GoodFriends: Research Institute For North Korean Society

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North Korea Today No. 336 March 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]
North Korean Residents Miss the Time of the Great Leader
“Even I Would Not Do It Like That,” a female peddler says about the currency reform – Citizens and officials agree that currency reform failed

[Food]
Kimchaek Steel Mill, 1 kg of Corn Noodles is Used to Provide Lunch for Twelve

[Economy]
Trade Department Delayed Importing 1,000 tons of Provisions for Lack of Budget

[Politics]
The Public Prosecutors Office in North Hamgyong Province is Investigating Trade Companies that Raised Food Market Price
Brutal Beating on a Robber at Mangyangdong Police Substation, Hoeryong

[Society]
Excessive Non-tax Burden on Top of Already Difficult Daily Life

[Women/Children/Education]
More Freshmen Dropping out from Cho Gunsil College of Education, Wonsan City

[Accidents]
Five to Six Robbery Cases Reported in Onchun County Daily

[Editorial]
Save People First with Humanitarian Food Aid

________________________________________________________
[Hot Topics]
North Korean Residents Miss the Time of the Great Leader

Some residents in provincial cities as well as in Pyongyang yearn for the time of the Great Leader. Bokhee Kang (alias), a resident in Pyongsung, South Pyongan Province commented that “the Great Leader was good at politics,” stating that “in 1960-70s we had many innovators, high economic growth, and good living conditions.” Minbok Kim (alias), a resident in Hamheung, South Hamgyong Province also agreed that the time of the Great Leader was better stating that “the Great Leader pointed out 100 consumables items and he even calculated the price of a single needle. He produced a large number of innovators by providing a good mixture of political recognitions and monetary rewards.” By contrast “now we only have political recognitions but no accompanying monetary rewards in people’s economy because of the increasing emphasis and investment in national defense since the 1980s. The current leaders lost the support of the people because they have paid very little attention to and expenditures for the people’s economy. Now we have made nuclear weapons and become a strong military nation, the current leaders thought it was time to take care of the public sentiment and thus executed the national economic measure but they did not prepare well for it,” and thus indirectly criticized the currency reforms at issue.

Meanwhile, the Central Party carefully monitors the public sentiment “missing the time of the Great Leader.” One party official in Pyongyang commented that “in times of the Arduous March, many people yearned for the Great Leader’s time. Since 2000, the Central Party has absolutely prohibited such public sentiment because it means we are doing worse than the period of the Great Leader. Thus, it is a real problem that such public sentiment is arising again.”

“Even I Would Not Do It Like That,” a female peddler says about the currency reform – Citizens and officials agree that currency reform failed
As living standards collapsed following the currency reform, the population, ranging from high-ranking officials to ordinary citizens, had a lot to say. The citizens believe the currency exchange policy was mostly a failure. Many people who were barely making a living from daily peddling income have lost their jobs. While they survive by eating porridge or a ground mixture of corn and corncob, others are dying of hunger.

The state-run factories ceased operating because the price of the raw materials is not right, and the distribution of commodities became even more difficult. The markets and state-run stores are not operating efficiently because prices are too high. As a result, voices of dissatisfaction are growing. The citizens say that “the mere fact that dissatisfaction is rising among the people means that the currency exchange has failed.” A woman who peddles in the market says openly, “Even I would not do the currency exchange like that if someone asked me about it. Whoever did it did a pathetic job”.

Since the middle of January, people were starving to death in various regions, but no national resolution was announced. The officers who organized and managed the currency exchange reform are being severely criticized in these regions. Intensive criticisms have been voiced such as, “The government officials whose lives are provided by the state just have no idea about the lives of poverty-stricken people. These utterly ignorant officials who do not even know the basics of the economy came up with a surprise policy after an armchair argument, took temporary gains and led the economy into a state of disaster, thereby pushing the lives of the people into distress. They cannot rectify the mistake even if they lay down their lives.”

One officer from the Central Party expressed his confusion, “In the past, it used to be difficult for other regions to issue these complaints to the Central Party, but the Central Party cannot disregard them anymore these days. The national situation has become worse, so if the Party disregards or criticizes the complaints even to the slightest degree, it would cause national chaos.” He too believed that the policy failed, saying, “It is true that the Central Party had made an error in judgment. It naively thought that if it announces a currency exchange reform and eliminates markets, the wealthy people will go down and all the commodities will appear in the state-run stores.”

[Food]
Kimchaek Steel Mill, 1 kg of Corn Noodles is Used to Provide Lunch for Twelve
The food situation is still difficult for the workers at Kimchaek Steel Mill in Chungjin, North Hamgyong Province. They were supposed to receive corn from the Hoeryong Farm Management Committee in exchange for fertilizer and vinyl, which they received as a payment for exporting pig iron. However, much of the corn was lost because transportation difficulties delayed the delivery of the corn. The executive officials worry about the ongoing food shortage, saying, “More people will die if this food shortage continues.”

