GoodFriends: Research Institute For North Korean Society

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North Korea Today No. 331 February 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]
Ministry of Interior Convenes an Urgent Meeting to Discuss Starvation
Starvation Hits South Pyongan Province in February
News of "Imminent Death from Starvation" Floods the Central Party

[Food]
Pyongyang DPRK Academy of Sciences Provide Rice at 23 won/kg Beginning February
At Pyongyang Joong District Lecture, “Rice to be Provided at 24 won/kg in February”

[Economy]
“Do not Import Any Commodities Other Than Food”, Trade Companies Were Told
Economic Forum to Convene at the Treasury Department

[Politics]
Heoryong City Concentrates on Arresting Political Offenders Responsible for Alteration of a Propaganda Phrase

[Society]
Wonsan Veterans Demonstrate for Food

[Women/Children/Education]
In North Hamgyong Province, People can Hardly Distinguish between Normal Cold and H1N1 Influenza, “Had people got better, it would have been cold and died, it would have been H1N1”
A Student at Dongmyung Middle School Dies of H1N1
Majority of Chungjin Nam-Hyang Middle School Absent due to Flu
Pyongsung Jurye Middle School Experiencing Nearly 50% Absence Rate Due to Sickness or Hunger

[Accidents]
Soonchun Confiscated Worm-Infested Pork

[Investigative Reports]
The Background to the Joint-Statement by North Korea’s National Security Policy Agency and National Safety Security Agency
________________________________________________________
[Hot Topics]
Ministry of Interior Convenes an Urgent Meeting to Discuss Starvation
In addition to Danchun City, South Hamgyong Province, it has been reported to the Central Party that the residents of Pyungsung City, in South Pyungan Province, are dying in large numbers due to starvation. In order to address the starvation, the staff of the Central Party and the Ministry of Interior convened an urgent meeting on January 27th and February 1st. The meetings did not lead to a resolution of the food shortage, prompting residents to protest, "[They] said that 'more deaths from starvation must be stopped' and boasted that they would come up with a revolutionary measure, yet there are no signs of improvement." After conducting a survey of conditions in the area, the Central Party learned that Danchun, South Hamgyong Province and Chungjin, North Hamgyong Province, had a large number of deaths due to starvation. The Party also discovered the Soonchun City and Pyungsung City in South Pyongan Province were suffering from starvation, seeing more deaths than even Danchun or Chungjin. It is believed that the City Parties of Soonchun City and Pyungsung City took 65% of last year's harvest for military use and distributed only 5 months' worth of food to the farmers, exacerbating the food shortage.

Starvation hits South Pyongan Province in February
Starting in February, major cities in South Pyongan Province, including Soonchun City and Pyungsung City, have been seeing an increasing number of deaths due to starvation, a problem that is gradually spreading throughout the entire region. The economic situation in Pyungsung City declined during the six months following the abolition of wholesale markets. With the currency exchange policy, workers who used to depend on trading to make a living are dying off. Over a half of the population in Pyungsung City did not eat for more than a week.

An official from the Central Party said, “When you look at the National Regional Statistics, you can easily see the change in the number of deaths due to starvation after the new currency exchange. The worst situation used to be in Danchun, South Hamgyong, followed by Chungjin, North Hamgyong Province, then Sinuiju, North Pyungan Province up until mid- January. These days, it is Pyungsung and Soonchun in South Pyungan Province that are suffering the most, along with Hamheung City and Danchun in South Hamgyong, then Chungjin, North Hamgyong Province. There have been an increasing number of deaths due to starvation since mid- January.”

An official from Pyungsung City commented, “Chungjin City used to have the highest number of deaths after Soonchun City, but it has recently been surpassed by Pyungsung City. After the national initiative to circulate more currency, farmers are faring better but city workers are still starving to death. There have been no reports on the situation before January. A significant number of Pyungsung City Residents died from starvation because they could not buy food and grains even when they had the money.”

After the Pyungsung Provincial Party investigated the food situation in each unit, they found that no households were eating meals composed entirely of rice and that only a few can afford to eat a mixture of corn and rice. Most Pyungsung City residents are having difficulty just trying to make grass soup. Some cities, including Pyungsung and Soonchun, are reporting directly to the Central Party that, “More than a half of South Pyongan Province is facing severe starvation. If we do not act promptly, it will be difficult to avoid death on a scale similar to the Arduous March.”

News of "Imminent Death from Starvation" Floods the Central Party
An officer of the Central Party revealed, "The Central Party has received approximately 15,660 messages concerning food shortage and imminent death from starvation. Among those messages, more than 2,000 listed the name of the suffering city, the county, and the name and number of the people who have died."

The contents of messages make reference to the fact that at present there is no trading and no food rationing. They also mention that residents survive day by day by eating anything and everything they can lay their hands, including the leftovers from sake and tofu production, corn husks, and other material that could barely be called food. Residents say that the currency revaluation had been carried out while people are already in a difficult situation. The closure of markets immediately caused disruption in the supply of everyday necessities and food, which has lead to starvation.

An officer said that, "After the currency revaluation, the markets were completely closed down. Starvation and death among city workers can be attributed to the lack of any system to supply daily necessities as well as the end of food rationing." It is true that the farmers' livelihood temporarily improved when their goods were purchased thanks to the new 'consideration money,' but living conditions for city workers have steadily deteriorated. In some branches of the Party, it has been suggested, "closing down the markets without resolving the food rationing was a hasty decision, that's why the city laborers are dying of starvation."

[Food]
Pyongyang DPRK Academy of Sciences Provide Rice at 23 won/kg Beginning February

DPRK Academy of Sciences in Pyongyang provided regular ration of 700g to the head of household and 300g to the dependent (wife) in January. Kwon Eunjung (alias), whose husband is an employee at the Academy, said they received 16 kg of provision, 40% rice and 60% mixed grains, in early January. The proportion of mixed grains depends on the season and it can be 50% or 30%. In early January, rice was provided at 46 won/kg, but in late January, it was 56 won/kg because it had a higher proportion of sweet rice. However, beginning in February, rice will be provided at 23 won/kg.

At Pyongyang Joong District Lecture, “Rice to be Provided at 24 won/kg in February”
On February 6, Joong District in Pyongyang announced in a neighborhood unit lecture that the government-set price will be 24 won for 1kg of rice, and the price of crushed maize will be adjusted according to the price of unglutinous rice. The government-set prices of 1kg of bean oil and facial soap are to be 180 won and 25 won respectively, and the price of one egg was adjusted from 12 won to 8 won. Provision has not started yet as of February 10, and it is not certain whether the price will be implemented as stated.

[Economy]
“Do not Import Any Commodities Other Than Food”, Trade Companies Were Told

The Cabinet Office instructed all trade companies in the country “not to import any commodities other than food.” It is spurring the purchase of food by delivering an ultimatum stating that a trade company that cannot import food will be dissolved. The Central Party directly instructed the customhouse as such: “Inflow of food is the foremost priority. There will be a preferential treatment for food, and any act that regulates or disrupts it will be severely punished.” On February 7th, fruits such as oranges, apples and bananas that allegedly came in free of charge for February-16 holiday have been rejected on the bridgehead in Sinuiju. A security guard in customs authorities explained, “The instruction of the Central Party is to prohibit the entering of every commodity other than food. If a person allows in such commodities even if they are of free supports, he will be severely reprimanded. Until now, the goods purchased by the powerful organizations for their interest have been connived to be entered under the pretext of being free supports. This will not work anymore unless it is rice.”

He also said, “People are starved to death even in Sinuiju, a city that other people envy for its high standard of living. So, who would figure out how many people are dying in other regions such as Kangwon Province? As many people in the country had died of hunger this time, the Cabinet Minister has apologized to the whole country and abolished the decree to prohibit the use of foreign currency which was announced from the Safety Agency. As one can see from these measures, the situation is grave. A person who can aid the Republic with rice right now will be a true patriot.” “Right now, the most destitute and urgent problem is food. Many people are suffering tuberculosis, H1N1 virus and epidemic disease, but even if they can take good medicines, they cannot survive without eating. Food is in need,” said the residents in Sinuiju in unison.

Economic Forum to Convene at the Treasury Department
On January 28th and 29th, the Treasury Department convened a forum to address economic crisis based on the latest household economic statistics. In order to address the rising inflation and number of starving household, the Treasury Department gathered financial experts from each region. The rarity of nation-wide meeting of experts from each Province speaks well for the current crisis on the brink of collapse. The participants discussed the ways to recover from the economic crisis, and the Treasury Department made public its plan to continue the forum with the experts.

