GoodFriends: Research Institute For North Korean Society

.

North Korea Today No. 326 Full Version January 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.]
__________________________________________________________
[Hot Topics]
Note: Hot Topics of this edition were released earlier as a separate edition.

[Food]
Note: The food section of this edition was released earlier as a separate edition.

[Economy]
Cabinet Orders Factories and Public Enterprises: “Make a List of Reserve Goods and Return them to the Cities and Counties."
“Currency Exchange Rate of 100 to 1 not Equals to Buying 100 Products at Price of One"

[Politics]
The Aftermath of Yoosun Hospital Espionage Case is Fierce
Organization Secretary of Hoeryong City Party Involved in the Espionage Case is Placed in the Buryung-town Collective Farm
Unregistered Lodging in Border Areas to Be Punished Even for Relatives

[Society]
Public Sentiment Worsens Over Market Closure

[Women/Children/Education]
University Faculty Used Students for Currency Exchange

[Accidents]
Son Commits Suicide after Being Scolded by Father for Ice (amphetamine) Use
_______
___________________________________________________
[Hot Topics]
Note: Hot Topics of this edition were released earlier as a separate edition.

[Food]
Note: The food section of this edition was released earlier as a separate edition.

[Economy]
Cabinet Orders Factories and Public Enterprises: “Make a list of reserve goods and return them to the cities and counties."
On January 10th, the Cabinet issued a nationwide directive requesting to "make a list of all foods and merchandises kept as reserve or retained for purposes of managing factory and enterprise and return them to the cities and counties in their jurisdiction." Since January 11th, the city and county parties in the nation held all-member meetings and delivered the order to each factory and enterprise. Each factory and enterprise subsequently held internal meetings and launched projects to return those reserve foods and products. Each city and county party inspection committee and prosecutor's office monitor the progress in order to keep individuals from stealing them. Such foods and merchandises will be used to assist people whose lives are at risk because they cannot do business.

“Currency Exchange Rate of 100 to 1 not Equals to Buying 100 Products at Price of One"
In all parts of the country, for each unit and workplace, series of educational lectures were given to people because the government determined that public opinion got worse since the currency exchange measures due to people's misperception on them. The main message of the lecture was that “currency exchange rate of 100 to 1 does not mean one can buy 100 products at a price of one. Due to rising prices, people question the government's policies, but they need to have a right understanding on the currency exchange measures." However, regarding the question of why prices were not set 100 to 1, the lecture only stated that "do not question about why state stores do not sell goods at 100 to 1 prices; all goods are sold at prices established by the State Pricing Committee." In addition, each unit and enterprise party has emphasized repeatedly to the residents that they need to live with the following understanding: "unlike currency exchange rate, prices set by the State are not 100 to 1."

[Politics]
The Aftermath of Yoosun Hospital Espionage Case is Fierce

The Primary Party Secretary Espionage Case of Yoosun People’s Hospital in Hoeryong City, North Hamgyong Province, is having a fierce aftermath as it escalates into a problem of the Provincial Party of the North Hamgyong Province. Sixteen administrative officers from the Hoeryong City Party have been dismissed for polluted ideological state and lately, eleven officers were additionally dismissed. Currently the investigation is underway on the administrative officers of the City Party, and the investigation is focused on whether there are any connections in China and whether there are any defectors among the family members or relatives. When appointing new officers, only the people who do not have border-crossers among his family and relatives are selected. Mostly the government officials are relocated these days, but it is expected that the low-ranking officers in each sector as well as ordinary residents are to be moved in the future. It is the policy of the Party that the households whose lives are assisted by the family or relatives who have defected to China or South Korea will be unconditionally relocated to other region by 2011. Once the placement of the officials is completed, it is reported that the relocation process will begin after the primary inspection of the residents.

Organization Secretary of Hoeryong City Party Involved in the Espionage Case is Placed in the Buryung-town Collective Farm
The Organization Secretary of the Hoeryong City Party was dismissed for improper handling of the Yoosun Hospital Espionage Case and was placed in the Buryung-town Collective Farm in Buryung County as a farm member. Twenty seven officers—the administrative officers of the City Party who are directly or indirectly related to the Espionage Case and the officers whose relative had crossed the border to China—were also dismissed and were demoted to laborers or farm members. In case of the chief of the Hoeryong City Post Office, it was disclosed that his daughter had crossed the border, so he was assigned to a mining machinery factory as a laborer. The investigation and the relocation of the officers are expected to continue for a while. Starting February, the second wave of expulsion of the officers is expected to be processed. At that time, Hoeryong City Party as well as low-ranking officers from workplaces, public enterprises and farm work units and educational officers from universities, professional schools, elementary schools, middle schools and kindergartens are expected to be placed under investigation.

Unregistered Lodging in Border Areas to Be Punished Even for Relatives
As the Duman River has frozen, the police department along the national border in North Hamgyong Province is making an all-out effort to prevent people from crossing the border. The number of guards at the second line patrol along the border has doubled and the patrol system has been intensified. The department thoroughly inspects unregistered lodgers because many people crossed the border with their families. Residents cannot avoid punishment if visitors from other areas or even relatives are reported as unregistered lodgers. If residents allow visitors from other areas to stay illegally, they are expelled to other areas. If unregistered lodgers are relatives, residents are sent to the Labor Training Center for two to three months. Thus, the police department is educating residents not to provide unregistered lodging.

[Society]
Public Sentiment Worsens Over Market Closure
With the strict banning of general markets and conversions to farmers market, the supply of food and other goods that used to be distributed by train has disappeared. As even the black market has no inventory to sell, conditions have continued to deteriorate. People working in the market are deeply worried about the economy, saying “unless the government distributes daily necessities, many couples will get divorced. If they keep on choking the market economy, then ordinary people will suffer severe hardship.” Workers are also worried about how to make a living during this economic crisis. Old people wish their offspring could secure the food they need to survive. After the currency exchange measure, the people’s lives have not been stabilized resulting in spreading of public sentiment saying “The national measure (Currency exchange measure) is not fair.” To make situation worse, the market trade was banned and female breadwinners’ complaints increased. People who have received some money since the currency reevaluation and who therefore supported the change in denomination say the revaluation is now pointless because of inflation and market closure.

[Women/Children/Education]
University Faculty Used Students for Currency Exchange

It has come to light that the faculty members of Kim-Jung-Sook University of Hoeryung city in Northern Hamgyung have been forcing students to exchange notes in the old denomination into the new currency on behalf of themselves. In the beginning, the authorities exchanged thirty thousand won of the old currency for three hundred won of the newly distributed currency. In the case of students who have been discharged from the army, they have been receiving less and less money from their families. Due to a lack of food in the school cafeteria, students have had to buy food using credit at nearby Nammun Dong. Sixty percent of students have credit debt, let alone the three hundred won they received during the currency exchange. Responding to the financial difficulties of their students, the school faculty distributed thirty thousand won to each of them, requiring that the students exchanged the currency. Those faculty members who seek to exchange more than the thirty thousand won maximum announced by the state typically use a proxy and then divide the new currency evenly. In the case of students, students received only ten won in compensation for their service. The people exclaimed, “The currency exchange system only benefits faculty members.”

[Accidents]
Son Commits Suicide after Being Scolded by Father for Ice (amphetamine) Use
On January 5th, in Hoeryong City in North Hamgyong Province, fifth-grade student at Osan Middle School (equivalent of High School) Jungsu Kim committed suicide after being punished by his father who found out that his son used ‘ice’ (amphetamine). In the morning of the suicide, his father hit Kim and scolded him saying, “You are supposed to study but you did ice instead!” Then the son said with his all fury, “It is no use studying. You can do anything if your parents have money power in this society. You are daily laborer so I can only become a laborer!” His father was angry with his son because the younger Kim had stolen money from his home and bought drugs, even though the currency redenomination had reduced them to poverty. The father said in anger, “Are you still going to do ice? What does a junkie have to live for? Go and die. At least do that for our family.” The son, upset at being scolded, went out to buy and use as much medicine as he could find. After abusing the medicine, the son fell into a coma. He was moved to a hospital immediately, but due to the side effects of the medicine, he was unable to breath and passed away. The People’s Safety Bureau investigated the situation and decided to punish the boy’s homeroom teacher and his parents. The authorities are likely to punish them quite severely holding accountable for failed moral education because drug abuse and suicide problems among students began to spread in the society.