Workers are supposed to go home for lunch, but few do so because there is nothing else to eat at home. Thus, most of them eat corn noodles at the company-run cafeterias. When 1 kg of corn noodle is soaked in water, it can feed up to twelve people. However, the Kimchaek Steel Mill calculates the amount of lunch tickets a worker used and deducts that amount from the worker’s food ration. Workers don’t even eat for free, nor is the meal sufficient enough. Yet, they feel that eating the corn noodles is better than starving at home. After the workers finish the meager meals, they lie down in the break room and try to hold their hunger. They resume their work at 2:00 p.m. and finish at 7:00 p.m. They complain that their situation is no different from prison laborers since they work long hours and suffer from hunger.

[Economy]
Trade Department Delayed Importing 1,000 tons of Provisions for Lack of Budget

A high-ranking official from the Trade Department has disclosed that the Department is planning to import 1,000 tons of unglutinous rice, but is facing serious financial issues. It will be unable to purchase the rice, imported into Nampo, at the price the Chinese have offered of 410 dollars/ton. However, if the unglutinous rice is imported, it will be distributed to poor families first.

[Politics]
The Public Prosecutors Office in North Hamgyong Province is Investigating Trade Companies that Raised Food Market Price

The Public Prosecutor’s office in North Hamgyong Province arrested trade companies which had stored food during January and February until the market price increased. The companies investigated had conspired with the wealthy to increase inflation. Six trade officers were arrested in Chungjin in total. The officers had not released food even though they had tens of tons in their warehouses. Residents of Chungjin City said that “even the people who had money could not buy food because trade companies were not willing to sell them” and “they are guilty of just looking at people starving to die even if they obviously knew how people had hard time getting food.”

Brutal Beating on a Robber at Mangyangdong Police Substation, Hoeryong
Recently, the number of robberies and murders has sharply increased mainly because of food shortage. A robbery occurred in Inkyeri, Hoeryong, North Hamgyong Province around 10 p.m. on February 27. A robber beat a police officer, who was riding his bike home, with a stick and attempted to steal the bike. However, the officer, who was fortunately not severely injured, could easily catch the robber by firing warning shots.

The robber was a worker at the `July 7 Factory’ in Eunduk County. His wife fled to China two years ago, and left him with an 8-year-old daughter and a 5-year-old son. His harsh livelihood drove him to commit the robbery in order to feed his children. While interrogating him, the Mangyangdong Police Substation severely beat and injured him. He, who already starved so long and thus weak, could not even move because of the brutal beating. The Mangyangdong Police Substation notified the Eunduk Police Station to take him over but only heard from the Station that because he can’t even sit by himself, they will take him once he recovers enough to walk on his own. He can’t even eat because of the severe beating. Even if he swallows some food, he throws it up and passes out two or three times per day. His condition is getting worse. Those who hear the news feel rather sympathetic towards him, saying that “He is out of luck. How unfortunate he is for trying to rob a police officer! Though the officer was robbed, the police should not have mistreated him that much. It is the police who have been committing so many robberies. Now they have almost killed another person who committed a robbery. The poor are getting more pitiful.”

[Society]
Excessive Non-tax Burden on Top of Already Difficult Daily Life

People are struggling and suffering greatly because of non-tax payment assignments imposed on them on top of the difficulties to make daily lives. The non-tax items and quantities differ according to the area and unit, but generally every family has to get 2 tons of human excrement soil, 42 kg of scrap iron, 250 kg of corn-sized gravels, 3 kg of scratch paper to earn foreign currency (monthly), and 500 NK Won in cash to buy pork to support the military for one year. If it is less than the assigned amount, each family has to pay in cash. Thus, all the residents feel great pressure. Some people collect more than assigned human excrement soil or small gravels and make money by selling them. Yet, there is little doubt that these assignments are too much for most of the residents. For example, many people in Pyongsung City, South Pyongan Province who were pressured with non-tax payment grumble about currency reform and lament their misfortune. Kim, Hwa-Sun (alias) in Pyungsung Dong said “Although there was a news report in media that the light manufacturing factories achieved the production goals of commodities in excess of the target, prices of the basic goods, such as tooth pastes, facial soaps, and laundry soaps, are much higher than the government-set prices. With already soaring rice price, most people have to endure these endless non-tax payments. After the currency revaluation the government could not regulate the price of these necessary goods and created confusion in the society. What are the newly set prices for? There have to be more products in the market first before carrying out the currency reform. With not enough amounts of the products, newly announced prices are meaningless. No one is willing to take the responsibility for the miseries created by the reform. Now, we would not trust them no matter what they say.”

[Women/Children/Education]
More Freshmen Dropping out from Cho Gunsil College of Education, Wonsan City

Recently, the number of freshmen dropout is rapidly increasing in Cho Gunsil College of Education in Wonsan City, Kangwon Province. The college began its winter break on December 5 due to H1N1 and resumed on January 10, but many students have not returned. It is because more parents felt burdened to support college attending children due to rapidly aggravated living condition after the currency exchange measure. The number of students who did not return or dropped out was 27 in January and 22 in February.

