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North Korea Today No. 376 November 10, 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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Nationwide Pardon on the 65th Anniversary of the Party Foundation

Pyongyang Residents Rejoice at Food Distribution

Pyongyang now Relieved after the 65th Anniversary Celebration

‘Special Safety Force’ in Demonstrative Operation to Investigate Judicial Institutions

Flood Destroys Half of Farm Harvests in Keumya County

Rice Production Likely to Drop by 30% in YeomJoo County

The Ongoing Flood Damage

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A Nationwide Pardon on the Celebration of the 65th Anniversary of the Party Establishment

It was confirmed that a nationwide pardon was issued in mid-September for the celebration of the 65th anniversary of the party establishment. This pardon was supposed to be implemented in early September immediately following the meeting of party representatives, but the plan was postponed and it was issued from September 21st to 27th. Those who were released or received a commutation at this time had committed their crime for family livelihood or unintentionally – i.e. light violence, absence without leave, and stealing. Prisoners who have more than half of their prison term remaining saw their term reduced. Prisoners who spent more than half of the term in prison were discharged. About 150,000 people were released nationwide. However, political prisoners, ideological prisoners, and violent offenders including those who tried to move to South Korea or criticized the social system of North Korea were excluded from this pardon. The South Hamkyung Province released the most prisoners at nearly 40,000 people. About 9,600 prisoners were discharged in the North Hamkyung Province. Park Mihye (alias) in the area of Sungchun River in Hamheung City, states, “Everybody feels so happy that people were released. There are many people who were imprisoned or unjustly accused while they were making efforts for their livelihood.”

Pyongyang Residents Rejoice at Food Distribution

Celebrating the 65th anniversary of the Workers’ Party, Pyongyang City distributed food for October to its residents all at once. This is unlike August and September, when the residents were complaining because the food was being distributed on a weekly basis.

Also given out were 3 kg of tropical catfish and 1 kg of squid to each household. Pyongyang has been importing African tropical catfish since 2000 and breeding them with waste water from thermal power plants. It is also renovating and modernizing flour and grain production factories in order to make candies for distribution. “We are planning to build a new food factory and oil refinery and complete the creation of the food processing plant by year 2012, which is the 100th birthday of our Great Leader, so that we can distribute basic food supplies to the people regularly,” said a Central Party Official.

The provinces also distributed food for two, a bottle of liquor, 1 kg of pork, and 100g of bean oil to each family.

Pyongyang now Relieved after the 65th Anniversary Celebration

After the Labor Party’s 65th anniversary celebration on October 10th, residents of Pyongyang felt relaxed from the big burden. Leading up to the party delegates’ meeting and anniversary celebration, the residents had been at work without rest as a part of mobilization efforts at preparation. Housewives were called to mow grass and clean and mop curbs every Sunday morning at 6, while both young and old people were frequently mobilized to clean the streets. An official living in the East District explained the reason for this great movement of cleaning streets and the town every morning by saying, “When the general (Kim Jong-Il) visited Jilin-sheng (Province) in China, he was surprised by how clean and bright the streets of Changchun were. Even a rural city in China appeared better off than Pyongyang, so the general ordered Moon, Kyong-duk, the secretary in charge of the City Party, to clean and decorate our city in a more festive manner”. Not only have all streetlights been brightened, but the city has also been decorated with lights of various colors, and changed dramatically.

The amount of cleaning, campaigns, and meetings around the city approaching October 10th led some residents to openly state, “We wish the celebration would pass already.” Participants of the various events had even a more difficult time. Whenever there is a large celebration, people are divided into three groups, such as the ‘group gymnastics team,’ ‘dancing team,’ and ‘recreation team.’ For example, the task of the recreation team was to bring non-expensive alcohol and meat with them and take a rest at the designated location. Their role was to demonstrate that families sit and eat together at Mt. Namsan or Moranbong Peak. Although some people who are not team members also come to those areas to rest, it is usually those who are assigned to the recreation team who go to there on the event day. This task is the easiest one, compared to others. Young people are selected for the dancing teams, and after much practice, will dance at designated areas during the events. They must practice every night after coming back from their own work, which results in great fatigue. The hardest task, however, is definitely left to the group gymnastics team, in which members perform according to signals. The dancing and recreation teams usually do not perform the primary event of the celebration. It is the group gymnastic team that is often assigned to conduct the primary event, which Chairman Kim Jong-Il certainly observes, so the preparatory training is very strict. This 65th ceremony was more rigorous than previous years because the North Korean government had invited the foreign press to the event, and did not allow for a single mistake by performers.

Unfortunately, one woman committed an error when she misunderstood the signals. Lim, Ok-ran (alias), living in the Middle District, described the situation, “We were supposed to raise flags engraved with letters or pictures at the verbal orders, and hold up synchronized red or yellow flowers at the signals, but one of my friends mixed up the order and a mistake.” She explained that her friend was confused and lost the order because the leader of the team had raised flags without giving the members any signals. The performer’s mistake happened in a flash, and was a very trivial error that only she and her neighbor could recognize, but it made her extremely nervous to the point of passing out. The pressure to perform had been great, and the oppressive environment that would not accept less than perfection had finally taken its toll. According to Ms. Lim, most performers felt very disappointed because they had endured the hard training for two months without receiving enough food, and just one person had destroyed what would have been a perfect performance. After the culmination of October 10th’s much toiled-after events, Pyongyang seemed to regain its previous peace and quiet.