North Korea Today No. 327 Special Edition January 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.]
__________________________________________________________
[Hot Topics]
H1N1 Flu Affected Apartment Complex Closed up in Hamheung
Health Authorities Pass out Folklore Remedy Material
Hamheung, Restaurant Chain Network Temporarily Closed for H1N1
School Starts on Jan. 20 Nationwide
_________________________________________________________
[Hot Topics]
H1N1 Flu Affected Apartment Complex Closed up in Hamheung
Emergency Disease Prevention Command Post of Hamheung City, South Hamgyong Province is in the process of quarantining and blocking H1N1 breakout areas including Sungchun River District. When confirmed positive of infection, quarantine measure is put in place whether it is the family of an official or a laborer. When there is a new H1N1 patient in apartment complexes, a guard stands at the entrance to stop the patient from going out. The flu broke out in densely populated residential areas including 24th and 29th units in Shinheung 1 dong, Sungchun River District, and the apartment complexes there sealed the entrances. They closed up the entrance doors of the four-story building with boards. It was intended to prohibit people inside from going out.

Locked up all of a sudden, the households inside the blocked buildings are experiencing difficulties in living, running out of basic commodities and food. Particularly those residents who made daily living by trading are severely suffering. As such, City People’s Assembly ordered Local Grain Policy Enterprise to secure food and the basic food factory to provide doenjang (fermented soybean paste), ganjang (soy sauce) and at least 3 lumps of anthracite every day for cooking and heating.

Since the residents on the second and fourth floor cannot reach the ground floor, they are obtaining commodities by sending down burlap bags or buckets tied to a rope. Food and products are put on the ground floor and the residents pull the rope and unload them on the second floor. In addition, authorities specially made called ‘6 mansun’ electricity available for the households using electric rice cooker and electric cooker.

Authorities expected that blocking outside contact would stop spreading of the flu virus but the result was different. Although the minimum amount of food is being provided, larger families still fall short of food and residents get out from the building somehow. Citing that those incidents interrupt curtailing the flu epidemic, Hamheung City authorities are concentrating on more strict control on entering and exiting the buildings by mobilizing emergency disease prevention officials, police officers and security officers. Hygiene and Disease Prevention office seems to be at a loss to observe more flu infection occurring than expected despite the quarantine of whole apartment complexes. The most suffered are the residents quarantined without due dates. Residents deplores, “I have already been suffering because of the government measure (currency revaluation), and now we are stranded because of the infectious disease. What a terrible life!”

Health Authorities Pass out Folklore Remedy Material
South Hamgyong Province Emergency Disease Prevention Committee is passing out folklore remedy material to Neighborhood Units due to lack of medicine for H1N1 flu. It contains explanations about flu symptoms, ask people to notify doctor if such symptoms occur, get a check up, and set up treatment plans. In addition, it warns not to use Chinese medicine distributed in the market and domestically produced medicine at any circumstance. Currently, death caused by H1N1 flu continues to occur, yet domestically developed vaccine is being used due to lack of medicine. Since January 4 they are distributing domestically produced flu vaccine injections in the areas where H1N1 flu broke out. However, it is reported to have no effect on H1N1 although it is effective with regular flu. In addition, there are reports of instances where some of the medical staff not responding to the resident’s request for check up with a description of the symptoms. The health authorities are mobilizing the medical students to the command post of emergency disease prevention in order to reinforce the medical staff.

Hamheung, Restaurant Chain Network Temporarily Closed for H1N1
Restaurants in Hamheung South Hamgyong Province that belong to Social Restaurant Chain Network are temporarily closed. However, those with good sanitary equipment and clean condition are still allowed to operate. Officials from the Health Department conduct sanitary inspections, but bribery is exchanged in the process. The certificate of inspection can be obtained through bribery regardless of sanitary conditions. Contrary to the initial purpose of preventing H1N1 it is being abused for personal monetary gains for some corrupt officials.

School Starts on Jan. 20 Nationwide
The education authorities, which had decided to have an early winter vacation due to the outbreak of H1N1 flu, decided to start classes on January 20 reasoning that the epidemic subsides. The decision was based on the judgment that flu medications have been provided to some areas and the epidemic would not spread any more. Meanwhile, clinics and hospitals are providing antibiotic medicines to patients who are diagnosed with the flu.

North Korea Today No. 326 Hot Topics, Food & Editorial January 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.]
__________________________________________________________
[Hot Topics No. 326]
Trading Allowed Only for the Import-Export Companies that Earn Foreign Currency
“Rasun City will be Re-invigorated into an International Trade Base”
Onsung Sambong Customs Office under Jurisdiction of Rasun City

[Food]
Rice Price Soars More Than Tenfold of Pre-Currency Revaluation Price
Rice Price Hits 240 Won in Sinuiju a Week after Temporary Low Price at 90 Won
Exchange Rate Jumped from 150 Won to 300 Won per Dollar in a Week in Sinuiju
One Kg of Corn for 24 Won, January Distribution of S. and N. Hamgyong Province

[Editorial]
Food and Coal Urgently Needed for People
_________________________________________________________
[Hot Topics]
Trading Allowed Only for the Import-Export Companies that Earn Foreign Currency

Following the banning of consolidated market operations, the trading (export-import) companies are being rapidly disbanded. The reasons for disband are as follows: First, there have recently been many political crimes that would harm the national security which had involved employees of the trading companies; Second, the companies have not adequately met the planned goals; Third, the companies are in liaison with the wealthy and individual merchants and engaged in "monopoly activities" that enrich a few merchants while using the trading mechanics authorized by the government. As a result, small size businesses have either disappeared or merged with larger companies and the restructuring has begun. Already, quite a number of companies have been either disbanded or downsized, and those that import items that are connected with domestic individual traders have shut down. In particular, those companies directly under the military umbrella received the most direct hit. The Central Party, in addition to the order issued in December last year, has sent down the orders once again on January 5 to disband all trading companies under the military.

Exceptions to this are the companies directly under the Ministry of Foreign Trade that earn foreign currency. However, even these superior companies that earn foreign exchange without any hindrance to the national security, their activities might temporarily be dampened. About this major realignment of trading companies, an official in Pyongyang commented that, "If each locality purchases or sells food or merchandise, market operations cannot be banned. Only when the trading companies are closed up, the market activities will be stopped. Once that's done, the government could operate its own stores or either distribute or sell through the voluntary network of convenience items in order to establish a new economic order. That's the only way to strengthen the government's position."

There are, however, skeptic views as well. If, like the old times, the Ministry of Foreign Trade monopolizes the import-export business, they must provide all the resources for production and equipment needed in the country, but it's doubtful whether they can do it. Now that the socialistic economy system has in reality been collapsed and changed to a self-supportive system, it would be difficult to realize, they opined. One official expressed his distrust against the Ministry of Foreign Trade’s consolidation attempt: "At present, they are pursuing the banning of market policies more strongly than ever, but markets will never go away. Right now, (the country is divided among) military-economy, party-economy, local-economy, etc. There are not many who think that by getting rid of trading companies under these umbrellas (they) will bring about the consolidated economy as the Party intends. Already several attempts had been made, and it failed each time."

“Rasun City will be Re-invigorated into an International Trade Base”
The North Korean Authorities decided to revive Rasun Trading District. Their plan is to vitalize the area as an international trading base and distribution base for larger scale trades with China and Russia. They argue that ‘this can accomplish Chosun’s reformation and strengthen the nation’s foundation when Rasun City strategically develops into a major leader for foreign trading’ so they are planning to develop this area into international distribution base. Rasun Free Economy Trading District was designated and legally institutionalized in 1991 but they did not come to an agreement due to the central party’s direct control which eventually failed to attract foreign investment. Following this, the North Korean nuclear crisis broke out so it has become difficult to bring in foreign capital. As a result, they could not demonstrate the actual function of the zone. Although Rasun City was an exceptional city, they were economically transferred to the jurisdiction of the North Hamgyong Province due to the internal economic crisis in North Korea. On the contrary to their original plan to make it the international distribution base, this area has become the main center for the peddler and other small trading business. The reason to change Rasun City to a special city is known as an attempt to revitalize the function of Rasun Zone. The North Korean authorities are planning to procure all domestic demand supplies through Rasun City and not by mere trading company or personal merchants.

Onsung Sambong Customs Office under Jurisdiction of Rasun City
With new economic management system in place, the North Korean Custom Administration decided that Sambong and Namyang Customs Office at Onsung County, North Hamgyong Province will be under the jurisdiction of Rasun Special City starting January 1. As a result, customs offices including Sambong have become trading passage; in other words, they play a role as merchandise transportation passage. A Central Party official said, “This action is related to China’s decision to manage the Tumen River Development project at the national level instead of having a local government in charge such as Yanbian or nearby cities such as Jilin-Sheng.” China is currently under construction of a major national highway between ‘Changchun- Jilin- Hunchun’ and this could be connected to North Korea’s Rasun so they have advantage of large scale trading with China. Central Party officials have expectations that, “If everything works out, we might be able to have an open city like Guangdong, China.” Rasun City’s jurisdiction over Sambong and Namyang Customs Office at Onsung County is a follow up measure to expand Rasun Special City.

