North Korea Today No. 361 August 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.]
Kkotjebis Increase in Welfare Institutions
Members of Farm Youth Group Ran Away from Pyonggang Collective Farm
An Elderly Recollecting “The Days When I was Living in Japan..”, Received a Severe Warning
Prisoners Escaped after Drugging Police Officers in Baekamryung

Unification Should Start from Real Actions, Not Mere Words
Number of Kkotjebis Rise in Welfare Institutions
It is reported that number of kkotjebis in Gimchaek City Kkotjebi Welfare Center has reached 100, tripling the number from the end of last year. According to an authority, before the currency exchange measure, 30-people capacity was maintained by sending people to nearby elementary schools or Farm Youth Group. Now, the intake between this March and late June already exceeded 30. Among newcomers, 10 are adult kkotjebis in their 30’s and mid-50’s and the rest are children including middle school students. The overcrowded institutions resulted in food problem. The manager asks at every plenary meeting, saying “The Institution is not capable of feeding all the people, so decrease the number by reassigning them to elementary schools or farms.” Those in charge of the institution complain that the city party does not provide food for the excess, and when they request for it, the party reprimands them, “We don’t have enough food for government-run construction projects, much less for welfare institutions.” The institutions provide ground corncob meal and water-soaked corn noodles.

Meanwhile, a 9-year-old kkotjebi starved to death in Chungjin Station, North Hamgyong Province, at 4 pm, July 11th. The provincial rail authority warns sternly that this kind of incident should never happen again since it tarnishes the image of the Republic and has a negative influence on the public sentiment. Chungjin Station decided to allow no kkotjebis in the waiting room hereafter. Young kkotjebis still wander around the station seeking food. In late July, a kkotjebi child was trapped under a train wheel while escaping after stealing food at Gowon Station in South Hamgyong Province.

Members of Farm Youth Group Ran Away from Pyonggang Collective Farm
The Pyonggang Collective Farm in Pyonggang County, Kangwon Province has been facing problems as the members of its Farm Youth Group, comprised of homeless children, have been running away. Eight members ran away in April and May. The farm was thrown off by the children committing such a bold act because they were under strict surveillance and now allowed to go outside. At first, the members of the Collective Farm tried to find the escapees on their own without reporting to the County Party. But the news eventually reached not only the County Party but the Provincial Party, when three more Youth Group members ran away in June. The leading secretary of the County and other appointees were criticized, and the chairman of the farm and the Farm Youth Group faced punishments. It is told that the run-away Youth Group members bore discontent with the food and the pay they received, and complained that “the work is boring” and “they wished to be free from all the restrictions and rules imposed on them.” The search is on near train stations and travelers’ lounge, where most street kids hang out, but the chance of finding the escapees seems slim.

An Elderly Recollecting and Talking About “The Days When I was Living in Japan..”, Received a Severe Warning
An elderly person, Kim, Jungbae (alias) living in Hamheung, South Hamgyong Province, suddenly became a dotard after he talked about his old days. He and some primary party cell secretaries who came to the Residents’ Life Meeting in the Shinheung 1-dong office talked a lot together because most of them, including Mr. Kim, were about the same age. Mr. Kim returned from Japan during the 60s. He said he returned to North Korea with the help of Chochongnyon (i.e. Pro-North Korean Residents’ League in Japan) because he was so impressed with North Korea’s propaganda at the time. He told his friends and colleagues about the days when he lived in Japan. While proudly reflecting on various Japanese foods and customs, he also mentioned that he had received some help from his sister who still lives in Japan. He rambled on endlessly: after the trade with Japan was completely suspended a few years ago, he no longer could receive assistance from his sister, which made his life more difficult; he wants to see his sister at least once before he dies; he wants to lavishly spend and eat heartily for the rest of his remaining life.

After much talk, he returned home. However, the police officer in charge of the cell came by his home that afternoon and warned him, “Do not talk about your life in Japan unnecessarily in front of others. Be prudent in your future speech and behaviors.” The officer also criticized Mr. Kim, saying, “Without realizing that he is a cell party secretary, Mr. Kim, Jungbae mentioned his days in Japan were better than those in North Korea based on his experiences in the two countries. His behavior indicates that he, although he is old enough, does not have a firm conviction in the socialistic North Korean society. What he did is the same as the false propaganda that the North Korean government keeps pushing its people into unfavorable conditions to make them die.” The officer also told Mr. Kim’s son, “Your father is out of his mind. Maybe senility has begun to set in him. I will pardon him this time. Make him rest and take good care of his health. If possible, do not let him go out.”