The Treasury Department stated, “National economy will recover quickly if financial experts in each Province have clear understanding of the economic policy and work with integrity. Some of the officials at the Treasury Department have been intercepting tax revenue and spending government employee payment. We need to enhance the department’s transparency to combat corruption. Officials working in financial sectors should have the interest of the country in mind and work to boost the economy and make contribution to the development of Strong and Prosperous Nation.”

[Politics]
Heoryong City Concentrates on Arresting Political Offenders Responsible for Alteration of a Propaganda Phrase
From January 31, 8 p.m. to February 1, 6 a.m., the propaganda phrase on a bulletin board in a bookstore in Osan-Dong, Heoryong City, was altered, which can become a big social issue. On February 1, there was a large crowd of onlookers who stopped on their way to work to look at the altered bulletin board. This issue was reported to the Central Department of Propaganda and agitation (CDPA) because it happened it the hometown of Mother Kim Jong-Sook.

On February 3, the CDPA criticized the officials of the City Party, saying, “The Heoryong City Party officials failed to provide residents with well-planned political lectures.” The CDPA issued an internal order stating, “The officials who allowed this political issue to arise should be questioned and held responsible; however, at this time, we will focus our efforts on arresting the offender and intensifying the lectures for the residents in order to promote solidarity.” The original phrase on the bulletin board read, “Building a sound ethos of learning political ideology.” However, someone had altered the phrase to read, “Building a half-hearted ethos of learning political ideology” by changing the consonants. The national Security Agency, in cooperation with the City Security Agency, mobilized members of Labor Organization and Youth Union to specifically ask the residents about their whereabouts in order to locate the offender.

[Society]
Wonsan Veterans Demonstrate for Food

On January 30, veterans of the Korean War rushed to Shinheung district office of Wonsan City in the Kangwon Province to complain about the people’s disastrous situation and ask the City Party for food. They complained that the number of starving households has drastically increased saying, “Even veterans experience shortage of food and daily necessities such as heating coal.” Although the Primary Party officials were able to persuade them to return home, they could not stop them from coming back. Since the veterans are entitled to special treatment by the nation, officials could not ignore their requests. The City Party could not help but come up with an emergency plan as the crowd of onlookers watching the veterans’ demonstration grew. In the end, the secretary of Primary Party and the officials provided some food and 100 coal blocks with their own money.

[Women/Children/Education]
In N. Hamgyong Province, People can Hardly Distinguish between Normal Cold and H1N1 Influenza, “Had people got better, it would have been cold and died, it would have been H1N1”
Throughout the North Hamgyong Province, a flu (suspected of H1N1) is going around in every school to the point where it is hindering academic growth. Almost over a half of thirty students in fourth to sixth grade of the Kim Ki-song 1st Middle School, and those in third to fifth grades in Obong Middle School, Hoeryong City were absent due to the cold virus. Even though difference in the number of absent students among schools and classes exists, it is common thing that teachers have a hard time maintaining classes. Students in the second and third grades of Mangyang Middle School and Kangan Middle School confronted a worse situation. In a class that consists of 30 students, only seven to eight students show up. More than 20 students could not come to school because of a cold. These schools suspended all classes because it seemed pointless to continue classes with only a few students. The academic schedule is delayed because vacation started one month earlier due to H1N1 and the length of vacation was extended as well. In order to catch up with the delayed schedule, school officials have extended class hours from morning hours only to until late afternoon. Yet, they have to delay the schedule again. As such, schools are raising this issue to the Education Department of the City Party.

The City Party again took the issue to the Province Party, and so the Province Party ordered the officials of the City Party and the County Party to go to the areas of the problem and resolve the issues because following the South Hamgyong Province, the North Hamgyong Province was proliferated with H1N1. The party also ordered the Health Bureau to make every effort on the prevention of H1N1 and supply of medicine. Some doctors, however, confessed that “we are incapable of discriminating H1N1 from the normal cold since there is no standard to determine the H1N1 virus.” A doctor in Chungjin lamented that “if a person got better, then it would be a cold but if they were dead, then it would have been H1N1.”

A Student at Dongmyung Middle School Dies of H1N1
A sixth grade student at Dongmyung middle school in Hoeryong city North Hamgyong Province passed away on January 28th after suffering from five days of a high fever. After close inspection of the patient’s records during his illness, the workers of the city hospital concluded that the death was due to the H1N1 virus. It was notified to the City Party immediately, and the Party in turn notified each institution, public enterprise, and school. The instructions given were that the virus going around had a possibility of being H1N1 and to come up with measures to prevent any infection. Despite such warnings, institutions and public enterprises were not coming up with definite precautions. A factory worker expressed that, “The people don’t care about the dangers of the H1N1 flu when it is difficult to even sustain our lives with barely enough food,” and that there have been no actual precautions being taken.

Majority of Chungjin Nam-Hyang Middle School Absent due to Flu
In February, due to the widely spreading flu, increasing numbers of students have been absent at Nam-Hyang Middle School of Chungjin City, Pohang district, North Hamgyong Province. A doctor said, “The virus going around this winter is more severe than that of last year, making it hard for patients to recover. Symptoms included sore throat and high fever, but some children had shown little signs of recovery even after more than 10 days of treatment and medicine.” A faculty member of Nam-Hyang Middle School expressed his concern and noted, “Even in my class, 23 of the 31 students are not coming to school due to the flu. Other classes have had at most 5 to 6 students to 15 students. Approximately half of each class is absent these days.” The teachers have been having difficulty in covering new material in classes, and said that they are reviewing previous material instead. An official of the Chung-Jin City Party said that “other regions are reporting the same occurrences,” and they are nervous as to whether the sickness is just a simple regular flu, or the H1N1 flu.

Pyongsung Jurye Middle School Experiencing Nearly 50% Absence Rate Due to Sickness or Hunger
Low attendance rates at Jurye Middle School in Pyongsung City of South Pyongan Province are preventing children from learning. More than half of the students from the first to sixth grades are not able to attend school. Typically, a full class seats about 30 students and a class with twenty students would be considered good attendance, but most classes have been reporting less than ten students, making the average attendance rate to be about 50%. Most of the student absences seem to be attributed to hunger. The next frequently cited reason for absence is sickness due to low levels of immunity caused by malnutrition. Similar trends are appearing in other schools as the food shortage problem in Pyongsung City continues to worsen.

[Accidents]
Soonchun Confiscated Worm-Infested Pork

On Jan 27, one female merchant was caught selling pork that was infested with tapeworms at a market in Soonchun, South Pyongan Province. It was discovered when a customer, whose husband was a sanitary inspector at the City Hygiene and Disease Prevention Office’s Emergency Disease Prevention High Command, had bought some pork to make soup. Her husband found a slice of pork with tapeworms. He bought more the next day from the same stand and returned to the quarantine lab for further examination. He discovered that there were about 150g to 200g of meat infested with tapeworms mixed in with every 1kg of meat. As soon as he confirmed this, he returned to the merchant and confiscated the entire 30kg of pork that was being sold there. As this incident had become widely known to the public, some affluent consumers who had purchased the pork voiced their anger, while there were poor people who wished to have eaten the pork regardless of infestation.

[Investigative Reports]
The Background to the Joint-Statement by North Korea’s National Security Policy Agency and National Safety Security Agency
On February 8, 2010, North Korea’s National Security Policy Agency and National Safety Security Agency announced a joint statement. On the surface, it was a warning about “South Korea’s attempt at overturning the Republic (DPRK).” However, there are internal suggestions that the joint statement was in effect a proactive attempt to head off any post-currency revaluation social confusion. The basis of their suggestions is as follows:

First, crackdown on the North Korean defectors:
The merchants would not release their merchandise to the market in the chaotic aftermath of the currency revaluation, resulting in a nationwide economic crisis. There were even reports of individuals starving to death, heralding worries of another widespread famine. Confusion in the social order is increasing because the government is not able to provide any food as individuals are dying of hunger in each city. The government has judged that the people – with already 200,000 plus North Korean defectors and families abroad – will not stay still and starve to death this time around like they did during the mid-1990’s Arduous March years. Keeping the potential of a mass exodus of North Korean defectors in mind, they released the joint-statement primary as a tool to crackdown on the would-be-defectors. They also wanted to prevent any anti-DPRK actions by hostile groups who are keeping tabs on domestic difficulties through North Korean defectors network.