[Accidents]
Five to Six Robbery Cases Reported in Onchun County Daily

At Onchun County, South Pyongan Province, crime is growing rampant and public anxiety is spreading as people are suffering from weak law enforcement. There have been five to six cases of robbery on a daily basis during February in the Onchun jurisdiction. On February 26th, two households were each robbed of 100 dollars and 200 dollars in cash, a VCR, and a bike. The two families were known to be wealthy. According to an eyewitness, the burglars carried knives and entered the houses casually. They threatened the women and children, demanded money and household goods, and left as soon as they had acquired those items. A woman from one family was hospitalized after she fainted from the shock. Similar cases are happening daily, but the Onchun County Party and the police stations have not been able to find an adequate solution for this problem.

[Editorial]
Save People First with Humanitarian Food Aid

Public sentiment is becoming shaky. It is not easy to determine the extent from outside the country, but the situation appears to be worsening based upon news reports. The expression "I miss the days of the Great Leader" which circulated during the Arduous March is spreading openly now. There were times when people said they would not trust the government no matter what it says. Now, the explanation that the problem is "because of the US and South Korea's attempt to isolate our country" doesn't seem to convince anyone. Even those who know nothing about the economy are criticizing the act of closing the market without plans for supplying goods after the currency reform.

Declining public trust in government is something the North Korean government should be worried about. The reputation of being an "ideologically strong country" is crumbling. Last year's harvest was bad because of a drought, and the winter was freezing cold. Moreover, all the money saved up became worthless paper after the currency reform, and the new currency is unable to catch up with the inflation rate. Because prices are unstable merchants are not selling food in the market, so people are unable to buy food even with money in hand. Starving people are collapsing because they have nothing to eat and die silently. The central government realized the severity of the situation and is trying hard to resolve the food shortage by putting pressure on lower-level government units, but individuals who went to Dandong and Shenyang China are struggling as they are unable to secure even one ton of grain. The seriousness of the government's economic measures ended up pushing people who were already struggling over the cliff.

The North Korean government should take responsibility for the problems it caused. First of all, they should acknowledge the urgency of the current situation to the South Korean government and the international community and ask for humanitarian aid. The United Nations third guiding principle clearly states that "humanitarian assistance should be provided with the consent of the affected country and in principle on the basis of an appeal by the affected country."

Nobody will be aware of the current situation without an appeal from the North Korean government, and even when someone breaks the news it will be treated as a claim and not enough to draw real aid. The so-called "humanitarian aid fatigue" which attests to the sentiment that nothing has changed despite more than 10 years of humanitarian aid to North Korea is not something that should be dismissed easily. No matter how strong one makes in an appeal that people are dying of hunger, it is not taken seriously unless the actual situation is revealed and the appeal is heard. The typical reaction from potential donors is "North Korea always has a food shortage, right? They all figured out how to survive, so it won't progress into a mass famine." However, North Korea will be able to obtain humanitarian aid from the South Korean government and the international community if it complies with the international community.

The South Korean government should respond actively to the North Korean government's appeal for food aid. The South Korean government's prompt humanitarian assistance to the North during the H1N1 flu outbreak established a good example for aid policy to the North. The South Korean government needs to engage in a fact-finding mission to determine if the current food situation is an urgent humanitarian crisis and help North Korean citizens even though the North Korean government is unable to provide detailed explanations.

North Koreans are not residents of a foreign country. They are our own people whom we will be living with together one day. Rescuing them from death and starvation is an important responsibility of ours. We need to let them know that there are people who are concerned about them and want to help them when they are suffering enormously. Giving one ton of food right now rather than giving 100 tons of food in the future is one way to help North Koreans and win their hearts and minds. As such, the South Korean government should act decisively to provide humanitarian aid and give hope to those who will be our fellow citizens in the future. This is not the time to calculate political gains and losses. This is the time to save people.

North Korea Today No. 335 March 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]
Staggering Increase of Starvation in Soonchun and Pyongsung
Pyongyang, the Aged Dying of Hunger and Exposure to Cold
More than 300 Die from and 1,000 Households at Risk of Starvation in Sinuiju

[Food]
Rice Price in Chungjin Soars to 800 NK Won; Exchange Rate as of March 2nd is 1 USD to 1,600 NK Won
Sungjin Steel Mill in Gimchaek Distributes Twice as Many Rations by Splitting One Portion of Grounded Corncob Meal into Two

[Economy]
Laborers in Kang-gye City Engage in Collective Absenteeism in Protest Saying, “Are you telling us to die?”
Laborers in Kang-gye Burglarized a Granary

[Politics]
Heungnam Police Arrests College Students for Distributing Information on Manufacturing Illicit Drugs

[Society]
Pyongyang First Department Store, Accident Occurred as People Flocked to Buy Goods at Government-Set Price
People still Flock to Store Despite the Notice of “Department stores to be closed until further notice.”