[Food]
Rice Price Soars More Than Tenfold of Pre-Currency Revaluation Price

Overall food situation is severely worsening as prices soar in the New Year. In Chungjin, North Hamgyong Province, 1 kg of rice was traded at 240 won and the price of the same amount of corn hit 100 won. In Eunduk County, the price of rice was 270 won per kg, and the price of corn was 110 won per kg. In Pyungsung, South Pyongan Province, the rice price rose as high as 300 won.

In Chungjin, North Hamgyong Province, the rice price was 2,000 won in November before the currency revaluation measure, and after the measure, the price stayed at 40-50 won throughout December. In 2010, however, the prices are skyrocketing due to the ban on trading, disbandment measure of trading companies and stopped distribution of goods.

In Chungjin, rice price doubled from 50 won per kg to about 100 won per kg as January began, and the price is still soaring by a large degree every moment. There appears to be a repeating cycle where the price declines momentarily with severe crackdown by the authorities, but it rises again when the crackdown is eased even to a small degree. As of January 15, the rice price hit 240 won per kg. It is more than tenfold increase in one and a half months after the currency exchange measure.

Those who are immediately affected by the horrifying increase of rice price are the residents with dearth of food saved at home. Households without food have no other option than starving. Situations worsened for people with food as well. Households that used to eat white steamed rice and meat soup began to save food by eating ‘50:50 meal’ with half corn and half rice. People who used to eat ‘50:50 meal’ changed to steamed corn meal and those who had steamed corn meal changed to porridge. While making efforts to save food, they are anxiously awaiting the prices to be stabilized. Some express complaints about worsened life conditions saying, “What is the use of having money? There is no value of the currency, so it is like worthless paper.”



Rice Price Hits 240 Won in Sinuiju a Week after Temporary Low Price at 90 Won

A week ago, the police authorities in Sinuiju, North Pyongan Province handed over 13 tons of imported rice to Chaeha distribution agency. The distribution agency sold the rice for 70 won per kg. The agency was swarmed by people who came to buy the rice. On the same day, rice price also dropped to as low as 90 won per kg at the market. Residents were very pleased and said, “Finally, the rice price may become stabilized.” However, on the very next day, rice sale was suspended at the distribution agency and market, and the person in charge of the agency was arrested. Somebody reported that the distribution agency price was higher than the government-set price of 44 won. Rice price began to jump immediately. After a week, the price reached as high as 240 won per kg as of January 17.

Exchange Rate Jumped from 150 Won to 300 Won per Dollar in a Week in Sinuiju
While the overall prices continue to rise sharply, exchange rate is also increasing significantly. By early January, exchange rate stayed at 3,000 won per 100 dollars. As prices soared daily due to a series of market contraction measures, however, value of 100 dollars also jumped from 15,000 won on the 12th to 30,000 won on the 17th, doubling the rate in less than a week. The price is more than tenfold of 3,000 won, the government set rate on December 28. Residents of Sinuiju are saying that “After the currency exchange till today, the more (the government) controls, the higher foreign currency price rises,” and that the sharp rise in foreign currency exchange rate is due to the control measure of the authorities.


One Kg of Corn for 24 Won, January Distribution of S. and N. Hamgyong Province

In South and North Hamgyong Province, corn is being provided at 24 won per kg as January distribution. Heavy snow in this winter soaked into threshed corn, moistening it with 23% of water content. Last December, the government distributed soybean for 45 won per kg, while the market price was lower at 25 won per kg. As such, the residents bought soybean at markets instead of distribution agency. However, as the New Year begins, the market price rose sharply and soybean is now sold at 90 won per kg as of January 15, and hardly anyone buys soybean.


[Editorial]
Food and Coal Urgently Needed for People
We have expressed our concerns repeatedly about the new economic measures, citing that skyrocketing prices would be unavoidable unless the government can provide a large-scale supply of food and necessities. We also suggested that people should be allowed to do trading freely to make living if the government is unable to supply enough food and necessities. Nevertheless, the North Korean government is implementing a series of new economic measures without any remedies for the problems. As a result, the instability of livelihood and the suffering of people are reaching critical levels.
The skyrocketing of rice price from 30-40 won to 60 won in new currency with the beginning of the New Year was only a precursor of sufferings for people. Since then the food price went up by the hour. The shock of skyrocketing rice price reaching 100 won turned into disbelief when it went through the ceiling and reached 200 won. The price dropped a few times when the police responded with severe crackdowns only to go up again shortly. At this point no one is daring to make predictions about how high the price can reach. After the 15th the rice price reached 240 won in Chungjin and Sinuiju, 270 won in Eunduk, and finally reached 300 won in Pyungsung. People can only be gripped by fear as they watch the price going up.
Market contraction has reached an extreme level with the conversion of general markets to farmers market, dissolution of trading companies, followed by a ban on the use of foreign currency for domestic transactions. Prices can only skyrocket because goods are in shortage and not distributed freely. The amount of goods transported by railway has dropped by 20 percent compared to last year. Transportation of goods by railway has become more difficult with a stiff decline in the number of railway passengers. At this point, we can only question the purpose of new economic management measures once again.
The North Korean authorities declared through a series of public lectures that the purpose of new economic measures is to raise the living standards of people. However, there are many controversies over how to achieve that. That is because people’s livelihood is getting worse after the new economic measures. What is urgently needed now are food and coals for heating. A warm bowl of rice and coals for heating are the most basic necessities for people who are suffering from unprecedented cold winter weather. The North Korean authorities should make every effort to ensure food and heating for people at least. Accepting South Korean government’s offer of ten thousand tons of corn was a wise decision. However, continuing the stand-off against South Korea over political dominance is undesirable. What is needed is to actively engage in negotiations in order to obtain a large-scale humanitarian aid. The urgent problems of food and heating should be resolved and misguided policies should be discarded.
Perhaps it is too early to render a judgment on the effectiveness of the new economic policies. However, it is clear that closing of general markets is an anachronism and against the wishes of the people. The plan for developing Rasun special district as the hub for distribution of goods is something that requires a long-term planning. The market operation should be allowed to continue at least until the distribution of goods become stabilized. Skyrocketing of prices would not stop unless goods are distributed freely. We urge the North Korean government to reconsider.

North Korea Today No. 325 Full Version January 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.]
__________________________________________________________
[Hot Topics]
Note: Hot Topics of this edition were released earlier as a separate edition.

[Food]
Note: The food section of this edition was released earlier as a separate edition.

[Economy]
Cabinet Telephone Meeting, "Domestic Prices will be Stabilized Around 15th"
8,500 Won Paid to Miners in South Pyongan Province
1,500 to 2,000 Won per Ton Is Paid for Making Compost

[Politics]
Officials Punished for Disclosing Information about Currency Exchange
Female Prisoners at Jeungsan Re-Education Center Moved to Jeongurrie Re-Education Center

[Society]
Sariwon, Eighteen Died from H1N1 Flu
Sinuiju Begins to Provide Flu Treatment
Central Party Issued the Third Order with Criticism about “Taking Measures for H1N1.”
Families Concerned about Ban on Family Visits at the Re-education Center

[Women/Children/Education]
First Wave of Food and School Supplies Distribution to Orphanages and other Institutions in North Hamgyong Province
320 Admitted to School of Politics at Provincial People’s Police Bureau in the North Hamgyong Province

[Accidents]
Railroad Train Accident in Baekam County
__________________________________________________________
[Hot Topics]
Note: Hot Topics of this edition were released earlier as a separate edition.

[Food]
Note: The food section of this edition was released earlier as a separate edition.

[Economy]
Cabinet Telephone Meeting, "Domestic Prices will be Stabilized Around 15th"
In the morning of January 8th, the cabinet had a telephone meeting with government offices. The government proclaimed in the meeting that "All goods that belong to each city and county trading companies shall not fall in hands of individuals, and the market shall sell the existing inventory only." Officials who attended the meeting said that domestic prices will be stabilized around January 15th. They also said that if prices would still continue to go up, then the city and the County Party as well as the People's Council would take drastic measures to temporarily stop all the market activities. Moreover, if merchants would arbitrarily raise prices beyond the regulated prices set by the government, such goods will be confiscated unconditionally because they did not follow the government's measures. In addition, the market supervision and control will be strengthened. After the meeting, the market managers in each market ordered the merchants to "sell goods for only three more days and do not receive more goods," while collecting the market fees from them. The market surveillance team also warned the merchants that they will strengthen the crackdown of the merchants who raise prices.