Second, tightening control over potential domestic social unrest:
Although it hasn’t risen to the level of a violent protest, the people are venting their displeasure in an increasingly aggressive fashion. As a case in point, In Danchun City, South Hamgyong Province, there was a protest led by the veterans of the Korean War. Similar aggressive protests led by veterans against city administrative offices occurred in Pyongsung in South Pyongan Province, Hamheung in South Hamgyong Province, Kangye in Jagang Province, and Wonsan in Kangwon Province. Unlike regular citizens that could be dealt with quickly by the authorities, the veterans presented a problem since any misstep in dealing with them could spread into widespread demonstrations. Further, the local authorities could be blamed by the higher-ups and even charged for not taking proper care of the war veterans. However, with the war veterans pouring insults against the city workers and generally acting uncontrollably, the authorities were worried that the situation might spread. Therefore, they decided to label the demonstrators as “anti-revolutionaries” who “led an anti-republic effort at the behest of hostile nations.” Since not even old-time independence fighters, let along war veterans, would not be able to escape from the weight of such serious charges.

Third, crackdown on domestic crimes:
Along with people starving to death in places across the country, there is an upsurge of crimes such as robbery, murder, and drug dealing that are attacking the society’s foundation. This joint-statement shows that they will treat crimes as anti-national acts and will penalize the perpetrators accordingly.

Fourth, preventing defections of overseas North Korean officials:
On the other hand, there is also the intent to block the possibility of overseas officials from entertaining thoughts of a possible defection. They don’t want any overseas officials, who might be looking to take care of themselves thinking that North Korea is on the verge of a collapse, to defect when they are overseas. Therefore, they are ordering the overseas officials to send them children – aged from 5 to 16 – back home to North Korea. There was a similar attempt before but, at that time, many people either paid money or asked their higher-up’s to avoid having to send their young children home. However, this time around, everybody is facing having to send their kids back home since the order included a warning that even the supervisors of relevant officials would also be punished if the order is not followed.

In such fashion, North Korea is using a dual strategy of carrots and sticks to deal with the current difficulties. As the premiere personally asks for understanding for the post-currency revaluations confusion and promises to supply food in the near future, the Central Party’s Organization and Guidance Department sent out an order to local security apparatus across the nation for them to not crackdown on food selling and allow the markets in full. At the same time, they are also tightening their grip on the outside to get the situation under control.

North Korea Today No. 330 February 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]
Cabinet Minister “Error on Price of Goods Contributed to Chaos”
Titular Proclamation to Prohibit all Foreign Goods
Ministry of Trade Proclaims, “All trading companies must collect food, no exceptions.”

[Food]
In Chungjin city, “Very few people eat rice, most of them eat porridge.”

[Economy]
North Hamgyong Province Permits Market Operation Tacitly
“Do Not Regulate Food”, the Provincial Party of North Hamgyong Province Instructs

[Politics]
Choi Kwangchul’s Arrest Tops the List of Drug Cases in 2009

[Society]
Residents of N. Pyongan Province Express Surging Discontent at Secretary of Provincial Party

[Women/Children/Education]
Three Students from Ryunbong Middle School in Soonchun Died from H1N1
Kkotjebies Drastically Increase in Soonam Market, Chungjin
No Counter Measures for Increasing Number of Kkotjebi in Kimchaek city

[Accidents]
A Beaten Retired Military Officer for Stealing Rice from Nampo Harbor Got a Fortune Thanks to His Wife
__________________________________________________________
[Hot Topics]
Cabinet Minister “Error on Price of Goods Contributed to Chaos”
At the meeting held for the major officials for Pyongyang City People’s Council, the Cabinet Minister Kim Youngil apologized and said, “From the time we adopted new currency exchange to the beginning of the year, sales price at the national store were incorrectly established and that led to confusion and insecurity for people’s lives.” It was an expression of apology for increasing burden of living after the new currency reformation. He also stressed, “We will for sure solve our food problem within this year so let’s unite at the core of the party and follow the general’s leadership.” However, the residents gave cold shoulder to the news. Some residents turned their nose up and said, “Believe in tomorrow again? How can we trust them? Do you really think reducing price would solve this problem?” Han Jungok (alias), a resident from Pyongyang Sunkyo District commented, “A 30 won worth facial soap costs 160 won at market place. What difference does it make if they lower the price? Businesses are closed and shops do not have enough supplies.”, and pointed out the problem with the shortage of goods.

Titular Proclamation to Prohibit all Foreign Goods
Proclamation that was announced last December 28 to prohibit all foreign good is known to exist only in name. A Central Party Official informed, “Money traders detained at every province police department, city and county police station starting mid January were released on January 29”. Also, Pyongyang foreign exchange shops that could not carry foreign currency are now allowed. Some members of the Party are suggesting that policy to prohibit foreign good failed. This is based on the assessment that foreign good are still circulating among residents and there are severe side effects such as soaring price after prohibition. Cabinet officials are forecasting different outcomes for foreign currency prohibition proclamation. A cabinet official said, “Cabinet members argued that citizens are faced with harsh living condition because enterprises suffered large loss and fatigue after ban on all foreign currency. The government might have announced proclamation too early.” He argued, “We cannot cancel the announced proclamation but legal validity might fade. Their original purpose to control foreign currency is likely to be voided.”

Ministry of Trade Proclaims, “All trading companies must collect food, no exceptions.”
On January 27th, Cabinet and Trade Ministry officials held a meeting on the food situation. The main message of the meeting, while restructuring of trading companies is ongoing, was that “all remaining trading companies must unconditionally collect food at least starting from February.” It was a strong message declaring that there should be no company that could not collect food. Currently, all food coming into Nampo harbor is going to boot camps, rail authority trains, athletic organizations, and support bureaus of security authorities. It is reported that no ration plan in place for the general population yet. Meanwhile, most of the restaurants that belong to Social Feeding and Clothing Care Center in Chungjin City, North Hamgyong Province are closed because there are no customers. Some open restaurants are having difficulties because of skyrocketing food and side dish price. Other state-run stores are closed as well due to lack of sellable goods because they received quite a setback caused by the restructuring of trading companies near North Korea – China national border area.

[Food]
In Chungjin city, “Very few people eat rice, most of them eat porridge.”

Residents survey results show that very few households in Chungjin City, North Hamgyong Province, eat rice and most of them barely manage to live with porridge. Number of people who go to the market is shrinking everyday because they do not have money. In Ranam district, some people eat acorn or wine porridge because they do not have anything else to eat. Other people wait in front of tofu stores even before they grind beans, in order to first get bean-curd dregs; they want to make porridge by mixing the bean-curd dregs with corn. The remaining people sell their household goods to eat food and if that runs out, they even sell their houses at fire-sale price. In Gimchaek Steel mill that does not have adequate food provision support system, increasing number of workers cannot go to work due to swollen face and body. Nine workers died of starvation between the middle and the end of January; there are more households where family members died of hunger. Workers in Gimchaek Steel mill eat acorns that they saved last year, and households that occasionally eat bean-curd dregs are considered rich.

[Economy]
North Hamgyong Province Permits Market Operation Tacitly
In North Hamgyong Province, the general market, which was ordered to close down starting this year, has resumed business. The provincial party approved its operation tacitly because of the aftermath of the currency reform: the rice price skyrocketed, the food situation worsened, and some people died of hunger. However, market business did not rev up shortly. Although food salespeople tried to buy foodstuffs from Saebyul, Onsung, and Hoeryong and sell in Chungjin, they couldn't make it since each city and county cracked down on outflow of food. In Onsung, North Hamgyong Province, where there are a lot of corn farms, crack down was enforced at the forestry patrol station to prevent outflow of foodstuffs around Sambong district. In Saebyeol County, the 6th Ryonggye-ri Patrol station, and in Hoeryong city, the 10th Pungsan-ri Patrol station has been enforcing the crackdown.

“Do Not Regulate Food”, the Provincial Party of North Hamgyong Province Instructs
Although peddling by citizens had tacit approval from the government, food regulations continued, and the people expressed a wide range of complaints such as, “The government took all of the people’s money through currency exchange, and it is even regulating food peddling now although it cannot solve the food problem. What should we do? How can there be a food in the market if every city and county is regulating the food to prevent food from being taken out of the region?”

The complaints were especially fierce from residents in Chungjin City, which is the most densely populated area in North Hamgyong Province. Some Primary Party members of the district office in Sabongdong, Songpyong Division have even filed a complaint to the Provincial Party saying, “People did not receive food rations, but since the food is not circulated as a result of the food regulation, it is difficult to buy food even if a person has money.”

