GoodFriends: Research Institute For North Korean Society

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North Korea Today No. 366 September 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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Conference of Party Representatives was Postponed due to not Enough Members to meet Quorum
Absenteeism Increases due to Ceased Operation in Soonchun Cement Factory
Saguri Farm in Chungjin Suffers Absenteeism from Fatigue although Successful Harvest is Expected
Goywonri Farm in Chungjin City Stands Guard Against its own Members
Hoeryong City Assigns Land at Random and Demand Potatoes
Drug Offenders’ Family say “Punish the judges who colluded”
Corruption Mounts as Cell Phone Crackdowns Tighten
Border Patrols Receive Rewards Using Deceit
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Conference of Party Representatives was Postponed due to not Enough Members to meet Quorum

The Conference of party representatives scheduled to be held in 44 years was eventually postponed on the evening of September 14th. The news of the postponement was announced to the congregation of representatives who had been waiting for the opening of the Conference in Pyongyang. Originally, this conference was scheduled to start on September 4th with participant registration and pre-program events followed by main conference proceedings for about 7 to 8 days, and then finish after the September 9th event. However, it was delayed once and was expected to start on September 8th, but it was further delayed. The representatives who gathered in Pyongyang had no idea about the cause of this delay. There were some rumors about conflicts over Chairman Kim Jong-Il facing health problems or succession issues. Some rumors even speculated that the conference would be delayed until the end of this month. However, the participants had been waiting with the expectation that it would be held soon since it is not easy for all representatives to convene nationwide.

The final decision to postpone the conference came in yesterday. It was found that the reason for postponement was not enough members to meet the quorum. On September 4th when participant registration started, half of the participants were not able to make it to the meeting. Even though the waiting continued until the September 9th event ended, the necessary quorum had not been met even until the night before the postponement was announced. One participant was quoted as saying, “There were many guesses about the cause of the delay among the representatives. It was confirmed that the representatives from each province could not make it because the roads are blocked due to flood damage. Representatives either arrived late or were not able to come.” It was expected that the successor to Chairman Kim Jong-Il would be designated at this conference. However, there is no reason to proceed with an official announcement of the succession based on not enough number of participating representatives. For these reasons, even though all documents that were to be disseminated to the participants at the conference had been prepared, it seems that the conference schedule was put off. It was reported that Chairman Kim Jong-Il was waiting for participating representatives and continued the inspection tour, and that he arrived in Pyongyang on September 14th. However, given the lack of participants there was no justification to proceed with the opening of conference, and the final decision was made to defer the conference schedule.

Absenteeism Increases due to Ceased Operation in Soonchun Cement Factory

A cement factory in Soonchun, South Pyongan Province is still not able to provide food and monthly salary to its workers as of September. This is at variance with what the authority impels people to put more effort in the production of the cement than any other year, as North Korea embraces 65th Party Foundation Day on 10th of October. Originally it was planned to supply cement for building Heechun power plant. However, the deficit of raw material and the issue of energy supply have hampered the production. Along with this, the factory was unable to provide food and salary to its workers. In the past, workers were exhorted to work for seven days a week without holidays, as the officials highlighted the ideology, but it did not last long. Workers in hunger are not able to live on their ideology, apparently. Even meager amount of cement production drew workers for pilfering some of cement, but the number of absentees increased with the halt of production. According to one official, in the time of having meager production at least, people were rarely absent from their workplace, even though there was no public distribution. On average, 50 kg per one person would be pilfered, but in some cases it mounted up to 100kg. Up until last year, this deed was criticized and punished harshly, but it is not bothered this year. One workplace has over 80 absentees out of 180 people, but officials cannot say a word to workers about this, since they do not provide food at all. Even if officials criticize the conduct of workers, they do not pay any attention whatever officials say, owing to miserable situations.

Saguri Farm in Chungjin Suffers Absenteeism from Fatigue although Successful Harvest is Expected

In Saguri farm in Yeonjin-dong of Chongam District in Chungjin, North Hamgyong Province, people survive on newly harvested grains since they ran out of food. Most households eat barley or early crop potatoes, but those without enough amounts of new crops eat mixture of potato and grass. The 4th work unit experiences more cases of absenteeism since there are more households without enough food to survive. Village Party officials and farm officials do not pay attention to those suffering people but warn that the fewer days you come to work, the less autumn allocation you will receive. Starving farmers plead that although they know they should go to work if they want the fall distribution they are unable to do that due to the lack of energy. Some ask farms to spare some amount of food temporarily. However, farms give a cold shoulder to them saying that they cannot help only a fraction of numerous households that are suffering from food shortage. This year, Saguri farm is expected to provide a decent amount of fall distribution since they were not impacted by flood as heavily as the West coast of the country. Poor farmers are anxious to work and receive a little more of the crop in fall, but their lack of physical strength prevents it.