[Women/Children/Education]
Homeless Children Gather at Chungjin Station and Soonam Market

[Accidents]
Pyongyang Blackout Causes Traffic Chaos

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[Hot Topics]
Staggering Increase of Starvation in Soonchun and Pyongsung
Death by starvation occurring in Soonchun and Pyongsung, South Pyongan Province seems to be reaching a serious level. City Party officials are describing it as a record number of starvations since the Arduous March. Although the exact figures are not available, it is reported that thousands of people have died of hunger already during one month period beginning in the middle of January.
An official at Pyongsung City Party deplored the humanitarian situation, saying that “Soon it will be spring lean season in March and April – a period of severe food shortage when no rice harvested in preceding year was left nor is barley ripe for harvest --, and no prospect of action addressing the starvation would make it much worse. According to Pyongsung City Party, the death toll goes highest in Soonchun City across the country with Dukchun and Pyongsung following in second and third, respectively.

Pyongyang, the Aged Dying of Hunger and Exposure to Cold
The starvation during winter hits Pyongyang as well. It is not uncommon to see the aged lying on the street in Sunkyo, Sadong, and Soonahn district exhausted from their search for food. Passers-by just literally “pass them by.” In addition, there have been cases of the aged found dead overnight due to cold whether since January. According to the doctors who examined the scene, they died of mal-nutrition out of hunger and exposure to freezing cold during the night. The death of the aged, first found in Moonsoo Street in Daedong River in the middle of January, is spreading out to Sunkyo and Soonan district. Several homeless people were found dead in the bench alongside the Daedong River. They were frozen to death dozing off in the bench and suffering from cold with thin clothes and from hunger with barely one meal a day. On the other hand, things are better in Joong and Pyongchun district where no starvation has yet to be reported. Pyongyang City has not distributed any food since the 10-days worth of distribution on the Lunar New Year’s day in the beginning of February.

More than 300 Die from and 1,000 Households at Risk of Starvation in Sinuiju
The death toll of starving citizens is rising in the uptown of Sinuiju as well as South Sinuiju, North Pyongan Province. Since the beginning of February, Haebangdong, Baeksadong, Namsodong in Sinuiju have all been struck by citizens dying from starvation. According to the statistics of the City Party, as of February 20th, about three hundred people have died while more than 1,000 households do not have food and are at the risk of starvation. A worker at the City Party commented, "Given that more than 300 people have died in Sinuiju, where no one died from starvation even during the March to the Hardship, the situation is irreversible. When the hardship period has yet to arrive and the situation is this dire, it only shows that our country is slowly facing the end. If the situation of our city is as serious as this, then I can't imagine how South Hamgyong, Jagang, and Kangwon Provinces are coping." There is no news of starvation in Shimdong headquarters resided by provincial leaders and low-ranking laborers. They are not yet in a situation where their lives are threatened by a lack of food. At night, the headquarters and Sinwondong are brightly lit by electricity, while Hebangdong, Baeksadong, and Geunhwadong are dark; there is a stark difference in living conditions in these two areas. Without food, the residents of Sinuiju are spending longer winter nights, suffering from cold weather and starvation. A leader from the North Pyongan Province lamented, "Like Sinuiju, there is not a single area [in North Pyongan Province] unaffected by starvation."

[Food]
Rice Price in Chungjin Soars to 800 NK Won; Exchange Rate as of March 2nd is 1 USD to 1,600 NK Won
The price of rice has risen to 800 won in Chungjin, North Hamgyong Province. On January 10th, the price was 60 won; on 13th, it had tripled to 180 and kept rising to 240, then 280, 350, 500 and 650 won. In the end, it peaked at 1,100 won. In February, the price dropped slightly to 580 won, then continued to lower to 470 won, 450 won, and 400 won. The drop in price coincided with the resumption of market operations. As of March 2nd, the situation is still unstable and the price has risen once again to 800 won.
Along with price of a basic commodity like rice, the foreign currency exchange rate is also unstable. As economic confusion continues, residents are using only foreign currencies, rather than the newly redenominated North Korean won. Lack of confidence in the NKW has led to inflation and unpredictable fluctuations in the exchange rate. As of March 2nd, 1 USD was worth 1,600 won and 1 Chinese yuan was worth 250 won. Among the residents who prefer to use yuan as their currency of exchange, there is a rumor that the value may go up to 350 won. If the value of the foreign currency increases, the price of food and other necessities will also increase.

Sungjin Steel Mill in Gimchaek Distributes Twice as Many Rations by Splitting One Portion of Grounded Corncob Meal into Two
The period between January 5th and February 24th of this year has become known as a period of intense hardship for the workers at the Sungjin Steel Mill in Gimchaek City, North Hamgyong Province. Thirty-eight mill laborers died of hunger and more than 140 people were unable to go to work because they lacked anything to eat. As the laborers were starving to death, Sungjin Steel Mill increased the production of steel in order to trade the output for additional rations. However, since foreign trade had already come to a halt, mill authorities were not able to sell any steel to Chinese buyers and could not buy any additional food. From January 20th to 25th, the cafeteria provided corn noodles once or twice a day. Starting in February, it provided two meals a day by splitting 250 grams of grounded corncob meal into two portions. As the food situation at the steel mill has worsened, it has chosen to distribute rations 2-3 times a day by dividing one ration into 2-3 portions, preferring to hand out multiple meals no matter how small.