After the provincial party's leading secretary verified facts on January 30th, he told the commander of the provincial police station, “In order to resolve the national food problem, no household should perish from hunger. Every city and county must get rid of the food regulation posts.” In the morning of February 1st, he telephoned the leading secretaries of the city and county parties such as Onsung, Saebyul and Hoeryong and ordered the removal of the food regulation posts. The main instruction stated that “there should not be any food regulation at all so the people can buy and sell food.” Once the regulation was lifted, food peddlers welcomed the move saying, “This action taken by the provincial party to remove the food regulation made it easier to do business.” However, regulations still apply for wealthy people doing business inside their trucks with a bundle of money. It is known that the provincial party deregulated the food control because people were starving due to the sharp increase of food prices.

[Politics]
Choi Kwangchul’s Arrest Tops the List of Drug Cases in 2009

Choi Kwangchul’s arrest in Hoeryong, North Hamgyong Province stands the biggest case of the year 2009 for both the governmental crackdown on drug and the evaluation of enforcement. Choi, originally from Hamheung, South Hamgyong Province, was a notorious drug trafficker in Sapo area. Though caught several times, he was always released by bribing officials.

When he was arrested in 2003, the charges were so serious that officials could not let it pass. He had to leave Hamheung and settle down in Osandukdong, Hoeryong. For 7 years since he moved in to Hoeryong, he has taken a role of a middleman who buys drugs from the family members of police officers and the wives of city officials in Hamheung, Chungjin, and Hoeryong, and sells them to Chinese drug merchants. He had maintained his business by bribing officials, but finally got arrested on August 10 last year because the 150-day battle inspection was so strict. Through interrogation on Choi Kwangchul, the Police found out that 110 were involved in the drug manufacturing and trafficking in Hoeryong, Gimchaek, Chungjin, and Hamheung city: 50 in Hoeryong, 20 in Gimchaek, 30 in Chungjin, and 15 in Hamheung. Of the 50 accomplices, Hoeryong city sent 30 aggravated felons to Province police station and detained the rest of them in city police station. The aggravated felons were imprisoned by trial at Province police station. Choi Kwangchul, as a principal, was sentenced with the maximum penalty. All of the aggravated felons who were transferred to Province police station were laymen. None of them were family of City official or law enforcement official.

[Society]
Residents of N. Pyongan Province Express Surging Discontent at Secretary of Provincial Party

The North Pyongan residents’ disapproval of the Secretary of the Provincial Party is rapidly increasing. This is due to the recent difficulties with the province’s food supply and the increase in non-tax contributions. Furthermore, rumors have been spreading about the conversation the Secretary had at the Central Party Meeting. As a result, the public sentiment is turning bitter. Byung-Duk Kang (alias) of Sinuiju of North Pyongan Province commented on the spreading rumor, stating, “It is said that the General (Kim Jong-il) asked the Secretary of each State about the livelihood of the residents after the currency exchange. Only the Secretaries of Jagang and North Hwanghae Province truthfully expressed that 70% of the people are experiencing a level of suffering similar to that of the Arduous March. When questioned about what steps would be taken, our Secretary (of North Pyongan) lied and said that every household was given 25kg of rice and 5kg of soybean oil. The General, expressing grievance, then said that, “As life in the state of North Pyongan seems tolerable, the provinces that require more assistance should be provided with the extra supplies of food.” Hae-Shim Jung (alias) complained that, “Thanks to Old Pyung-Hae Kim (Secretary of Provincial Party), North Pyonagan needs to help provide food for other provinces.” This begs the question, “where else would the supplies come from but from the helpless citizens?” People enraged by the actions of Pyung-Hae Kim call him ‘Stupid Pyung-Hae’.”

[Women/Children/Education]
Three Students from Ryunbong Middle School in Soonchun Died from H1N1

On January 29th in Soonchun City, South Pyongan Province, 3 students at Ryunbong Middle School died from H1N1. Despite the deaths, classes are still in session. The Education Department of the City Party is trying to determine who is infected with the HiN1 and who has the regular flu, and checking the attendance of the students. On the other hand, many parents are keeping their students at home because the school is not taking any steps to quarantine the infected students even after the deaths. Even though the Emergency Disease Prevention Control Center is providing domestically produced vaccine, parents feel that is not good enough to prevent infection. As attendance rate drops, the school authorities of Ryunbong Middle School called a meeting with the parents and stressed the importance of caring for student’s health and raising the attendance rate.

Kkotjebies Drastically Increase in Soonam Market, Chungjin
After the currency exchange, the number of Kkotjebi is increasing in markets of North Hamgyong Province including Soonam Market in Chungjin and other markets in Ranam, Shinam, and Songpyong divisions. Especially, there are more Kkotjebies under the age of 10 than elder Kkotjebies. The reason for the increased number of young Kkotjebies is that starving households are increasing. Myung Geum Lee (alias), running a business in Soonam Market said that Kkotjebies are increasing since “a lot of households die due to starvation and some families are broken and so wandering around mountains.” The young Kkotjebies have more difficult days for the especially inclement winter season this year.

No Counter Measures for Increasing Number of Kkotjebi in Gimchaek city
In Gimchaek city of Northern Hamgyong Province, the number of kkotjebi is noticeably increasing especially near markets and public areas such as train stations. According to merchants, the number of homeless children with no means of food or shelter has significantly increased after the currency exchange. Some of them even have the H1N1 flu as well as normal seasonal cold and other sicknesses. However, they are receiving absolutely no medical treatments. The City Party and the police officials of Gimchaek city said, “As more citizens are going broke and starving, the number of children living on the streets is fast growing”. Although they all agree that measures should be taken to solve the problem, no solution has been made so far.

[Accidents]
A Beaten Retired Military Officer for Stealing Rice from Nampo Harbor Got a Fortune Thanks to His Wife
On January 25, a retired officer tried to steal rice at Nampo Harbor, Nampo City of South Pyongan Province got caught and beaten severely by Security Agents and lost consciousness. He was detected by Security Agents guarding this area, and was taken to a storehouse to be interrogated. Although he was released for the fact that he only made an attempt to steal, he had already been beaten a lot and collapsed around the rear gate. Fishermen coming back from their work found him and took him to an emergency room. He had to received an operation immediately because his organs nearly burst with the brutal beating.

Four months after his retirement he was assigned to a job at a factory, but he was temporarily staying at a room next to a pigsty inside the factory because he did not find any place to live. His wife was worried about expenses for her husband’s operations and treatments, so she wrote a detailed letter about their situation. She wrote the letter to seek help from the Party saying, “My husband who served military for 26 years during the period of Military First Policy did not find any ways to feed his family after his retirement. Because he did not want to let his family starve to death, he tried to steal some rice. He was beaten brutally and now he is in a very critical situation.” His wife went to the front gate of the Provincial Party building of South Pyongan Province in Pyongsung City rather than going to the Nampo City Party. After waiting all day in front of the gate to meet the Organization Secretary of the Provincial Party, she blocked his vehicle and gave him the letter. The secretary read her letter and let officials of the Provincial Party read it and he ordered the Security Agency of Nampo Harbor to compensate him for the beating. He also ordered the Party to provide the victim with a house, medicine, and food by saying, “It is wrong to beat a person severely without any evidence of theft. It is understandable that the retired officer was put in a situation where he had to resort to an illegal act because of the economic difficulties after the retirement.” With this news, residents of Nampo City envied him and said, “Due to the beating, he received one of the best apartments in Nampo and received medicine and food from the City Party and Nampo Harbor Security Agency. The misfortune turned into a fortune.”

North Korea Today No. 329 Full Version February 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]
Nationwide Food Shortage Opens Markets Temporarily in Regions

[Politics]
Families of Suspects Involved in the Yusun Espionage Case are being Persecuted
The Officials Respond Coldly at the Dismissal of the Organization Secretary of Hoeryong City Party
A Nationwide Spy Warning
Central Party Support is Likely to be Reduced for Hoeryong City

[Society]
The Elderly in Pyongyang Flock to Subways to Escape the Cold
Elaborate Weddings Become More Simplified

[Women/Children/Education]
Chungjin Second College of Education Students Spent One Month’s Living Expense in 3 Days due to Soared Prices

[Accidents]
Robberies Increase in Eunduk Country after the Currency Reform

[Editorial]
Note: The editorial section of this edition was released earlier as a separate edition.
__________________________________________________________
[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]
Nationwide Food Shortage Opens Markets Temporarily in Regions
As skyrocketing food prices are worsening the living condition of the residents, temporary markets are being allowed to operate nationwide. The biggest reason behind this is the report of increasing number of households that are starving after the currency reform. As reports from regions increase, direct reports are being sent to the Central Party on a daily basis. The Central Party held a meeting with the provincial level officials to take measures. Meanwhile, some regions like Sinuiju in the North Pyongan Province have decided to provide Chinese rice to the poorest households in the neighborhood.