People’s Safety Bureau Commences Demonstrative Operation of ‘Special Safety Force’, a Squad in Charge of Investigating Judicial Institutions

Since last year, the People’s Safety Bureau is operating a ‘Special Safety Force’ which is in charge of judicial institutions. The Special Safety Force undertakes the mission of investigating various crimes or corruption of the judicial institutions and prosecutions and punishing them. In the past, the judicial institutions have been making some type of sanctuary by protecting the target of the investigation or obstructing the investigation intentionally with the vested power, so a special institution named ‘Special Safety Force’ was established as a part of effort to correct the disturbed law and order. The decision of acknowledging it as a formal institution will be dependent upon the outcome after operating it for three years. However, the problem is not that simple. Although impartial investigation is important in order to uphold the principle that everyone must abide by the law and order, the reality in which one must violate the law will have to be changed first.
The amount of production is extremely small and the laborers do not have monthly wages or distribution; in order for them to subsist, they will have to sell anything in the market by stealing the property of the factory or taking some raw materials to home to make anything. With self-deprecation, the North Koreans refer this as ‘legal crime. Although siphoning off the property of the workplace is obviously a crime, people will die of hunger if they do not do it, and therefore, the Party overlooks the offense. Likewise, going to a business trip to other region is the same thing. Many times, people do the illegal trade instead of taking care of the business of the workplace on a business trip. Because receiving a passport is a rare opportunity, sometimes several people collect their money and give it to the person who goes to the business trip so the person can purchase goods cheaply in the region and distribute them to the people. As this is rampant everywhere and they believe this is the only way to survive, they think it is ‘legal’. Yet, as this is obviously illegal, the judicial institution can arrest people anytime if they choose to do so. The term ‘legal crime’ by itself reflects the contradictory reality.


There are instances in which there is a conflict of opinion between the Safety Bureau and the prosecutorial institution. Sometimes the prosecution arrests a person whom the Safety Bureau needs, and sometimes it releases a person for ‘insufficient evidence’ when the person should have been dealt with more strictly. Typically, the police officers have a witness when they indict a case, but if the prosecution objects by saying ‘the testimony is unclear or false’, the Safety Bureau cannot proceed further. Unless the case is not especially serious, the prosecution is more influential, so the result of many cases has been overturned. Thus, the Safety Bureau was concerned with this problem for a long time since the outcome of a case is often changed by one witness and criminals are frequently found innocent and acquitted as a result. This operation of the Special Safety Force is a result of this concern. However, the dominating opinion within the Safety Bureau is that whether this will be effective is yet to be known. It is because unless the food issue is not resolved, these ‘legal criminals’ will be there indefinitely no matter how many people are captured, the number of people who commit illegal activities under the protection of the prosecution or judicial institution will not decrease, and the obstruction of investigation by other special institutions will not end.

Flood Destroys Half of Farm Harvests in Keumya County

It was announced that the crop harvest in Keumya County was diminished by more than half by a flood that caused landslides. Most houses in a village located at the foot of the mountain were damaged by the inundation caused by the flooding of the mountain valley. According to the government security agency, more than 100 people were killed, about 2,000 houses were damaged to the extent that residents cannot reside in them, and another 2,000 households need amends because the roofs or walls were broken. It is not surprising the farmlands were devastated in the disaster that destroyed houses and took people’s lives. Arable lands were swamped and they became barren after the water ebbed away because of the stones that piled up like a mountain. Even in the land where there was no flooding, the crops were destroyed so that none was left harvestable. In normal years, the farmers would be busy in the fall harvest and would make an outcry for labor assistance for their harvest. This year, farmers in the collective farm in Keumya County heave a sigh since there are no crops to glean.

Rice Production Likely to Drop by 30% in YeomJoo County

Rice production is predicted to decrease by 30 percent in Yeomjoo County, North Pyongan Province. Yeomjoo County is known as one of the breadbaskets of North Korea. “The rice fields have been immersed in water after a series of heavy rains in the summer. The fields have become muddy and unfit for harvest,” said a farmer, who added that rice production has dropped by 30 percent. Around 4 tons of rice used to be harvested per 1 jungbo, which is equivalent to 2.45 acres, but now that number has diminished to 2.5 to 3 tons.

The Ongoing Flood Damage

The damage wreaked by the flood persists. Government fund to assist the flood victims is close to none. The victims are growing fearful as winter approaches for they do not have clothes, flood, or shelter. Many of the victims are diseased and dying. Some are committing suicide at the dark prospect of the future. Sinuiju, North Pyongan Province has shortage of food and water. Water pipes have been destroyed but the water supply system has not been restored, so muddy water runs when one turns the faucet on. Apartment residents need to bring water from a nearby river. In Hamheung City, South Hamgyong Province, labor workers and college students have been working to restore the city’s infrastructure, but the effort is far from sufficient, especially since they are working with nothing but shovels and hoes. There is also not enough cement and wood for the construction. Although the flood ended in the summer, its effect is still felt to this day.

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