8,500 Won Paid to Miners in South Pyongan Province
The laborers working in the coal mines run by Dukchun District Mine United Enterprise in South Pyongan Province in Jae-Nam, Wol-Bong, and Duk-Chun, were paid a wage of eight thousand five hundred won for miners who perform the hard labor of collecting coal and digging tunnels. Those who worked outside the mines were rewarded four to five thousand won as compensation. From now on, those who meet the goal of monthly production plan will be paid at least ten thousand won. Households with three or more miners will receive monthly wages of twenty thousand won or more and many of them purchased luxury items such as bicycles and TVs. Such potential for increased living standards have encouraged laborers to demonstrate more ardent work ethics and enthusiasm. Unfortunately, with the dawning of the New Year, prices have risen, bringing about complaints that wages have not increased enough to allow for a more affordable lifestyle.

1,500 to 2,000 Won per Ton Is Paid for Making Compost
A compost-making task is carried out in factories and public enterprises nationwide in order to accomplish the goals specified in the New Year’s Day Joint Editorial of this year. The Hamheung City in South Hamgyong Province asked the workers in each factory and public enterprise to turn in 1.5 tons of compost per person. They made a subtle demand saying that everyone must make the compost because they had received the full month worth of wages. They agreed that if the people fully concentrate on the compost-making task and accomplish the quota in January, the farms will pay 1,500-2,000 won for 1 ton of compost in February according to the new economic policy. There will be some sort of arrangements between the factories, public enterprises and the collective farm, and the transaction will be processed by the Central Bank. The compost-making task has been done every year, but it was never paid or remunerated before. This plan was brought out starting this year in order to proactively encourage the compost-making task. Now laborers can earn some extra money other than the monthly wage depending on how much compost-making work they do.

[Politics]
Officials Punished for Disclosing Information about Currency Exchange
Three employees from a trading company in Pyongsung, South Pyongan Province, were arrested for divulging the rumor about the currency exchange one day before its implementation. On December 3rd, the Police Department in South Pyongan Province arrested them for treason of revealing a state secret. An offender confessed during the interrogation that he heard it from the officials from the Ministry of Foreign Trade, so two officials from Ministry were arrested based on the testimony. They were also discharged from their post for disseminating a state secret and the entire family was sent to somewhere. A financial directive officer from Suseong Re-education Center in Chungjin, North Hamgyong Province, was also arrested on December 2nd for disseminating confidential information about currency exchange. The authority is conducting inspection follow-ups in order to investigate whether there are any other similar cases between the officials and the residents since the currency exchange.

Female Prisoners at Jeungsan Re-Education Center Moved to Jeongurrie Re-Education Center
Six officials, including the director of re-education center of the People’s Safety Agency were removed from their position last October after inspections by the central prosecutor’s office and the Central Party. As a result, the size of the re-education centers was reduced by more than half. This is due to unsanitary conditions at re-education center and crowding of inmates in these facilities and high death rates caused by epidemics. Re-education Center at Jeungsan County, South Pyungan Province moved two of their re-educational division to Junguri Re-education Center at Heoryong City, North Hamgyong Province. On two occasions over last November and December, they mobilized a cargo truck and relocated female prisoners. There are approximately 4,500 female prisoners and 1,100 male prisoners at Junguri Re-Education Center. Prisoners are concentrated here with low number of amnesty or maturity release this past year. With a narrow capacity of the facility and unsanitary facility that has not yet been fully operative, they are vulnerable to infectious disease. Currently, there are five female re-education departments and there are six sub-sections within each re-educational department. After the dismissal of re-education center’s high ranked officials, there had been changes in prisoner’s daily life. They hold political session for two hours on Saturday morning and take bath and do laundry in the afternoon. Sunday is a day of resting where life managing staff brings television and video recorder to allow prisoners to watch at “the party’s consideration”. Also, they are planning to begin their expansion construction to hold the increasing number of inmates at re-education center starting March, 2010.

[Society]
Sariwon, Eighteen Died from H1N1 Flu

According to the report submitted to the City and County Party, eighteen died from H1N1 flu 2009 in Sariwon, North Hwanghae Province in December. Authorities in Public Health are focusing on sterilizing schools, day-care centers and kindergartens before starting a new semester in order to prevent children from getting the flu. The mortality rate is relatively low in economically stable households while medicine misuse and abuse is increasing in poor households. Due to the inflation after the currency reform, the parents let their children take cheap medicine which causes side effects and even death. Children with high fever and headache are suffering from hunger without proper treatment, shivering with cold in houses without heating system. According to a healthcare provider, even though the situation in North Hwanghae Province is better than North Pyongan Province, they should be on the lookout for the flu because it is spreading very fast."

Sinuiju Begins to Provide Flu Treatment
Sinuiju, North Pyongan Province has begun to provide flu treatment from December 25, 2009. Doctors are offering tablets to those who had a contact with the H1N1 flu patients while giving injection to or prescribing medicine for the patients. However, the health authorities do not relax their attention because the number of the patients has not decreased. Recently, four patients with H1N1 flu have died in Sinuiju People's Hospital. In particular, the death rate of children and those who are over late fifties is high. A physician said "Children and seniors cannot recover from the flu due to their physical weakness and lack of immunity. They suffer from the illness and die. Even though we received medicine from the UN, it is still lacking. It is difficult to purchase medicine on the market due to the extremely high price."

Central Party Issued the Third Order with Criticism about “Taking Measures for H1N1.”
H1N1 is gradually spreading from North Pyongan Province to southern areas. According to the Health Department officials, more patients have been reported in inner land areas such as North and South Hwanghae Provinces than in northern areas. H1N1 is known as a new type of flu to North Koreans, and its spreading does not seem to decrease. Accordingly, last December 30, the officials of the Health Department and the Emergency Disease Control Center held a meeting “to prevent and eradicate H1N1 from North Korea.” For the first time this year, the Central Party sent the Health Department officials an order with criticism about “preparing definitive measures to treat H1H1 patients.” Two orders with criticism were already issued in December last year and this is the third.

Families Concerned about Ban on Family Visits at the Re-education Center
The Re-education Center in South Pyongan Province prohibited family visits in an effort to control the outbreak of the H1N1 flu virus. People who have families in the Re-education and Labor Training Centers are concerned that their loved ones may suffer from hunger and severe weather due to inadequate provisions available at these centers. Families will do anything to supply their relatives with the necessities needed to survive; however, even before the prohibition, families were prohibited from directly delivering the goods to their kin at these centers and consequently, were not able to confirm whether the supplies have been properly delivered. “[People in the centers] would die from starvation and the cold before dying from H1N1,” which is a concern that resonated with many families with relatives at these centers. Meanwhile, as H1N1 continued to spread, the levels of restriction also began to increase. As the elderly became among the most affected by the flu virus, some asylums for the aged in South Pyongan Province blocked entrances and strictly regulated the admission of people into the center. Healthy people among the staffs were chosen to take care of the old. A complete ban on visitation is in effect at re-education centers in South Pyongan Province.

[Women/Children/Education]
First Wave of Food and School Supplies Distribution to Orphanages and other Institutions in North Hamgyong Province

With the currency reform, the North Korean government distributed food, daily necessities, and school supplies to nursing homes, stepmother’s institutions, and orphanages. Last December 28, before New Year’s Day, North Hamgyong Province assigned the officials of the Commerce Management and receiving staff to begin distributing the items. One ton of imported rice was originally planned to be sent to Wonsan-ri nursing home in Hoeryong, but only 400kg of rice was sent. Only 15 blankets out of originally assigned 30 blankets, 15 beds out of 30, and 10 individual eating tables out of 40 were distributed as well. Winter boots, warm underclothes, and school supplies for elementary school children in the Jongsung Labor District at Onsung County were provided. The same amount of items that Jongsung elementary school received was also sent to Gilju elementary school.

320 Admitted to School of Politics at Provincial People’s Police Bureau in the North Hamgyong Province
On September 15th 2009, 450 applicants, including jail guards and college graduates, took the entrance exam for School of Politics to be a police officer. There are 12 subject areas in the exam in total, including Kim Il-sung’s and Kim Jong-il’s rojak (editorials written by Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il), math and physics. Of the 450 who took the exam, 320 applicants passed. Until 2003, the school ran a thorough background check on three generations of family members before granting final admission. However, since 2004, the applicants can be admitted even if they do not have good background so long as they have money. Many of them give 900,000 won (old currency) in bribe money, which they can make within a year if they become police officers by taking bribes from ordinary people. In September, many students who were not qualified borrowed money from lenders or sold their homes to pay the bribery. One school official said about 30 percent of the students is admitted through bribery.

[Accidents]
Railroad Train Accident in Baekam County
In Baekam County of Ryanggang Province, 4 out of 12 workers died at the scene at a logging yard in Limsan at a mining timber company while transporting a railway sleeper. A loop attached to the train broke causing two steam trains loaded with timber fell down, killing 4 workers and seriously injuring 5 workers. These steam trains were old and worn out because they had been built during the 1940’s when Korea was occupied by Japan. Even before this accident, 5 to 8 people were killed or injured annually from traveling into the rural farming village on these trains.