[Politics]
Families of Suspects involved in the Yusun Espionage Case are being Persecute
d
The close investigation of the recent espionage case in Hoeryong City of North Hamgyong Province is causing ripple effects as questionings continue of those arrested by the security unit and new suspects and facts are being revealed. Among the twenty or so that have been arrested already, some happened to have been involved without even realizing that they were committing espionage. Considering that the case is “one of the largest in the case of espionage in the northern half of the country”, people in North Hamgyong Province believe it is unlikely for anyone accused to avoid punishment even if they had no knowledge of espionage and only played a minor role. Also, North Korea’s guilt-by-association system will even punish family members of those involved. Family members, including elders and children, are currently under surveillance by the security unit. The investigation was so strict that even residents who had close connections to Party official were arrested. One official suggested that the punishment will be severe saying, “Many of the arrested residents have revealed their political affiliations, so their family members can also be taken to the Political Criminals’ Detention Center.”

Those involved in the espionage are said to be sent to a closed off area in the 22nd Detention Center for Political Crime. People are concerned for the children, saying that “children are not to be blamed. The young detainees will be persecuted even as adults. This type of confinement is utterly deplorable for people who have been accused for vague reasons.”

The Officials Respond Coldly at the Dismissal of the Organization Secretary of Hoeryong City Party
It is discovered during the interrogation on December 18th, the director of the Yusun People’s Hospital stated that he was on close terms with the Organization Secretary of the City Party, and that he photographed, photocopied and sent the party documents. The hospital director stated that he visited the party and the house of the City Party Organization Secretary as much as he would like, collected many official documents and handed them over. Pursuant to this testimony, the Central Party directed the Organization Secretary to be dismissed in the first place. At the time, the City Party Organization Secretary had a surgery and was receiving a treatment as an inpatient in the City People’s Hospital. Even though the Provincial Security Department wanted to summon the City Party Organization Secretary, it was not able to do so because he was a patient who just had a surgery. As this statement will be included in addition to the fact that the City Party Organization Secretary was bribed and connived at the defection of the wife and the daughter of the Primary Party Secretary of the People’s Hospital to South Korea five years ago, the punishment is expected to be more severe.

The City Party Organization Secretary served as the Organization Secretary of the Buryung County Party before he was transferred to Hoeryong City Party, but he did not get along well with the Leading Secretary of the City Party, creating conflict with him. It has been rumored that from 2007 to 2009, the City Party Organization Secretary influenced the fall of six City Party officials who were on close terms with the Leading Secretary of the City Party. So, quite a lot of officials actually welcomed the dismissal of the Organization Secretary. Several officials even revealed their grudges against the Organization Secretary without reserve: “he was accustomed to hassling people and he fired people without hesitation for irritating his nerve.” “He is arrested for espionage that is related with the enemy activities of South Korea, so he will never be able to extricate himself from the troubles no matter what he does. He is in a terrible situation. It serves him right,” people responded. These words are mostly of the people who hold some grudge against the Organization Secretary, but even the officials who are not related with him do not feel so sorry for him.

A Nationwide Spy Warning
Local authorities nationwide have been lecturing about the spies caught in the town of Yusun in Hoeryong City. The government is asking for people’s awareness, saying “If citizens are not on guard, spy groups will threaten the nation’s security and tear down our socialist accomplishments.” The North Korean security authorities have warned about defecting and spying activity by stating, “Even at the cost of spending foreign currency there should be investigations into the current state of North Koreans who have defected, have been contacting the South by cell phone, or who have been showing signs of political subversion. These people should be separated from the general residential districts.” In addition, lecturers have warned that “90% of current refugees are the families and relatives of people who have already escaped to the south,” and advised that the public should watch out for any defectors within families. Authorities threatened executives in particular, saying that if they want to upgrade their status, they should manage their families. After this admonition, a large number of executives in Hoeryong City were fired and the positions were filled by members of the provincial party of North Hamgyong Province and officials form other cities and counties.

Central Party Support is Likely to be Reduced for Hoeryong City
In the aftermath of the Yusun Spy Affair, the Central Party as well as the National Security Agency have criticized that “the Hoeryong City Party officials are preoccupied with personal egotism and do not pay proper attention to the condition of their own people.” At the same time, “the crimes that occurred within this city have been caused by party members and their subordinates.” There have been an increasing number of official evaluations finding that the Hoeryong City Party has become corrupt beyond redemption and has been unable to achieve much from the 150 and 100 days battles. The City Party is also likely to receive less support from the Central Party and cabinet in the near future. Hoeryong City, a once-prosperous place well known for being the birthplace of Kim Jung-Sook’s (Kim Jong-il’s mother), will suffer from this spy incident financially as well as politically.

[Society]
The Elderly in Pyongyang Flock to Subways to Escape the Cold

Pyongyang is deeply concerned about the unusually cold winter weather. Many apartments in Dangsang-Dong in the Mankyung-Dae district, which were built with bricks, composed of silica and lime, lack proper heating. While the apartments provide for cool summers, it is difficult to keep the cold out during the winter unless the house is covered with vinyl. This winter has been so cold that the goldfish have frozen to death in their bowls. While young people leave for school or work during the day, the elderly remain in the cold apartments. Many elderly can be seen entering the subway with lunchboxes in the morning because the underground subways provide more heat than the apartments in the winter. As a result, the subway is full of elderly people. Many of them spend the entire day meeting with other elderly people, returning home at night. Subway workers try to chase the elderly away because they cause social chaos and are disorderly. However, the elderly would step out momentarily, only to reenter the subway once the subway workers leave. Although this happens every year, it has been more noticeable this year due to the unusually cold weather and the inflation from the currency reform which makes heating difficult.

Elaborate Weddings Become More Simplified
Towards the end of last year, in Chungjin city, Hamgyong Province, 300 couples were newly wedded. Due to the recession in the economy, most weddings are now having to size down the celebration. Mr. Kang Pan Geun (alias), who lives in the district of Songpyung said “Weddings are a burden nowadays when government food supplies are diminishing, businesses are being forced to shut down, and everything else is in bad condition. In our household, we suffered trying to throw our son a wedding last year”. Sticky rice cakes, which were traditionally given to wedding guests, are difficult to purchase now that the price of rice has risen. Wedding guests do not stay for long even if they would like to congratulate them because they do not want to be a burden on families of the bride and groom. Also, family relatives who come from another part in the country only stay for the day of the wedding instead of staying for a couple of days like the old times. Spending a couple of days means taking away the family’s already small food supply. Most of the food at the wedding is rented from the market. Wedding gift exchanges are also downsized. Both in-laws are minimizing wedding costs by having a celebration that is only long and big enough for them to become familiarized with one another. Nowadays, the small amount of money saved from the wedding is given to the new couple, so they can start their own farm. Finding a living quarter for the couple is also a difficult task now for husbands. Due to difficult conditions, couples are living on couches of other family homes. Wedding guests and villagers pity the couples instead of giving them blessings because others cannot even afford to have a wedding.

[Women/Children/Education]
Chungjin Second College of Education Students Spent One Month’s Living Expense in 3 Days due to Soared Prices
The Second College of Education in Pohang district, Chungjin, North Hamgyong Province started classes on January 10. Among the students who visited home in rural areas during the break, many brought 4,000-5,000 won for a month’s living expense. They thought the money would last a month if they use it sparingly, but the skyrocketing prices make it difficult to rely on the money even for three days. The dorm-provided meals are not enough for the starved students, and they would eat at the diners near the campus. However, they are not able to eat out with money any more because most of the private diners are closed because they fall short on food. They argued that it does not make the ends meet to buy food from the market and sell the dishes to the students. Students seem to lose motivation to study, saying that it is not even a month after the first day of class but they already starve like this, and they would most likely to drop out if the situation continues. Families are also feeling burdened saying to support college education became more difficult.