[Economy]
Laborers in Kang-gye City Engage in Collective Absenteeism in Protest Saying, “Are you telling us to die?”
An official of Jagang Provincial Party says Kang-gye city is no different from hell. Laborers there are forced to show up at work every day despite no provision. It is due to the pressure that the Gang-gye laborers need to set an example as the Central Party instigate people by saying they need to learn from ‘Gang-gye Spirit.’ However, faced with the extreme food shortage after the currency exchange measure, the laborers are expressing grievances explicitly saying, “We need to eat thin porridge at least so that we can show up at the factory,” and questioning “Are you telling us to live or to die?” Some laborers take collective action in protest by refusing to show up at work saying, “It’s no different whether I am beaten to death at police station for absence without notice or I starve to death, so I’ll just hold out to the last.” Not only in Jagang Province, but in other areas as well, public sentiment is worsening. Provincial level officials say publicly, “To resolve the current situation, there’s no other option than reaching out for help from China.”

Laborers in Kang-gye Burglarized a Granary
Inchul Park, a laborer at a foreign currency business in Kangkye, Jagang Province, and his family could not eat for several days. He was bedridden with a swollen body, which prevented him from even going outside. He had enough to live on because he was working for a foreign currency business. However, Park was faced with a food shortage problem for the first time when international trade was hit hard after the currency exchange reform. If he was going to die of hunger, Park decided he would do whatever he wanted to do. He thus conspired with several of his colleagues who were also suffering from food shortage, burglarized the granary managed by their foreign currency business, and shared the grains between them. However, they were all arrested the next day. The incident was reported to the Central Party, which sent three investigators. Although the burglary was not a small incident, it was obvious why it occurred. It happened because the laborers, who could not eat for several days, were looking for something to eat. The investigators also indicated that they fully understood the laborers’ circumstances. However, in order to maintain social order and show the dignity of law to residents, the laborers, including Park, were sentenced to death. Park was rather dignified in his bearing by saying, “What an indifferent world! The officials do not do anything for laborers who come to work every day without getting food rations and salaries, and who even die on lathe beds. They endlessly criticize laborers for their poor ideologies and lack of revolutionary ideas. However, the officials do not come up with any ideas to help laborers. Dead or alive, laborers are miserable human beings! But I will die a ghost with a full stomach.”

[Politics]
Heungnam Police Arrests College Students for Distributing Information on Manufacturing Illicit Drugs

On February 27th, the Heungnam City police, (located in South Hamgyong Province), arrested three third-year pharmacy college students for selling detailed descriptions on how to manufacture ‘ice’ (amphetamine). It is said that the instructions were so well written that an average person with no special knowledge of drugs could easily follow them, meaning their street value was as high as 50,000 NKW per copy. Thus far, more than 3,000 copies have been sold within South Hamgyong Province, as well as in Chungjin, South Pyongan Province, Pyongsung, and Soonchun. One Safety Bureau worker said, "This was a very malicious crime. Innocent people with no knowledge of drugs' evils could pick up this book and become curious about drugs." The students are likely to receive serious punishment.

[Society]
Pyongyang First Department Store, Accident Occurred as People Flocked to Buy Goods at Government-Set Price

Pyongyang First Department Store is selling limited quantities of detergent, tobacco, sweets and other goods at government-set prices. As the residents of Pyongyang can’t afford the skyrocketing prices in the market, they flock to Pyongyang First Department Store and the risk of accident is increasing. According to the rules, people are supposed to use a ticket to buy goods on the designated date specified on the ticket, but the quantities of goods are in short supply so customers were asked to come back in later dates. This created a chaotic situation where a large number of people came to the store at once regardless of the designated date. As a result, one person died in an accident caused by the crowd last January. When a large number of people were waiting in line, someone fell down because of carelessness and people behind fell down in chain reaction and a woman at the very end was crushed under them. She died at the scene and several others were injured and transferred to hospital.

People still Flock to Store Despite the Notice of “Department stores to be closed until further notice.”
On January 26, in major cities such as Pyongyang and Sinuiju, announcements were made through the Third Broadcasting stations that department stores in the cities will be closed for a while, so people should not knock on the door or wait in line. The district administrative offices tried to inform residents of this massage as well, but it didn’t work because markets were not allowed to open and every store was running out of goods at that time. Therefore, despite the notice that most state-run stores and foreign currency stores would be closed, costumers knocked the door from morning till night and some even broke the window. As people continuously flocked to the closed stores, guards had to be placed at the stores throughout the day and night.