North Korea Today No. 325 Hot Topics and Food January 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.]
__________________________________________________________
[Hot Topics No. 325]
Starting January 14, Only Farmers Markets are Allowed
’40-Day Battle’ Planned to Crack Down on Complaints about Market Closure
Police Authorities Monitor Illegal Transaction of Trading Companies
Strong Crackdown on Price Begins in Chungjin, Afternoon of Jan. 8

[Food]
Choosang Collective Farm, Low Grain Production for 3 Consecutive Years
__________________________________________________________
[Hot Topics]
Starting January 14, Only Farmers Markets are Allowed
The North Korean cabinet made announcements to each ministry, province, city, and county party that starting from January 14, market management and operation will be in the form of farmer’s market which opens every 10 days. This is in compliance with the Central Party’s policy regarding “Management and Operation of Farmer’s Market.” As such, the general markets in major cities throughout the county will be open until the 13th. Once the markets switch over to farmer’s market, only agricultural goods and farm products will be allowed for trading. The authorities made it clear that “No Chinese products and domestic industrial goods can be traded” and handed down the rules and regulations of market management and operation and the specifics of agricultural goods that can be traded to each province. The merchants who sell industrial goods and Chinese products are told to sell their merchandise until the 13th and the goods they could not sell by that day should be turned over to state-run stores at the government-set price.

'40-Day Battle' Planned to Crack Down on Complaints about Market Closure
Following the notice of farmer’s market only policy effective on the 14th, city and county party officials decided to visit district administration offices and concentrate on education projects including lecture and commentary in order to silence complaints and disagreement about the government’s policy implementation efforts. Meanwhile, the police authorities expected that after the market operation is banned, unorganized commercial activities in densely populated areas, so-called ‘grasshopper trading’ (merchants moving around to escape crackdown) and ‘alley trading’ (selling goods in the alley), will flourish. The police thus decided to strengthen enforcement on them. They have decided to launch “40-Day Battle by selecting enforcement officers from relevant police stations, police substations and security officers to crackdown and control stalls, private restaurants, and merchants trading without government permissions.”

The Cabinet ordered the police authorities to launch a full mobilization of enforcement officials in order to prevent chaos as much as possible, as they predicted that “suspension of market management may cause a temporary hardship on the residents’ life”. It was ordered, “If a merchant does not comply with the enforcement officer’s demand and resist or react, the merchant will be fined according to the kinds of traded product and will receive a police report, no matter how small the incident may be.” Any forceful measure can be applied in order to implement the policy, they said. Meanwhile, the authorities stressed in a lecture for residents, “The existing market management formed by residents hinders our way of socialism and development to pave the way to the Strong and Prosperous Nation. It is also an act of corruption and distortion. All the residents need to understand this clearly and mobilize themselves to execute the new market management.”

Police Authorities Monitor Illegal Transaction of Trading Companies
As a way of banning general markets, the police authorities began to monitor whether trading companies are involved in illegal transactions beginning in the morning of January 9. In case an illegal transaction, such as selling or handing over products that were received from private wholesalers, is uncovered, a severe punishment will be imposed, including closing down of sales offices of the trading company. In addition, individual merchant’s use of cars registered as government vehicle as a commercial vehicle will be strictly prohibited. In fact, it is quite common that individuals borrow a public enterprise’s name to buy cars because an individual is not allowed to own a car. Hence, situations will occur where those who actually paid for the cars are banned from using them. Authorities are expecting that forbidding commercial activities of individual merchants this way will lead to a halt in unregulated trading activities of the residents. However, it is likely that the resistance of the residents will be substantial. Reflecting the residents’ discontent, a wholesale merchant in Pyongsung city said, “People have a great deal of opinions about the government policies. They are complaining that the government devises measures without considering the people’s convenience. The government is a mere spectator for people’s suffering, no matter how bad their living conditions become.”

Strong Crackdown on Price Begins in Chungjin, Afternoon of Jan. 8
Once at the peak of 200 won, the rice price seems to have hit the ceiling due to the strong crackdown of the authorities. In Chungjin, North Hamgyong Province, police officers began crackdown by storming to markets and confiscating food in the afternoon of January 3. Fifty to 100 Kg of rice was confiscated from 5 merchants who were selling food at a market in Pohang district. Merchants at the scene reported, “The police officers were very brutal and violent, making everyone scared.” After the crackdown swept the markets, the price of 1 Kg of rice fell from 100 won to 80 won and to 70 won again, and it is around 60 won as of January 10. As a means to crack down skyrocketing prices, Chupyung market in Hamheung, South Hamgyong Province and Soonchun market in South Pyongan Province did not allow food merchants to enter the market at all, beginning in the afternoon of January 9. As a result, food stands in Hamheung city and Soonchun market were not operated on that day. Residents who have not been able to trade after the currency revaluation received salaries and 500 won relief money, but an increasing number of households are using up their money due to skyrocketing prices.

[Food]
Choosang Collective Farm, Low Grain Production for 3 Consecutive Years

Grain production has been low for 3 consecutive years in Choosang Collective Farm in Hamju County, South Hamgyong Province. As one of the on-site guidance instruction* units of late Premier Kim Il-sung, the farm receives special attention in Hamjubul. However, in the past few years, the Province Farm Management Committee and the County Party has evaluated that “The production performance turned poor because they lack a sense of ownership.” Generally, Hamjubul has had a good supply of fertilizers from Heungnam fertilizer factory, but Choosang Collective Farm did not receive as much fertilizer compared to the previous years. As such, the farm officials had to endeavor to secure Heukbosan fertilizer, following the policy of self-supported farming. However, the quality of Heukbosan fertilizer did not reach the standard, and the farm was dishonored by having the lowest grain yield among the on-site guidance instruction units. Meanwhile, to improve lowered soil productivity due to acidification, the work unit 1, 4, 5, 7, 9 and Farm Youth Groups worked hard on plowing from January to March. They also dug out and scattered peats to the farmland.

In May and June, an increasing number of famers were absent due to the shortage of grains. Overall, more than 5 to 6 households per work unit were absent. They suffered perpetually from starvation, eating grass meal or grass porridge with wild green picked from mountains, and made living by selling medicinal herb such as balloon flower roots, and various types of herbs. It was not until late June that they harvested barley and received 10 days’ worth of food. The officials gave 20 days’ worth of food to the household that completely ran out of food, which would be deducted from fall food distribution because they reasoned that providing the laborers with some food and make them work during the 150-Day Battle would be better than leaving them starved and absent from work.

Since the completion of harvest on October 28, each work unit was working on corn and rice threshing. Like other farms, Choosang Cooperative Farm increased security to prevent grain theft and stealing of grains by farmers. However, the thrashing work did not go smoothly. The threshing machine broke down repeatedly because each work unit kept the machines running 3-4 hours per shift without a pause. Technical Instructors and the engineers of the mechanization unit tried to repair the broken part, but they had difficulties with money for parts. As a result, they sold grains to raise the money for parts, but this was the problem. The senior members of the Provincial agricultural management committee of South Hamgyong Province who came to inspect the threshing work harshly criticized the act and dismissed the chief engineer.

The assessment of the grain harvest after threshing showed 3 to 3.5 tons produced per Jungbo (2.45 acres). Last year, at least 4 to 5 tons of corn per Jungbo was harvested. The result is quite disappointing considering the unprecedented amount of labor mobilization poured into 150-Day Battle followed by 100-Day Battle. Officials are determined to make the food distribution strictly performance-based, criticizing that the farmers must have been negligent of their duties and slacking. In November, corn was first distributed. After the currency revaluation on November 30, laborers who worked full-time without absence received 15,000 won of cash distribution.

*A propaganda material which claims that the Great Leader, Kim Il-sung gave instructions to North Korean people on how to do perform various tasks. Kim Il-sung’s instructions define North Korean people’s morality and rules and being used as basis for all plans.

North Korea Today No. 321 Full Version January 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.]
__________________________________________________________
[Hot Topics]
Note: The Hot Topics of No. 321 were published ahead of time as a separate edition.

[Food]
Note: Food section of No. 321 was published ahead of time as a separate edition.