[Accidents]
Robberies Increase in Eunduk Country after the Currency Reform

The police authorities of Eunduk County, North Hamgyong Province, have been troubled with the increasing number of robberies after the currency reform. At the end of last year, three wives of coal mine workers in Obong Labor District were robbed on their way back home after selling grains in Saebyul. To sell the grains, each of them prepared 4,000-5,000 won, which included the money they exchanged after the currency reform and the money each borrowed from relatives. They were on their way back home after they purchased corn, cowpeas, and yellowish beans (which are used to make tofu). When they got off the servi-car at their village entrance past 9 p.m., four solider robbers appeared and quickly took them to a nearby hill. The robbers took all the money and grains away from the women. One of the women shouted, “Kill me if you dare,“ and bit one of the robbers’ fingers. Then, another robber beside her hit her head with a stick, breaking four of her teeth. The soldiers took one of the women, abandoned her on a bridge and ran away. The woman’s life was saved thanks to a farmer who was passing by the bridge at dawn and found her. However, her face was too swollen to be recognized and her leg was broken as well. The women’s husbands reported the robbery to the Eunduk Police Station right away after they heard about it. After a thorough search from Jongsan-ri, Saebyul County, where the robbery occurred, to Cheolju-ri, the police found a military camp in Cheolju-ri, Eunduk County where the robbers possibly served. The camp strongly denied the robbery by insisting that no soldiers could go outside due to their training and that no unit of the camp went for outside work. After hearing the camp’s claim, the women indicated that they themselves wanted to find the robbers because one of the robbers was bitten on his finger. Although all soldiers were gathered to be checked, the women could not find the criminals. Mine workers firmly believe that the camp is covering up its soldiers’ robbery and hiding the soldiers. They also think that the camp is taking the action not to be punished for its poor management of soldiers in case the robbery is reported to the superior military office. The women and their families, who became penniless, were outraged at the attitude of the camp. Residents’ complaints are growing, not just from the robbery case above, but because robberies by soldiers have been increasing greatly with almost no arrests. Some residents complain, “How can we survive when the new money has no value, prices are soaring, and, at the same time, we are being robbed? How can we build a Strong and Prosperous Country without catching any robbers?”

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

North Korea Today No. 329 Hot Topics, Food and Editorial February 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]
Central Party’s Economic Policy Review Department Conducts Field Survey - “A serious situation with many suffering from hunger"
Danchun City Residents, “Do you mean to starve us to death?” Mass Protest
In Chungjin City, Many Households Cannot Even Afford One Meal a Day
In Danchun City, People’s Complaints Grow Stronger: “Government is doing nothing to resolve people’s starvation issue.”
Ministry of People’s Armed Forces, “All-out efforts to secure military provision”

[Food]
Farmers at Sagu-ri Farm in Chungjin Received 400kg of Food

[Editorial]
It is Time to Release Relief Rice
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[Hot Topics]
Central Party’s Economic Policy Review Department Conducts Field Survey - “A serious situation with many suffering from hunger"
In mid January, The Economic Policy Review Department of Central Party conducted a field survey to find out the living conditions of the residents. The result showed that the conditions of living are very seriously difficult. In particular, those who had been engaged in trading experienced grave difficulty due to banning of market activities and the price hike. Even if they want to do the trading in secret, there is no merchandise. Because of (the government's) severe crackdown, import-export companies and big business owners do not want to sell their goods and the market in general has shriveled up.

A staff in the Interior Department told that, "The cases where people die because they have no food or there were no food they could buy even if they had money are beginning to appear in every province." According to the statistics from the survey, "The poorest province is South Hamgyong Province, and within that province, Danchun City." Danchun City was the highest in the number of households died of starvation during the beginning of January up to 26th. In Danchun City, there are people in every group who cannot go to work due to hunger, and one or two persons die of starvation every day. A city official of Danchun City revealed that, "(the City Party) knows that there are many deaths. The case of old folks who are generally in poor health is one of the reasons, but because there is nothing to eat they get sick and die." A staff of City Party said that increasing number of people die after living without any food, just drinking water for about a week, and the situation is very serious.

According to the statistics reported to the City Party, Chungjin City in North Hamgyong Province is next in terms of the number of households dying of hunger. Many laborers congregate in Chungjin City, which played the role of wholesale market to the whole country, but due to banning of market activities the merchants received terrible blow. Most laborers had been making a living either by trading or 8.3*. They say that because of the new economy control measures the living became harder than the time of Arduous March. In other areas, those that hung on to life without food since the implementation of currency revaluation began to die gradually after mid-January.

(*translator's note: 8.3 refers to the laborers who, instead of reporting to a job that does not pay, opt to earn a living by cultivating small patch of land or trading, and pay money to his company to avoid any punishment for not reporting to work. At present, major city laborers pay Won 15,000-Won 20,000 (approx. $4 to $6) a month.)

Danchun City Residents, “Do you mean to starve us to death?” Mass Protest
Danchun City, South Hamgyong Province is named to have the highest death due to starvation by the result of the field survey, and war veteran residents from the city held a mass protest in front of their city hall. Mainly war veterans over the ages of 70-80 gathered and they were followed by other elders and residents, so the momentum was great. War veterans sat across from city office and violently complained, “We worked hard for our survival during the Arduous March, but the current movement of opening doors to the Strong and Prosperous Nation would make everyone starved to death with currency exchange. Are you going to starve us to death?” The atmosphere turned ugly for a while when residents charged up with emotions screamed after hearing war veteran’s speech. An elder cried, “What is the use of the City Party or people’s government organization when they cannot feed their people? When we followed the Great Leader during the revolution, we wanted to make sure our descendents were well-off. It doesn’t matter if old people die, but our descendents are all about to die. We don’t need such government.” The City Party of Danchun City reported this incident directly to the Central Party. On January 26, the Central Party ordered, “Distribute 1,000 tons of rice that is being saved as Number 2 reserve in Danchun City farms.” The City Party rushed distribution at the end of January to residents with the most difficult living situation. An official at Danchun City commented, “Residents of other cities and counties are having difficulties, but our residents seem to suffer the most. More people are dying and many households with 4-5 members are living off of 500g of corn noodle boiled in water.”

In Chungjin City, Many Households Cannot Even Afford One Meal a Day
On January 28th, some people in Chungjin City (i.e., two households at Songpyong district and one household at Ranam district in Chungjin city, North Hamgyong province) died of hunger. According to the survey of each neighborhood unit in Chungjin City – assuming each neighborhood unit consists of 30 households – very few households eat white rice, about 5-6 households mix of corn and rice half-and-half, about 10 households eat porridge of available grain of cereals, and the rest eat only one or two meals a day with porridge of ground corncob. In each neighborhood unit, more than half of the households struggle to take at least two meals a day, but they end up having at most one meal a day. One official of the City Party said “at this moment, people’s suffering defies description; their living condition is many times more difficult than the sufferings of the Arduous March. Many households barely make one or two meals a day with corn noodles or porridge of residues from bean oil and ground corncob. Each household struggles to take at least two meals a day, but if they fail to do so, some people in the family die of starvation.”

In Danchun City, People’s complaints Grow Stronger: “Government is doing nothing to resolve people’s starvation issue.”
Chang, Keum-Ok (alias), a resident in Danchun city, south Hamgyong province complained about the government’s inaction: “they know of people dying of hunger, but they do nothing to resolve people’s suffering.” People cannot find grain even if they want to buy, and the food prices skyrocket everyday. People can do nothing but despair at this moment. Ko, Byong-Gook (alias) complained that “if the government took away all of people’s money, they should provide services and goods to ensure people’s basic living conditions. They just say nicely, but nothing is actually coming out to support people’s basic living conditions.” There are some rumors from some part of the City Party that PDS (Public Distribution System) may be reactivated around February 16 holiday, but people are not terribly excited by that. People complain that “even if that is true, people will die of hunger while waiting for that to happen. Will the government let starving people die?” People complain that they are experiencing the worst ordeal right now: “our government does not show any mercy; instead they seem to test how long their people could survive without sufficient food.”

Ministry of People’s Armed Forces, “All-out efforts to secure military provision”
On January 20, Ministry of People’s Armed Forces convened a meeting to devise measures to secure the military provisions with commanding officers at director level of the Support Bureau, military officials and relevant cabinet officials attending. The main point made in the meeting was “The military provisions should be secured even by emptying all the harvested grains.” As the food shortage situation of people is getting worse nationwide, a possibility of riot was also suggested, if groundbreaking measure is not prepared until February. However, nobody raised opposition to the idea that securing the army provision is the priority.

