?
A bowl of warm rice could melt hardened heart, restore health, and prolong life. For us it is a way to get rid of surplus rice but for the hungry North Koreans it would be a tonic of life even if it is not made of a new crop of rice. When this surplus rice are sent to North Korea and consumed by them, it would bring strength to their weakened body, restore health, and thaw the frozen South-North relations. It would also give hopes to the exhausted North Korean brethren that "there are none better than my own people." Who would extend a helping hand now if not us? If we wish unification, there could be no better unification policy than to earn the hearts and minds of North Koreans now. It is ardently hoped that to support South Korean farmers and to give life to the North Koreans, the South Korean government should immediately carry out the humanitarian food aid program to North Korea.