[Economy]
Prices Rise in the Hamgyong Province After Ban on Use of Foreign Currency
Shortage of Smaller Bills Makes Business Difficult
Hamheung Woodworking Factory Demands Constant Labor from Starving Workers

[Politics]
Forty Arrested for Burning Old Currency in the North Hamgyong Province
Hamheung City Released Public Statement on the Results of Drug Crackdown
Resident Registry Center Transferred from Safety Agency to Security Department
Law officials Conduct Investigation on Families and Relatives who Fled the Country

[Society]
Police Returned Stolen Objects to Owners after Receiving Payment
A 75-year-old Woman Works at the Construction Site on Behalf of Her Son

[Women/Children/Education]
Students Born in 1993 Face Biggest Obstacles

[Accidents]
Fisheries Management Office in South Hamgyong Province Reported 40 Casualties Out at Sea in 2009

[Editorial]
North Korea Must Have a Plan in Place to Supply Food and Essential Goods
__________________________________________________________

[Economy]
Prices Rise in the Hamgyong Province After Ban on Use of Foreign Currency

Ever since the use of foreign currency has been forbidden and the use of exchange voucher mandated, prices have been rising in the North and South Hamgyong Provinces because goods sold in foreign shops are no longer available. People do not exchange large sums of foreign currency because it reveals how much foreign currency an individual or companies possess. As a result, there has been a decrease in the number of sellers who purchased goods in foreign currency shops with exchange voucher to sell them in the northern region. As goods become scarce in the northern region, prices are rising. For example, on December 31, a pack of Cat Cigarette doubled its price from 25 won to 50 won, and the price of sugar rose from 70 won to 100 won. People are saying, “The government’s financial incentives are not sufficient to help us, and the decrease in the value of money worsened our living conditions.” Others are saying, “Prices rose since the ban on the use of foreign currency. That has made our lives more difficult.”

Shortage of Smaller Bills Makes Business Difficult
Markets in major cities and state-owned national convenience store chain are suffering from a shortage of smaller new money bills. Currently, there is a significant shortage on 5 won, 10 won, and 50 won bills. The shortage of smaller bills is making it difficult for merchants to sell goods because they are unable to give change to buyers. Food processing service centers and bicycle storage centers are giving gum or candy to customers instead of change.

Hamheung Woodworking Factory Demands Constant Labor from Starving Workers
Laborers at the woodworking factory in Hamheung City, South Hamgyong Province are known to have sacrificed a great deal during the 100-Day Battle, which began after last year’s 150-Day Battle. In the beginning of the 100-Day Battle, the economic management officers, including managers of public enterprises and party secretaries, encouraged greater effort with the stated goal of achieving the modernization and reconstruction of industrial technologies. The encouragement was in accordance with the party’s intentions. However, problems with the food rations for laborers have led to difficulties for the managers who try to increase their employees’ will to work. A slogan was posted in front of the Hamheung factory’s entrance that says, “Toward a Modernized Factory According to the Demand of the Coming Age,” but they have proven to be empty words. Managers were supposed to prepare construction materials and funds for the reconstruction work, but it was discovered that they have not completed this necessary work. Therefore, laborers endeavored to complete the reconstruction work with the profit made by selling logs. They sold a board for 600 won, an engraving for 600 won, and door frame materials (thick plate and white quartz), for 3,000 won each in old currency. The customers for the timber were ordinary people, institutions, and public enterprises. In addition, the factory collected funds for basic construction work by making doorframes and doors needed for the construction of private houses. In order to gather construction materials and earn enough money to begin work, the laborers were mobilized and moved into the mountains, where they logged for three months. The laborers were forced to labor continuously, even though they did not receive their rations and had no guarantee that they would later receive food or firewood. Some laborers have asked to have a leave of absence, if only for a few days to tend their small patches of fields because they and their families had no food. Any requests to leave the logging camp were rejected. Naturally, attendance rates among laborers decreased. “The officers are well provided for, so they do not understand the condition of the suffering laborers who have nothing to eat,” complained laborers. Due to the endurance and sacrifice of these laborers, they were just able to finish the basic reconstruction work on October 29th of 2009.

[Politics]
Forty Arrested for Burning Old Currency in the North Hamgyong Province

After the November 30 currency revaluation, the search continues for those who dump or burn the old currency. There have been at least 40 cases since December. The Province Police Department stated, “Burning or throwing out old currency instead of returning to the bank is treason,” stressing those caught will be severely punished.

Hamheung City Released Public Statement on the Results of Drug Crackdown
On November 28th, Hamheung City, South Hamgyong Province publicized the latest results of the drug crackdown. The City launched the campaign since last September. Party officials, including four officials belonging to the Provincial Party, three officials from the city party, two police officers from the Sungchun region, two prosecutors from the Province, and one party official from the Sapo region, who have accepted bribes from drug smugglers were the main targets of the recent crackdown. The police authorities condemned the perpetrators and made their names and ranks public before relieving them of their posts and indicting them.

In addition to these officials, civilians were also arrested for having committed drug-related crimes. On December 13th, the city police presided over an open trial at the Chupyung market one hour before the marketplace opened for business with the police chief announcing the charges in each indictment and making open statements that the Party would sweep out crime.

People grumbled about the unfairness of only subjecting civilians to the humiliation with an open trial. The officials who have been charged for the same crimes did not have to stand an open trial as did the civilians at the Chupyung market.

Resident Registry Center Transferred from Safety Agency to Security Department
Starting January 3, resident registry center is being transferred from the safety agency to the national security department. Following this, the police station’s resident registry department from all cities and counties are being shifted to the security department. The security department is making preparations to take over the works from residential identification center. They are also preparing for safeguard measures for possible bribery incidents involving officials. In the meantime, many residents fled to China and South Korea due to food crisis. The safety agency had difficulties managing statistics of resident registry due to high number of missing person from the Arduous March to present. It was common for people to bribe police officers who were in charge of resident registry records to prevent any disadvantage that might occur during family background check prior to being appointed as an official. If they had any family members who fled the country, they often bribe officials and change the missing person status to death.

Such corruption among officials not only ended here but led to incidents like espionage incident at Yusun Hospital’s primary party secretary in Hoeryong city; therefore, the central party decided to transfer resident registry responsibility from the police station to the security department to strictly manage the system.

Law officials Conduct Investigation on Families and Relatives who Fled the Country
There soon will be a national inspection campaign and follow-up campaign on all security department, safety agency and police department to check whether any family members or relatives fled to China or South Korea. City Party level inspection was completed earlier and this one is identification inquire inspection to investigate whether they have border-crossers within close relatives. Any officials who were not punished or hid the fact their family member fled the country were immediately dismissed from the office. Also, they were banished to labor intensified coal miners or factories with most difficult living condition. The central party ordered resident identification centers to change their status to 1st level social labor. Things will become more difficult for officials with families or relatives who fled the country in the future.

[Society]
Police Returned Stolen Objects to Owners after Receiving Payment

At the Chungjin Preservation Center of Northern Hamgyong Province, possessions stolen during the 100-Day Battle were being returned as of December 8th. Officers have found 20 bicycles, 8 TV’s, 2 motorcycles, and 5 sacks of clothes upon capturing four thieves. Village residents had to pay in order to receive their own things back. These payments supposedly paid for the officers' gas and other traveling costs while they were searching for the thieves. 500 won in new currency was paid for a bicycle, 400 won for a TV, and 20 won per article of clothing. The villagers claimed that travelling costs could not have exceeded 100 won to find one bicycle meaning that the officers were still making a profit of 400 won. They criticized the officers for taking advantage of citizens for their business-centered interests.

A 75-year-old Woman Works at the Construction Site on Behalf of Her Son
Hoeryong Food District construction site of North Hamgyong Province temporarily ceased the construction work because of severe cold. The work went on until last November although the workers had to endure cold and hunger. Some of the workers are from the Special Labor Brigade of the Party but most workers are from factories or companies on once-every-three-month rotation basis. As few of the Special Labor Brigade members volunteer to work, there is always shortage of workforce. When a person is sick and cannot come to work, his coworkers have to cover the missing manpower, making their work harder. The psychological confrontation between the workers and non-workers is very serious and often leads to verbal fights at the self-criticism meeting. Over 80% of workers are from poor families that lack food and are under severe economic hardship. Kim, Guen-sub (alias) of the 2nd platoon of the Special Labor Brigade requested a two-day leave in order to borrow some food from his relatives because he did not have any food in his house. However, he had not reported back to work, and the Special Labor Brigade sent a member to (Kim's) house to bring him back but they failed. In his house, his 75-year-old mother lived alone. Officials of the Special Labor Brigade threatened the mother saying that her son missed the work more than 10 days, causing a lot of disruption of the construction work, so they would send him to the Labor Discipline Center when he comes back. They said if his brothers or relative can work for him, he can be exempted from the punishment. Because she worried about her son, this old woman went to work for her son. She had worked for the Special Labor Brigade for 25 days and young people admired her. She worked as hard as young people and was not lazy, so people were moved by her sincere attitudes toward hard work. However, officials seemed to be indifferent to this poor old woman and were criticized by the workers. Han, Mahn-gil (alias), working with the old woman, lamented that “It is impossible to expect any morality from these officials. Even if her son did not report back to work, how could they put this old lady who is older than their own mother to work? It's such a dirty world!" This is not a rare case as more workers are absent from construction site, officials are increasingly requesting their families or relatives to work instead. When husbands miss the work, their wives are to cover for them while sons do that for their fathers. Residents of Hoeryong sneered at this situation and said, “You can see this situation only in North Korea. The government controls and puts replacement workers for the missing workforce and it is reality of North Korea pursuing Strong and Prosperous Nation and Military First Policy.”