[Food]
Farmers at Sagu-ri Farm in Chungjin Received 400kg of Food
At the End of Year Recapitulation for 2009 in Sagu-ri Farm in Chungjin City, North Hamgyong Province, it turned out the original grain plan was not achieved. Farmers of the 1st sub-team of the 4th work unit received the largest amount of distribution, which barely reached 400 kg of food and 100,000 won per person. The sub-teams that did not accomplish the plan received 300 kg of food and 22,000 won per person on average. Distribution for 1st, 5th and 6th work units were even cut off because they managed laboring bulls poorly. The farmers of those units had to pay indemnity for stolen or lost laboring bulls last spring and fall. The farmers who were directly responsible for the loss did not receive cash distribution at all. In addition, some bulls died from nutrition problems because they were not fed well during the plowing and harrowing season in spring, and farmers had to pay 15,000 won for compensation, from 30,000 won of distribution they received. On the other hand, some farmers who successfully managed laboring bulls received 40,000 won according to the merits for laboring bull management, even if they did not meet the grain plan. Farmers of Sagu-ri farm reported that although they received food and monetary distribution, it is not of great help as the prices keep rising. Many people say they lose motivation to work because no matter how hard they work, the prices jump in double digits and the value of new currency plummets.

[Editorial]
It is Time to Release Relief Rice
It has been reported that people are dying of hunger even though it is not spring lean season. At this point, it is just a random figure of “one or two people die out of hunger”, but considering the series of events after the currency exchange, what we have all been worried about seems to be happening. The signs were already there when the rice price skyrocketed as it rose to 1,100 won in Chungjin.

Currently, there is not much influx of rice in the market; people don’t have enough money to purchase rice even if they put the relief money and 2,000-3,000 won salary together; the means to maintain the livelihood became severely diminished due to ban on trading; and it is increasingly difficult to find food in the households with no rice stock. To make matters worse, it is in the middle of cold winter season without even grass to feed on. Therefore, people would eventually die out of hunger. Those were the signs.

The North Korean authorities would have known all that. However, we have never heard of news saying solutions are in place. People’s patience seems to have reached the limit. In Danchun city, there was a mass protest led by old war veterans against the City Party calling for measures to deal with food shortage. People’s demand for food is likely to grow stronger since the number of people starving is increasing in other areas.

It is time to release relief rice without hesitation. The Great King Sejong, the most revered as the greatest king in Korean history, also started his rein by releasing relief rice. As soon as he was enthroned, he had to face 7-long years of drought and famine, so he set up a large kitchen in Kwanghwamoon 4-way intersection and ordered to cook rice porridge. The purpose was to feed anyone who passes by could eat at least one meal so that nobody could die of hunger. Although what’s needed is a long-term supply plan is necessary, this story demonstrates what should be done in order to help people to preserve their lives by releasing the relief rice.

Second, markets are allowed temporarily in some areas, but that should be expanded throughout the nation as soon as possible. The skyrocketing prices blown up out of proportion should be lowered by circulating rice and goods in the market, and people’s purchasing power needs to be restored. There is a saying in the Chinese classic, Suhkyung, “If people wish, then heaven delivers.” In other words, people’s determination to survive by trading in the market cannot be suppressed by force. The great Chinese king Soon also said, “The king’s throne will be lost forever if people’s lives become destitute.” This means the most important policy is to take care of people’s hunger, and that is the most natural thing to follow through.

The North Korean authorities must release food distribution first and prevent people from die of hunger. In addition, they should let people find means to survive on their own by allowing the market. They must seek external aid if the situation is deemed to be urgent. The measure North Korean government should take at this point is to feed the people by releasing the food through distribution and ask for external aid if what they have is not enough.

North Korea Today No. 328 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]
Skyrocketing Rice Price Hit 1,000 Won in a Week, Chungjin
Retail Merchants Low on Business Funds as Prices Soar
Residents, “Buy at today’s price or wait until tomorrow?”
Soaring Prices Invite People’s Hostility against New Economic Policies

[Food]
Provincial Residents Yearn for “Government Food Release” after Learning about January Food Distribution in Pyongyang

[Economy]
In Hoeryong, Government Ban on Market Enforced against Public Sentiment

[Politics]
North and South Hamgyong Provinces Censure Electricity on Shifts
“Make an example”, As the Foreign Currency Prohibition Decree Not Work Well

[Society]
Hair Salon Customers Turned Away because of High Cost of Perm Chemicals
People’s Anxiety Increases as Prices Soar and Rumors Circulate

[Women/Children/Education]
Eunduck County DSW Troubled by Large Number of Female Border Crossers

[Accidents]
Suspected Accomplice of Hoeryong Spy Incident Commits Suicide
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[Hot Topics]
Skyrocketing Rice Price Hit 1,000 Won in a Week, Chungjin
Rice price is breaking the record every day. Particularly, the rice price in Chungjin City, North Hamgyong Province shows the most noticeable increase. The price jumped from 240 won/kg on January 15th to 280 won/kg on 20th and on the next day, the price rose from 300 won in the morning to 350 won in the afternoon. On 22nd, the price soared to 500 won and yet again to 650 won in the afternoon. On the same day, the rice price exceeded 300 won/kg in Pyongyang and major cities including Sariwon in North Hwanghae Province, Haeju in South Hwanghae Province, Wonsan in Kangwon Province, Pyongsung in South Pyongan Province and Sinuiju in North Pyongan Province. The price hit 350 won in Sinuiju and it reached 400 won in Pyonsung. The soaring price did not stop there. On 24th, the steep rise of the rice price reached as high as 1,100 won in Sunam market in Chungjin. The price hit 800 won in Hoeryung. Dollar price reached 42,000 won per dollar in Pyongyang and Sinuiju. Rumors say it would exceed 60,000 won soon.

Residents of Chungjin are in devastation at the news of skyrocketing rice price. Merchants are raising the price while not selling rice, and residents cannot even try to buy it. If the situation persists, some people even projects, the price would hit the level of old currency era (2,000 won) in no time. Residents appear very anxious, saying “The food price seems to be a mess.” Food and other prices are rising so rapidly that the residents who were unable to secure daily necessities are experiencing great difficulties. Residents of Chungjin harbor a question that the financial management policies of the authorities might have been wrong, saying, “It has not been long after the currency exchange but the new money has lost the value like old currency already.”


Retail Merchants Low on Business Funds as Prices Soar
The numbers of merchants going bankrupt with high debt due to soaring price are increasing in major cities including Hamheung City, South Hamgyong Province, Soonchun City, Pyungan Province and Haeju City, South Hwanghae Province. Buying low and selling at slightly higher price, retail merchants had no problem making profit when rice price was 80-90 won. However, in January, they could no longer afford buying any more products with skyrocketing prices. They suffered tremendous loss because price for their product soared and they cannot afford to buy other products to sell. A bean oil seller from Sinam District at Chungjin City, North Hamgyong Province said that 80kg was priced at 150-170 won but it increased to 450-500 won in the next week. Last 22nd, price tripled to over 1,500 won so he complained as he no longer can sell bean oil even if he invests all his past profits. Because price skyrocketed, merchants who did not secure enough products are worried that they would lose all their capital.

Residents, “Buy at today’s price or wait until tomorrow?”
Residents are having difficulties with steep price increase. They need to buy food and daily necessity but are debating whether to buy at today’s price or wait until price stabilizes. New currency is losing its value everyday so residents can not easily purchase food or merchandise. Even if they try to buy something, they have hard time finding a merchant and market does not carry many products. Households that used to consume rice are now eating soup for a meal to save food. Poorer households are now eating wet dried radish leaf soup with corn noodle for each meal. They complained that it is hard to buy 1 kg of rice or even a handful with the current skyrocketed food price, so everyone is trying very hard to save food.

Soaring Prices Invite People’s Hostility against New Economic Policies
An abnormal surge in prices provokes people’s antipathy against new economic control measures. Soaring prices make people’s livelihood difficult. Furthermore, the ban on business and commerce makes their basic livelihood even more difficult, so their clamor is high. The residents in Sunchun, South Pyongan province do not hide their opposition. They complain that “the government’s new economic measures make people die of hunger. Instead of making a Strong and Prosperous Nation for people, the new economic measures open the door of poverty and hunger for people.” Heyoung Kim (alias) said “women who feed a family have many opinions on the new economic measures. Compared to the days of old monetary system, our living condition is much worse. Many households cannot even eat corn porridges. Since people’s living condition is at the bottom, they talk badly to the government.” Police officials agree with such sentiments. “In these days, people are increasingly angry and harshly blame the government. Their firm belief and commitment about the Strong and Prosperous Nation are already gone. Political speeches and lectures these days are not effective to reorient and realign the people to the nation’s ideology. They seem to think only about the means and ways to make their living.”