Goywonri Farm in Chungjin City Stands Guard Against its own Members

The Goywonri farm of Chungam district, Chungjin, North Hamgyong Province stands guard against its own members. Despite poor harvest last year, the Chungam District Party collected grains for military provision. As a result, farmers had to suffer from food shortage since this spring. As such, it is natural for many farmers to be absent from their work. Instead of working for the farm, farming on their own small patches field, at most 200-300 pyong (a unit of land: 1 pyong is 3.954 sq. yds), was the only way to survive. When early crops become available in August, many people could sustain their lives with unripe corns and early crop potatoes. However, this year the crop yields from small patches of field is not good due to cold weather and flood. As a result, some farmers began to go to work at the farm to fill up their workdays so as to become eligible for food distribution. Although they do not expect to receive a good amount of distribution for the first half of this year for not having enough workdays at the farm, they are trying to get as much food as they can by working at the farm. The farm is suspicious about these farmers. The farm officials issued an order to stand guard against these farmers by saying, “When we asked you to work for the farm, you did not come. Why do you come to work now when we are going to harvest corn and rice? Each unit must carefully guard the harvested early crops.” Each unit is taking turns to guard the grains, but they were told to guard against the farmers as well. Accordingly, the farmers who recently began to show up at work have a lot of complains. They say that they did not go to work intentionally. They were not able to go to work because they were starving. They are coming to work as the early crops come in August, but now they were treated as thieves. These farmers complain about this treatment and protest by saying, “Although I have grown grains by myself and eaten them to go to work at the farm, the officials do not care about how much work or what kind of work I have done. They did not count my attendance.” But the officials are suspicious of these farmers and the conflicts between them have worsened. The officials said, “They just show up at the farm to get more distribution by adding their workdays rather than really to work at the farm. It is a dirty trick.”

Hoeryong City Assigns Land at Random and Demand Potatoes

To solve food problem of laborers, Hoeryong City in North Hamgyong Province allocated side-working fields to factories and enterprises in May and encouraged them to grow potatoes. Since the city distributed farmlands often times infertile at random the crop yields were lower than expected. Some lands were impossible to farm, so people gave up cultivating them. Some enterprises just pretended doing potato farming and ended up changing the crops to pepper or cabbage. For various reasons, few factories and enterprises actually distributed potatoes for August ration, which was in effect a very small amount. An official in an enterprise which distributed potatoes said they worked hard to cultivate the land only to receive 25kg per person. Those who were able to give any amount of provision were in a better place than other factories and enterprises because many of them were not able to distribute food due to low yields. Officials of factories and enterprises say they wish to have lands suitable for farming. They complain that they cannot grow potatoes in barren lands, particularly under the current circumstances of fertilizer shortages and the bad weather.

Drug Offenders’ Family say “Punish the judges who colluded”

Security authorities of Hamheung in South Hamgyong Province severely punished eight chronic drug users including life sentence and death penalty. They have been charged of trafficking over 55 kilograms of drugs in and out of the country since 2007 until April of this year. When they were arrested four years ago, they barely escaped by bribing the provincial judges. After being released they created a hideout and professionally produced and distributed “ice”, or amphetamine. Although the quantity of drugs involved in the case was serious enough security authorities took the case more seriously in that the perpetrators were not first-time drug offenders. Three of the eight charged are sentenced with death penalty, two received life sentence and the other three received eight to 12 years at labor reeducation center.

Once the trial was over, the offenders’ families petitioned to the regional party that the ‘judges who colluded with the offenders to be punished.’ They said it’s illegal to break the law and sell drugs, but it was only possible to do so under the consent of the regional party officials, security officials, defense officials, prosecutors and those of the judiciary. In the petition the families insisted that it was often the case that the offenders gave a considerable amount of cash made through drug dealing to the party and judiciary officials, or often times the officials were part of the collusion from the very beginning. They stated it’s unfair that officials in the party and judiciary can avoid the punishment and continue to live their comfortable lives. “The judges did not crack down on the process, rather released the offenders alive and joined in the dealing process and made profit. These same judges are now making their way out of the joint crime and the only ones that are punished are those that handled the task of making and selling the drugs. It is not fair”, they argued. Finally in the report to the party committee they added “It was the judges who ordered to make and sell the drugs, so we want a just decision made right now”

Corruption Mounts as Cell Phone Crackdowns Tighten

The 27th Radio Wave Detection and Enforcement Bureau of the Security Department at the national border is taking the lead of cracking down the usage of cell phones. This year with the introduction of newer and better radio wave detectors, their performance has improved greatly, and as a result, cell phone users have largely decreased in number. Since the enforcement bureau has begun receiving fewer bribes, the enforcement agents have been trying to get the most money out of any violations that come in their way by demanding large sums of money from the arrestees in exchange of exemption from serving time at the Labor Training Center. Although Security Agents and prosecutors once were two of the most privileged jobs, they too were affected by the currency revaluation, which explains why they feel so attached to money. Some officers demand explicitly for bribes. However, cell phone users who are politically affiliated must be arrested and be sent to Re-education Centers.

Border Patrols Receive Rewards Using Deceit

The Defense Headquarter has enhanced the rewards given to its security guards from February, 2010 in order to crack down illegal border crossing. If a guard arrests even one border-crosser, he can receive either an Arirang television set or a privilege to attend his desired college. The headquarters have raised enforcement level of border-crossing as more people try to cross border because the currency revaluation and its toll on the economy. People, who used to try bribing the security guards into letting them cross, are beginning to try crossing on their own. Not only do they have no money, but they feel more apprehensive toward the guards than ever before.

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