[Women/Children/Education]
Students Born in 1993 Face Biggest Obstacles
On January 5th, the college preparation test was held in Sinuiju, North Pyongan Province. Most of the students born in 1993 have not gone to serve military service after graduation and enrolled in colleges. However, the parents of such students and the student describe themselves as the most unlucky class, since medical and educational areas have no room for new students. After visiting her daughter’s school a few days before the test, Mirye Kim (alias) sighed and worried about her daughter. “The principal said that colleges do not accept applications for the new students. I pity my daughter, who desperately wanted to get into medical school.” Even though Province People’s Hospital in North Pyongan Province only has a need for 600 doctors and nurses, there are more than 650 who work at the institution. Similarly, about 15 of the 40 faculty members of a middle school in the city are not receiving wages and so work for nothing.

[Accidents]
Fisheries Management Office in South Hamgyong Province Reported 40 Casualties Out at Sea in 2009
In South Hamgyong Province, the Department of Labor’s Fisheries Management Office reported that 40 laborers have died or have gotten lost out at sea between the months of January and October last year. According to the announcement on November 7, 27 fishery laborers died from accidents and their corpses were identified, while the remaining 13 were missing due to an unidentified cause.

[Editorial]
North Korea Must Have a Plan in Place to Supply Food and Essential Goods
The North Korean government was very clear that the currency redenomination was carried out to “stabilize and improve people’s lives” and “reinforce economy management system and order.” Further, it stated that the currency revaluation was designed to buttress the material foundation upon which to construct a Strong and Prosperous Nation in 2012. We see the purpose of the revaluation as an attempt to lessen the gap between the rich and poor, recover central control over the economy, and reabsorb the monies held by individuals into the State budget. Although not much time has passed since the revaluation was carried out, we see many things in North Korea that we haven’t seen before.

The revaluation came about as a great shock to the traders in the markets who were pushed to despair when they suddenly found themselves holding worthless pieces of paper. At the same time, the majority of farmers and laborers – as well as others in the lower economic class – suddenly found themselves with enough money which they spent with unbridled gusto buying up market goods that they couldn’t afford before. As such, things were selling at a brisk pace in the markets.

As far as North Korea’s stated goal to stabilize the economic order, huge risks lie in wait. Already, prices for most items have doubled or tripled. Further, we see rice prices varying according to time and location; official government price is 22 won per 1 kg, while the state-run stores are selling rice at 44 won and market prices are fluctuating at around 50 won per kg and up. Also, the wholesale increase of salaries for laborers and farmers, despite enhancing their purchasing power, could lead to inflation in short order. We are already hearing complaints by select groups that the revaluation has already lost its effect and everything has gone back to “square one” because the purchasing power of the new currency can’t keep up with price inflation. Some experts are using these cases to conclude that the revaluation effort has already failed.

However, the key to the matter lies not in increasing purchasing power for the people but in providing them with enough food and essential goods. If the North Korean government really wants to rid itself of the current economic system in which the national economy relies parasitically on the market system and reestablish a socialist supply system, then it has to come up with a plan to provide for the people’s needs. Otherwise, the effect of the recent revaluation cannot last. If the State cannot supply the needed goods, then it should just go ahead and legalize the markets altogether so that the people have a way to ensure their own survival. If this currency revaluation were to fail, the people will inevitably undergo a severe hardship and disappointment.

In its New Year message, the North Korean government has emphasized the importance of the people’s economy more than anything else. Coming on the heels of the currency revaluation and other follow-up measures, this emphasis on the economy seems weightier than ever. However, the capacity for the North Korean government to provide the necessary essential goods to the people is very limited, as it waits for the economy to revive. Recent Central Party discussion about reallocating 40% of the national defense budget to invest in the economy should be highly lauded. Nevertheless, if internal production cannot meet people’s needs, then North Korea must rely on external help. The New Year’s message seems to acknowledge this distinct possibility and accordingly expressed a strong desire to improve NK-US and NK-SK relationships. However, it remains to be seen whether this is just lip service or will actually lead to a substantive movement forward.

North Korea Today No. 324 Special Edition January 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.]
__________________________________________________________
[Hot Topics No. 324]
Rice Price Soaring by Hour, up to 150 NK Won
Merchants Stopped Selling due to Steep Price Hike
"Government is Waging a Silent Battle to Collect Merchants’ Money.”
"The Only Option is Full Collaboration with China,” Central Party Official says
Rumor of another Currency Exchange Once Spread in Chungjin

[Editorial]
With Hyperinflation, Daily Necessities Supply Plan in Urgent Need
__________________________________________________________
[Hot Topics No. 324]
Rice Price Soaring by Hour, up to 150 NK Won

As the New Year begins, the prices are soaring up all across the country. On January 3, rice was traded at 90 NK won per Kg, and corn at 45 NK won per Kg in Soonchun Market. This is twice as much considering the rice price of 40-50 won and corn price 20-25 won on December 30. The inflation has been even more serious in Chungjin, North Hamgyong Province. On January 3, the rice price in Soonam Market in Chungjin was 110 won during the afternoon and suddenly jumped to 140 won in less than an hour. The prices continued to rise on the 6th. In Dangsang Market in Mankyong District, Pyongyang, the rise price went up to 120 won per kg and the corn price to 70 won. On the same day, the prices in Soonam Market in Chungjin broke the record high with rice at 150 won and corn at 75 won. As if in competition, the price of rice in Pyongyang also went up to 150 won on the 7th, the next day. On 8th, the rice price in Chungjin dropped to 100 won in the afternoon and again to 50 won, but soon it soared up to 200 won. The fluctuation of prices is continuing as of January 9th.

Merchants Stopped Selling due to Steep Price Hike
As the prices of goods continue to rise merchants stopped selling and wait for prices to settle. They simply do not want to sell their merchandise since nobody knows how much further the prices will go up. Even the police officers who were cracking down on prices in the market halted their enforcement activities in the face of skyrocketing prices. The residents reacted to the sudden price hike and said, “Market activities will be severely impacted since the government did not set the prices of goods after the currency revaluation, did not release the goods, and banned the use of foreign currency.”

An official in Soonchun, South Pyongan Province also explained that “Since the currency revaluation on November 30 and subsequent announcement of government-set prices, the government declared that adjustments of prices will be made after surveying the opinions of the people throughout the country for 20 days. However, market prices became extremely unstable because the newly adjusted government-set prices have not been announced yet due to the shortage of food and commodities.” As a matter of fact, in the markets of the major cities throughout the nation such as Pyongyang, Pyungsung, Soonchun, Hamheung, Chungjin and Sinuiju, there are many merchants who simply stopped selling because of skyrocketing prices. As prices did not settle over time, goods were traded at the prices set by merchants in the market and by the sales staff in government-run stores, making the prices fluctuate. The residents expressed discontent by saying, “It has been a month since the currency revaluation was done, but the government is not providing proper measures. People are unable to develop a sense of stability and those who cannot do business are feeling very insecure about their lives. The situation in the sale booth is not much different for industrial goods, food items, commodities from that of the grains. The number of sellers continues to decrease and even those who came to the market simply sit idle because there are not many things they can sell. Markets flourished for a while with the cash distribution to farmers and wage payment to laborers, but the whole atmosphere has cooled down very rapidly. The residents of Hamheung expressed their concern saying, “Many people are worried that the situation will get worse since Soonam Market in Chungjin, and Joopyung Market in Hamheung will be closed following the closure of Pyungsung Market.”

“Government is Waging a Silent Battle to Collect Merchants’ Money.”
Currently without adjusted government-set prices announced, prices are skyrocketing by the hour nationwide. Residents express their anxiety saying “It feels like a chaos broke loose in our daily life.” Some skillful merchants are taking advantage of the situation by selling products at a doubled price, recovering the earlier loss due to the currency revaluation. An official in Pyongyang claimed that the government is not announcing the adjusted government-set prices “because of the shortage of goods and money in the government.” He observed that although the government has released money, the money is in individuals’ possession and not much of it is flowing into banks. This makes it difficult for the government to engage in economy management and determine the prices. He also said, “The current situation is much like the government is waging a silent battle to collect merchants’ money.”

Officials in Hamheung and Chungjin made a similar remark on the soaring prices saying, “Currently across the northern half of the country, merchants are not selling goods in markets of any city or county. As for the national situation, there is no food resource due to the bad crop yield. Although the government is obligated to provide at least the essential commodities for living after the currency exchange, if not satisfying the residents’ living needs, that minimum requirement has never been met. The situation is worsening since the government does not have money and goods.”