Meanwhile, the authorities encourage people through various political speeches and lectures. They assert that “difficult living conditions are only temporary. The new economic measures will soon improve the living conditions of workers and farmers. So please be patient and let’s overcome the difficulties together. Do not have fantasy about foreign countries and do perform well on what you are supposed to do in order to make a breakthrough in building the Strong and Prosperous Nation.” However, people do not appear to take the government’s words very seriously. They say “the government enticed the people through the rosy promise of improving people’s living via the new economic measures. However, prices are soaring and the value of new money is plummeting now. The current situation is a real mess. How further will the authorities only talk about the Strong and Prosperous Nation?”

[Food]
Provincial Residents Yearn for “Government Food Release” after Learning about January Food Distribution in Pyongyang
Pyongyang received early January food distribution followed by early December distribution last year. In Hoeryong, January food distribution was supplied with corn. Other areas, except for these two cities, did not receive food supplies. The residents in other areas say, "All prices would stabilize if the government released reserve rice." They say they cannot make a living unless soaring prices are controlled in some way. It is not that people are asking the government to distribute rice for free, but they want the government to lower the price of rice by releasing its stock into the market because people cannot afford to it when the price of rice goes over 300 won per kg and then to beyond 1,000 won per kg. People say that it would be a relief if the price comes down to 70 won per kg when the price was going up and down at about 100 won per kg. Now, they do not even mention that. So, they do not even dream about the government-set price of 44 won per kg. People are wishing for releasing of rice in one way or another.

[Economy]
In Hoeryong, Government Ban on Market Enforced against Public Sentiment
It did not take long for the City Party in Hoeryong, North Hamgyong Province to re-open the general markets and allow merchants to do business on sales booth. This was in response to public outcry over the severe hardship that resulted after the conversion from general markets to a farmers’ market. Outcry went through the roof, with the public complaining that; “there was no increase in whole corn distribution, contrary to the official announcement. In addition, the sharp increase in corn prices, caused by the ban on markets, coupled with meager corn distribution would leave us with the risk of starvation.” The residents have constantly requested, “If the distribution of (food) provisions is not feasible, then at least allow market operation.”

In response to the outcry, the City Party reported the public sentiment to the Province and the Central Party and re-opened the markets temporarily until the food and daily necessities were supplied. In other words, on the afternoon of the 17th, the City Party lifted the restriction on the markets, which sold only agricultural and local goods. The market is supposed to be banned again, once the foods and necessities are distributed normally. As such, merchants were allowed to trade banned items in farmers market. However, not much trading took place because wholesalers had no goods to supply to the local market. Although the restrictions were lifted temporarily to help people’s livelihood, the restrictions had to be enforced in less than two days after the reopening of the market after being reprimanded by the Central Party.

[Politics]
North and South Hamgyong Provinces Censure Electricity on Shifts

The North Hamgyong Province and South Hamgyong Province are executing the censorship of the electricity on shifts for the first time this year. The censorship of the electricity on shifts is done every year, but it is more emphasized this year as the National Defense Committee commanded to adhere to the New Year’s Day Joint Editorial of January 1, 2010 that said, “The electricity must be secured in the munitions security enterprises and workplaces even if the electricity cannot be provided in the social institutions.” Currently, the electricity is not provided at all in civil and nonproductive sectors and only the approved places among the productive factories and public enterprises are provided of electricity 6 hours per day.

“Make an example”, As the Foreign Currency Prohibition Decree Did Not Work Well
As the foreign currency rate is rising every hour in spite of the foreign currency prohibition decree, the merchants are trying to receive the foreign currency if possible, saying that they will be on the short end of the deal if they receive the Chosun money. As the foreign currency is still in circulation between merchants and people instead of going to the National Bank, the Central Party has begun to seek the measures to prevent it. On 14th, the Central Party dispatched one officer to each province and instructed them to “arrest people who circulate or use the foreign currency and make an example.” On 18th, the Chungjin City of North Hamgyong Province arrested 7 people who attempted to exchange the foreign currency and cracked down 3 trading companies that used the foreign currency in domestic trade. The leading officer of the foreign currency inspection enforcement team ordered the companies to be shut down. The people who were exchanging foreign currency are arrested one after another in Pyongsung, Haeju, and Hamheung as well as Pyongyang City, and all the foreign currency is confiscated without compensation. In an attempt to produce results in foreign currency crackdown, the enforcement teams dispatched to each province to execute the foreign currency decree are primarily focusing on ex-convicts who had dealt drugs or banned trade items by the state. In addition, the houses that are known to have a lot of money or very successful business, people who exchange foreign currency at a trade company, and negotiators who exchange foreign currency are widely investigated. The surveillance is extended to the wealthy people and those who visit the house of the wealthy in the National Border Area where a large amount of foreign currency are mostly circulated in black market. It is reported that the enforcement teams will inquire about the source of the foreign currency and depending on the seriousness of the crime, will even consider an execution by firing squad if judged to be serious.

[Society]
Hair Salon Customers Turned Away because of High Cost of Perm Chemicals

Salons are rejecting new perm clients in Pyungsung, South Pyungan Province because of the high cost of chemicals. In one salon, the workers were not working but chatting with one another. When asked why they were rejecting new customers, the responded that they do not generate any profit by performing perms. They claimed that the price for a long hair perm was 60 won in the new currency, and 30 won for short hair, but the chemicals for a perm alone cost 100 won. One potential customer, who was turned away, Miss Kim Young Hee (alias), reported that young university students with long hair were being turned away and she was concerned that getting a simple hair treatment would be very difficult now.

People’s Anxiety Increases as Prices Soar and Rumors Circulate
As prices in the market soar, residents of North Korea are feeling anxious amid circulating rumors. Midlevel officials also are not exempt from the anxiety about rising prices. An official in Hamheung City in the South Hamgyong Province said, “After the currency reform, the number of households facing starvation has increased, so the City Party ordered a survey of such households. Maybe they mean to distribute rice. There is also a rumor that China stopped exporting rice to North Korea, and the markets ceased to sell Chinese rice. Because there is no way to verify the rumor, there is increasing fear that the rice price will increase.” The City Party continuously lectures about “stopping rumors circulating the society after the currency reform and the ban on using foreign currency.” The City Party announced that the rumor about counterfeit two-thousand won bills and additional currency reform is not true. Upon hearing about the news that Pyongyang began distributing rice from January, people of Hamheung City are complaining that rural residents do not have the same rights as urban residents. Some residents say, “After the currency reform, people are suffering from rising prices, but instead of solving the problem, the government only regulates the market. They confiscate items from the market, so people are angry. It is like an aftermath of a war. Given the situation, it is natural that rumors are spreading. Indeed, some people are wishing for another currency reform.”

[Women/Children/Education]
Eunduck County DSW Troubled by Large Number of Female Border Crossers
In Eunduk County, North Hamgyong Province, the district office of the DSW (Democratic Women's Union) is troubled by the result of a follow up inspection which shows that there are still many of women fleeing the county across the river. In 2008, more than thirty single women and twenty married women had escaped from February through November. In 2009, thirty-five women left their hometown from May through September. Twenty of them got caught and were sent to the re-education center after being tried in the people's court on November 3. In particular, increase in the number of female 5th and 6th graders in Obong junior-high school who ran away was raised as a major issue, and warned by the county party, police department and youth union. Eunduk County party held a community meeting and warned that crimes of human trafficking - minor trafficking in particular - will be punished by execution by firing squad. In Obong mining district, there are many households without mother because a number of housewives ran away across the river among poor residents who survive with only one or two meal a day.

[Accidents]
Suspected Accomplice of Hoeryong Spy Incident Commits Suicide
It was discovered that Mr. Oh, a man in his forties, who lived in Osanduk-dong in Hoeryung City, North Hamgyong Province committed suicide with his wife. According to neighbors, the couple argued frequently and had been fighting for the last week. The police are investigating whether the incident was a suicide or a homicide based on the facts that he was temporarily associated with drug trade and they have contacted the Party Secretary of Yusun Hospital. Many of the residents have been whispering that “he probably committed suicide in fear of being executed after seeing so many people being taken away.”

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