[Women/Children/Education]
Homeless Children Gather at Chungjin Station and Soonam Market

Many inhabitants of Chungjin, North Hamgyong Province have been pushed onto the streets after having sold their homes. The younger population has been greatly impacted by this and there are children living in train stations with their families, or with other orphans who have been left behind by desperate parents. At waiting rooms of Chung-Jin Station, there are more than ten "families" of homeless children with numbers continuously rising. They have been crowding into these waiting rooms due to the cold weather, crouching in corners, laying or covering themselves in plastic, but are driven away by station officers. After railroad stations, the next popular place for the homeless is Soonam Market. Although the market has lost much of its vibrancy as a market place, it is one of the few places where food is present. So, many homeless people gather in this market. They travel in small groups and roam around Soonam Market during the day and camp around bonfires in corners of dumping grounds in efforts to survive daily.

[Accidents]
Pyongyang Blackout Causes Traffic Chaos

On January 8, much of Pyongyang City experienced traffic paralysis due to a citywide blackout causing much confusion in the streets. The buses, subway system, and the trolleys stopped running as early as 10 o'clock in the morning. In the case of the subway system, some cars stopped midway between stations, confining passengers for more than 2 hours. Initially unable to move an inch, only under the assistance of railway workers could the passengers safely escape along the railway and out of the tunnels. Despite all the confusion, some said that the subway cars were warmer than their homes so it was better to stay in the cars. While the railway workers wondered about the possible causes for the blackout, the people of Pyongyang, however, were questioning whether “disloyal peopley had caused the trouble".

North Korea Today No. 334 March 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]
Sinuiju City Party Urges "Let's help the poor," but Residents Remain Indifferent
Residents of Baeksa-dong in Sinuiju City Fights with the Head of the Neighborhood Unit
Funeral Cars Enter Chung-Jin Cemetery Daily

[Food]
The Urban Poor, Pushed to the Level of Eating Corn Noodles Flavored only by Salt

[Economy]
Gimchaek Steel Mill Loses Corn Supply Received from Hoeryong

[Politics]
National Security Agency, Prevention of Defectors is the Top Priority

[Society]
Soldiers’ Malnutrition is Serious Enough to Affect Military Training
Son Returns from Military Service Looking Like a Walking Corpse, Ill with Tuberculosis and Malnutrition
Parents Are Summoned by a Troop to Find Out Their Son Is Dead

[Women/Children/Education]
The Number of Kindergarten Children Has Decreased Each Year in North Hamgyong Province
Maternity Ward Rarely Used in Hoeryong for its Worn-out Facility and High Costs
Harsh Living Condition Poses Difficulties with Post Delivery Care

[Accidents]
Suicide at Kim Jung-Suk Historic Site
Leading Secretary of Kangwon Province Died in a Car Accident Heading to a Meeting in Pyongyang Last Year

_________________________________________________________
[Hot Topics]
Sinuiju City Party Urges "Let's help the poor," but Residents Remain Indifferent
The farming management commission of Sinuiju City in the North Pyongan Province held an emergency meeting to prevent mass death from starvation and distributed 10 kg of grain to the poorest households. However, more people are dying due to starvation. The City Party and the People’s assembly held meetings at each neighborhood units and stressed, “It is time to show our public moral and help our poor neighbors voluntarily.” However, the residents were indifferent to the campaign for voluntary help. The residents complained, saying, “Who can we help when we are barely surviving?” Other than a few residents who called the campaign crazy, rest of the residents stayed quiet during the meeting.

With the residents refusing to voluntarily help the poor, the City Party ordered the heads of the Neighborhood Units to collect 2kg of rice from each household. The heads of the Neighborhood Units began collecting rice next day; however, only two or three out of 40 households contributed. The heads of the neighborhood units even begged them to contribute even several hundred grams, but the residents remained indifferent.

Residents of Baeksa-dong in Sinuiju City Fights with the Head of the Neighborhood Unit
The heads of the neighborhood units run into conflict with the residents as they attempt to collect grain from each household. Park Hye-Ran (alias) who lives in Baeksa-dong in Sinuiju City yelled at the head of the Neighborhood Unit, "We didn’t get anything from you. Why do you keep trying to take what we have? We are also having a hard time surviving!” She said “If you still want something from us, just take this.” And put a trashcan on his head. The head of the neighborhood units got angry at her, "What can I do? I’m only carrying out the orders of the high officials. Do you think I am taking your grain for myself?" He ended up getting into a physical altercation with Mrs. Park. As people stopped the fight, Mrs. Park threatened, “If you show up at my house again, you better be prepared to die!”

Funeral Cars Enter Chung-Jin Cemetery Daily
In North Hamgyong, Chung-Jin City, within the area of Chung-Ahm, there is a graveyard known as Gu-Juk town. Before the currency exchange announcement was made, one corpse arrived every three to four days for burial. As food costs rose and the number of starving citizens skyrocketed, there has been an increase in the number of deaths because of malnutrition and illness. The number of households that visited the Gu-Juk cemetery from January 7 to 27 this year averaged from four to six households. Currently, at least two to three cars enter the graveyard daily. This indicates an increase in the number of deaths. Sang-Jo Kim (alias) said that the biggest reason for the higher number of deaths is starvation and “the inability of the sick to obtain cures caused much of the deaths. Hospital patients could not use any drugs because the pharmacists would not sell them.” He expressed frustration with the way the market was managed.