“The Only Option is Full Collaboration with China,” Central Party Official says
The North Korean authorities are concerned that the currency revaluation may lead the county into two different directions. They believe the success of the revaluation would expedite the process of building a Strong and Prosperous Nation, but otherwise the country would fall into a chaos. The current situation is not all that promising because government-set prices have not even been announced yet due the shortage of food and products. A Central Party official reported, “The changing circumstances seem to suggest that we may end up taking loans and aids from China and follow their lead with full collaboration. Designating Rasun city as a Special City a few days ago was not an isolated incident.”

Some residents are demanding, “This currency revaluation is giving people so much a hard time. They need to announce the national prices as soon as possible and provide relief for people’s difficulties. A high priority should be given to stabilizing the chaotic living conditions people face.” Meanwhile, as prices of all goods including food soar, the number of families relying on porridge is rapidly increasing. In addition, many restaurant branches of social feeding and clothing care centers stopped their operation. A significant number of residents make daily living by selling rice cake, Korean sausage, tofu rice (fried tofu filled with steamed rice) and read bean porridge, and their livelihood is severely impacted by the interruption.

Rumor of another Currency Exchange Once Spread in Chungjin
A rumor saying that there will be another currency revaluation in mid-January circulated in Soonam Market in Chungjin, North Hamgyong Province, causing confusion among the residents. In response to the rumor that 2,000 won and 3,000 won bills will not be used, there were some merchants who ceased selling goods in the afternoon of January 3. In the evenings of January fourth and the fifth, party officials of Soonam district visited neighborhood units to explain that the rumor was nonsense. The officials convinced the residents that only government-announced orders and public lectures are to be trusted.

[Editorial]
With Hyperinflation, Daily Necessities Supply Plan in Urgent Need
Since the currency revaluation, North Korea is experiencing abnormal inflation. In major cities across the country, the prices are unstable and being reset every hour. As a result, people are refraining from trading and just waiting for the prices to be stabilized. The chaos in price can be easily observed by following the trend of rice price.

Prior to the currency revaluation in November, the price of rice was relatively stable at 1,800 – 2,000 NK won all across the country. After the revaluation, rice was traded at 30 – 50 NK won while the state was setting the rice price at 23 won and the distribution price at 44 won. However, the rice price began to jump continuously since January 2 to 60, 70, 80, 100, 130, 140, and 150 won. On January 8, the price dropped to 100 won and again to 50 won for a while, but it rebounded to 200 won. The prices are extremely unstable, and nobody can guess what would come next. Since it is hard to predict the future prices, people are trading only small quantity whenever need arises.

The government officials in charge of economy have been saying that despite the temporary confusion caused by the currency revaluation, the new order would settle in January. On the contrary, a hyperinflation, market contraction, and the policy of wholesale market closure all add up to aggravate people’s discontent with the economic policies. Moreover, the chaos in the market is directly affecting people’s livelihood.

As NKT has pointed out in many occasions, the success of the currency revaluation is contingent upon the government’s ability to supply daily necessities to its people. Only when sufficient amount of food and other supplies are provided can the government control the prices and make them settle at the state-set level, and stabilize the people’s economy. If that is already going awry, its goal to stabilize people’s livelihood through currency revaluation will never be achieved. Does North Korean government have such capacity or any other supply plan?

The government should reconsider the market closing policy if it is unable to provide sufficient daily necessities. For the last decade, people have struggled through hardships and managed to create small markets in order to survive on their own. Closing down the markets where people have proved that they can support themselves is to deprive them of their right to live. At this point, legalizing and promoting the market is literary the only way to stabilize people’s economy especially when there is no policy at all to support the people.

The new currency notes have been circulating in the market for almost a month. Most people, however, are suffering harder than before, let alone benefitting from the enhanced purchasing power. If the price instability continues, it is very likely that the currency revaluation will end up a great failure, leaving the national economy drowned in an extreme chaos. We urge the North Korean government to react promptly, make plans to supply necessities, and implement them thoroughly. The clock is ticking.

North Korea Today No. 323 Special Edition January 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.]
_________________________________________________________
[Hot Topics No. 323]
H1N1 Flu Widespread in Pyongyang
Relief Medication from South Korea Insufficient for Pyongyang
Universities Start on January 9th Nationwide
Political Prisoner Detention Center Employee’s Two Children Infected with H1N1 Flu

[Editorial]
Additional Aid Needed to Prevent Further Spread of H1N1 Flu in North Korea
_________________________________________________________

[Hot Topics No. 323]
H1N1 Flu Widespread in Pyongyang

A medical official in Pyongyang reported a continued spread of H1N1 flu in Pyongyang. Child day-care centers and kindergartens are closed, affecting married couples who both go to work. There are series of deaths of children in the child care facilities that have already been quarantined. Moreover, the severe winter weather brought flu epidemic as well. The medical official expressed his wish: “It is getting harder for us alone to fight the disease. I wish some external help come to save these innocent and poor people in a more proactive and massive scale.”

Relief Medication from South Korea Insufficient for Pyongyang
H1N1 flu medication aid from South Korea is reported to be provided mainly in Pyongyang, and the priority was given to the endemic areas within the city of Pyongyang. One government official explained that the medication is not sufficient enough to reach the provinces. The medication delivered to the provinces was made available first to officials such as provincial party officials. So, it has not reached the average residents yet. In the provinces, provision of medicine seriously falls behind the rapid spread of H1N1 flu. Moreover, trading with China practically stopped after currency revaluation, aggravating the situation. Local hospitals in epidemic areas like Sinuiju, North Hamgyong Province are reported experiencing serious difficulties with obtaining even small amount of glucose and saline solution.

Universities Start on January 9th Nationwide
After implementing early winter break due to H1N1 flu, Departments of Education in provincial parties across the nation are adjusting the academic schedule in the New Year. Universities and vocational schools in North Pyongan Province decided to continue the H1N1 flu break until January 7th, summon the students on the 8th, and start classes on the next day. Details have not been decided for Middle and Elementary Schools yet, but they are expected to start around the 27th depending on the prevalence of H1N1 flu. After observing the situation, schools will open as planned if the epidemic comes to a halt. The schedule is to be readjusted if there is no sign of calming down.

Political Prisoner Detention Center Employee’s Two Children Infected with H1N1 Flu
After the H1N1 infection of 2 children of a Hwasung County Political Prisoner Detention Center employee in North Hamgyong Province was confirmed, access to and from the detention center was severely restricted since December 28. Even when the security agents of the detention center need to leave to execute official duties, a pass is issued only for cases with significant level of urgency. A leading official said, “Once H1N1 flu breaks out among the prisoners, the operation of support facilities of National Security Agency can be affected, so we are highly cautious.” He said the alert for the epidemic is not because of the concerns about the prisoners’ health, but because of the lack of replacement laborers who can do their work.

[Editorial]
Additional Aid Needed to Prevent Further Spread of H1N1 Flu in North Korea
The H1N1 flu which broke out last November in Sinuiju and Pyongyang is said to be vigorously spreading as the weather gets colder. The flu is rampant especially in Pyongyang, forcing child day-care centers and kindergartens shut down, and many of the quarantined children are dying everyday.

For the case of H1N1, the North Korean authorities reacted much faster than any other previous cases. They admitted the outbreak of the flu to the international community and promptly accepted the South Korean aid of medicine. It is also noticeable that they designated the flu patients as No.11 urgent matter case which mandates immediate medical attention to prevent further spread by bringing national-level efforts for prevention.

However, despite the national-level efforts, lack of overall medical resources in North Korea makes it very difficult to work efficiently in dealing with prevention and stopping further spread of the flu. The casualty of H1N1 will be much higher compared to South Korea and other advanced countries where all kinds of medical equipments and resources are made available to deal with the disease. Recently, the government of South Korea sent medicine to the North in the amount that can treat 50,000 patients. That is not enough to treat patients in Pyongyang alone, leaving patients in other areas without any treatment at all. Pyongyang always receives all kinds of resources first. So, if people in Pyongyang are suffering from a lack of medicine, the conditions outside of the capital city must be even worse.

Considering the danger of H1N1 flu, North Korea should release the number of casualty and the current status of H1N1 spread in their country, and appeal for international aid. In addition, it should report the result of relief medicine distribution to South Korean government and appeal for more aid.

The international community and the South Korean government should react swiftly to the North’s appeal. With the North Korean government’s cooperation, they should explore ways to provide aid first to the most vulnerable communities, areas, and classes. Moreover, sufficient amount of basic medical supplies and other hygiene facilities should be provided in addition to vaccines so that the medical care can cover rural areas as well.

Although the first news of the New Year is tragic one, we hope that it can be used as a stepping stone for building a positive and cooperative relationship between the two Koreas.
There was an error in this gadget