The Shinheung 1-dong office ordered, “Kim, Jungbae, a primary cell secretary, is too old to participate in the party activities. He should be removed from his current position and then will take part in the party activities as a rank-and-file party member.” It has been said that Mr. Kim could maintain the party membership because the office positively considered the future of his children who are doing a great job at work. Mr. Kim’s family was so relieved that his issues were settled in these ways. Mr. Kim was suddenly branded as a senile and disgraceful criminal to the country because of the idle talk about his old days he did to kill time.

In Baekamryung, Prisoners Escaped after Drugging Police Officers
On June 27th, a train connecting Hyesan – Pyongyang stopped at Baekamryung for 28 hours due to broken power lines. In this train, 3 police officers from Soonchun City, South Pyongan Province had arrested 6 thieves and were escorting them to Hyesan City. The prisoners were seated on the train and the 3 officers took turns watching the prisoners. Around 2 A.M., two passengers offered the police officers beer. The officers gladly took the drinks and collapsed almost immediately. The beer had sleeping drugs. The two passengers helped releasing the prisoners’ hand cuffs and they all ran off. The officers were discharged from their positions and sent to the Soonchun coal mines to work in consequence for their mistake. Hyesan and Baekam County Security Department has mobilized many people to search for these six thieves and the two passengers who helped them escape.

Unification Should Start from Real Actions, Not Mere Words
August 15th this year is the centennial of the Japanese annexation of Korea and the 60th anniversary of Korean War. Through the prime minister’s discourse, the Japanese government expressed its 100 years late apology for colonizing Korea. Now, 60 years after the Korean War, where are we? In Korea, we have a North-South military tension higher than in any other years instead of moving toward ending the war and making perpetual peace.

The recent Cheonan incident clearly reminded us that the two Koreas are still at war and our peace is only temporary maintained by a truce. Without a fundamental solution, there will always be possibilities of incidents like Cheonan, and the temporary peace between the North and the South can be destroyed very easily. It also made us realize that sound of gunfire can echo over the Korean Peninsular any time if we do not solve the problems of division and unification.

In this regard, the premise of the presidential address for this year’s 8.15 celebration of independence is noteworthy, which states that the ultimate wish of the Korean people is the mutual prosperity both in North and South Korea and the move forward towards unification; that is the way to true independence. President Lee Myung-bak said that we need a new paradigm for the North-South relationship, and we should aspire for co-existence, not confrontation, and moving forward, not stalemate. He also said that we should aim for the peaceful unification beyond the current management of division. It can be viewed positively that he set out the road map for a peaceful, economic, and national community of one people. He even suggested that we should prepare ourselves for unification by setting up a unification tax because someday the two Koreas will eventually be unified.

However, he did not stipulate how we will implement it. The relationship between the North and the South is at a de facto stand-still, and we even had such a serious incident like the sinking of Cheonan. Even in a situation where the number of North Korean people dying from hunger is increasing, the president who should be responsible for 70 million people does not even mention how to solve this problem. The proposal to collect a new tax for preparation of unification can be perceived suspiciously when there is no explanation as to what the money will be spent for.

The current South Korean government has expressed its open position for humanitarian aid to North Korea. However, we have seen not a single humanitarian aid delivered at the governmental level so far. The government announced a new tax for unification while it is not even giving a grain of rice to hunger-stricken North Koreans. Who can be persuaded and buy the idea? We cannot help questioning who and what this unification tax is for. Currently, so many North Korean people are suffering from the aftermath of disastrous floods and hunger, and the South Korean government has not expressed any willingness to provide aid. A proposal of unification tax in this situation may well be puzzling not only to South Koreans but also to North Koreans.

The two Koreas fought each other in a war. It is not easy to restore trust between them. Even if we say let us overcome the division and carry out unification, it is just empty words when not matched with real actions. Words can easily be said. The agreement of the six party talks was “word for word, action for action.” Only when accompanied by real actions, the words are trustworthy and can be influential. The action needed now for unification is to provide aid to North Korean people suffering from hunger and flood disasters. The government should take the initiative and also open the door for civilian organizations to deliver aid to North Korean people. If we do not provide considerations to the life of the North Koreans suffering from hunger, what is the use of creating a peaceful, economic, and national community? The first action toward unification should be to save lives of our people now. We urge the South Korean government to provide humanitarian food aid to North Korea.