[Food]
The Urban Poor, Pushed to the Level of Eating Corn Noodles Flavored only by Salt

The level of food that poor urban residents consume is deplorable. Most add condiments such as salt and soy sauce to add flavor to an otherwise flavorless soup of corn noodles. Those who can afford kimchi are much better off. Others who can manage to eat bits of corn or vegetables in the soup are in much better states. Sung-Hee Lim (alias) expressed the sorrow and difficulty of getting food. “Noodles such as udon become thin gruel in water. They are digested quickly, and we feel hungry after a moment. This is why corn noodles are more suitable, but it is not easy to gain hold of bits of corn noodles,” he said. The residents are in urgent need of a greater food supply.

[Economy]
Gimchaek Steel Mill Loses Corn Supply Received from Hoeryong

The Gimchaek Steel Mill Association of Chung-Jin City, North Hamgyong is facing problems with its initial plans to sell steel to China and receive corn in return. The association exchanged fertilizer and plastic wrappers received from China with Hoeryong City to receive corn in return. Since February 20, the corn that was to be delivered to Gimchaek Steel Mill was piled at Hoeryong station. However, the plan was delayed as the necessary vehicles could not be properly assembled, and the crops had to wait until February 25. The farm guards secretly sold the corn to traders. The amount of corn returned by the police was over four tons, and about 300 to 600 kg was taken per day. Some farm workers were caught while unlawfully trading the crops for necessary farm items during the delivery to the station, and the amount was as large as three tons. With the decrease in the amount of corn delivered to Gimchaek Steel Mill, crop distribution to each laborer will also be decreased.

[Politics]
National Security Agency, Prevention of Defectors is the Top Priority
This year, the National Security Agency decided to strengthen the crackdown of defectors by making it a top priority after many incidents of people fleeing abroad due to domestic economic difficulties. Accordingly, the security agencies near the national border areas in North Hamgyong, Ryanggang, and North Pyongan Provinces are monitoring the families of defectors. First, they check the financial status of the family of a defector and investigate the source of money if they exchange foreign currency, seem to have too much money considering their income and expenses, and summon them to check if they purchase something at the market. The family members suspected of maintaining connection with the defectors are followed around, and stopped and searched their bag or luggage without a probable cause, which places them under tight surveillance even in the absence of evidence.

The People’s Safety Agency is monitoring the Chinese people residing in North Korea. They ordered the police stations in the national border regions to check if they have received money from the defectors. Monitoring of phone calls is done 24 hours a day by deploying call detecting devices around the town or near the border areas where phone calls can be made. Those who stay outside late at night are stopped and frisked. The family or relatives of defectors under suspicion are being put on the blacklist and followed, or being stopped and searched when they are about to enter their house. In the mean time, those who get caught while carrying a mobile phone become subject to severe physical punishment to make examples out of them.

[Society]
Soldiers’ Malnutrition is Serious Enough to Affect Military Training
With the exception of special branches of the military, the malnutrition problem among the regular soldiers is very serious. In the case of artillery training, solders can’t even load the 10kg shell properly to the cannon because lethargic soldiers are unable to lift cannon shells. The morale of soldiers in an army base in Kangwon Province fell to the bottom because numerous soldiers in each company became weaklings. Each military base is taking the measures of selecting the soldiers in a serious condition and let them receive medical treatment at a military hospital. However, that is not sufficient to improve the malnutrition problem. The soldiers in the military hospital who can’t even move around on their own are being sent home. Currently, the officers are receiving food distribution, but their families did not receive distribution in January and February.

Son Returns from Military Service Looking Like a Walking Corpse, Ill with Tuberculosis and Malnutrition
Huh Yong Sook (alias) separated from her husband in her 30's and raised Kim Kwang Hyuk (alias), her only son, alone in Hamju County of South Hamgyong Province. She managed a photo shop and proudly raised Kim before sending him off to serve in the military three years ago. Worried about her son, Huh even snuck the escorting officer a few extra bucks to ensure her son's well-being. During Kim's servitude, he sent Huh many letters saying he was doing just fine. In her reply, Huh asked Kim to send her some photos of him in his uniform, but she was only sent a picture during his trainee days and nothing else. Then this February, Huh almost fainted upon seeing her son's corpse-like appearance; he was so haggard and thin that he looked as if he was about to collapse in a moment's notice and his own mother could not even recognize him. According to the officer in his base, Kim was diagnosed with tuberculosis last year and had been receiving treatment in the unit ward. However, due to his worsening conditions, he was unable to fulfill his military duties and had to be sent home. Huh could not believe this news, as her son never got sick, let alone catch a cold, and now was on his death bed with tuberculosis: "If it's been a year since he was diagnosed with this disease, shouldn't they have contacted his family as soon as possible? How can I bring him back to health at this stage of his sickness?," cried Huh holding onto the officer. In response, the officer said, "We cannot send home every soldier who gets sick. If so, it will only shake up the men and disturb the discipline process. Thus, the superiors do not allow such departures." The main cause of the illness is attributed to the lack of food for the soldiers after difficult training. Due to malnutrition and weakening of the body, the men are more prone to diseases. Huh's neighbors were sympathetic and shed tears upon seeing Kim, for they had known them for awhile and had a hard time finding words of comfort. As an attempt to help Kim improve his health, the neighbors brought over valuable food that they rarely get a chance to eat themselves such as eggs, fish, soymilk, and other nutritious foods. Kim's health has worsened to the point where he can barely summon the strength to move his fingers and thus have a doctor doing house calls. With medication and nutrients, his life can be extended, but due to his weakening body and worsening disease, it is difficult for the doctors to determine his fate.

Parents Are Summoned by a Troop to Find Out Their Son Is Dead
Baek Heung-Su (alias) and his wife, who live in Jungju City of North Pyongan Province, have a son and a daughter, and the son had finished the middle school (equivalent of high school in South Korea) and joined the army last year. Mr. Baek, the householder, worked in a woodworking unit for more than 25 years as a carpenter, and his wife Han supported the livelihood by raising livestock and doing farming at home. They devoted themselves to take care of their children and were living happily despite the hard living environment. In the middle of this February, however, they received a telegraph from their son’s troop to come quickly. The reason was not stated; they were just asked to come. The parents were simply excited at the thought of seeing their son and hurried the preparation. They visited the market diligently and prepared things like their son’s favorite foods, medicines, underclothes and socks. The neighbors who were close in the village also heartily donated some money to buy some snacks. However, the parents returned from the military camp only after a week, being in a state of shock. The parents were too dumbfounded to say anything when the neighbors asked them what had happened. They were barely able to say that the son was killed in an accident when he went to the mountain during the winter training as he hit his head by a log that fell from the opposite side while he was sawing logs. Yet, the most absurd thing is that the troop sent the news to the family after a month after their son’s death. The parents said that when they went to the military camp, the funeral was already finished and they were only able to receive their son’s belongings. They brought up their only son like a precious treasure despite their hard living environment and sent him to the army. They found themselves lost for words when their son, whom they believed that he was doing well in the army, is dead as a result of an unbelievable and absurd accident. After this news spread, the parents in the neighborhood who have a son express concerns, feeling as if it were their own accident. All they can do is to wish sincerely that their own son would come back safe and alive.

[Women/Children/Education]
The Number of Kindergarten Children Has Decreased Each Year in North Hamgyong Province
In North Hamgyong Province, population size has decreased since 2001. When data of children before the school age in Kindergartens in Chungjin, Hoeryong, and Musan were collected, the number of children has been decreasing obviously. The standard number of kindergarten children per teacher the Education Department has set is about 38. The department, however, should reduce the number of teachers as the number of children is decreasing. Although the government encourages parents to have lots of children, people are struggling to survive that they would not have more than one child. In response to this situation, the government ordered offices of corresponding areas to distribute provisions normally and take a special care of the family having more than 3 children, but this project is not executed well. Since the Arduous March till now, people have been dying for starvation and hardly bearing children, and so it is unclear to what extent the population size would decrease. After the recent currency exchange, clearly more parents do not send their children who need education to kindergarten. The parents claim that they can hardly feed or buy clothes for their children, and then how they can even make things better by sending children to kindergarten. Since people prioritize eating to strive as life becomes harsher, the quality of education is relatively reduced. Children who should learn writing, singing, dancing and playing with friends are now living every day by selling goods next to their mother in market or doing chores.

Maternity Ward Rarely Used in Hoeryong for its Worn-out Facility and High Costs
Women in Hoeryong bearing children can use maternities ward service provided by the Central Party for the reason that Hoeryong, North Hamgyong Province is hometown of Kim Jong-Sook. The gynecology service is supposed to take care of checkup, delivery, and post-maternity care for free, but the maternity ward, despite its large scale, is worn-out and equipments are outdated. Free treatment is only an empty word, but patients should pay all fees by themselves. Rooms in hospitals are freezing because the heating system is not working properly. Families of patients bring several quilts from home, covering their whole body to stand the cold. However, families of high officials or the rich are secretly provided high quality medical care, which are supplied by the party, but normal people should pay high price to get medicine or treatment. As a result, people of Hoeryong are reluctant to use hospitals. Women are giving birth to children at home and recuperate at home as well. It is safer to deliver children in hospital, but that is too burdensome for the mothers. The majority of women have to earn money and at the same time, take care of households. Because men should work in factories every day even though they cannot get paid, the only things they could do are caring for children and doing house chores.

Harsh Living Condition Poses Difficulties with Post Delivery Care
Jung In-soon (32 yrs old) lives near Kim Jung-sook College of Education in Hoeryong City with her husband and mother-in-law and makes living by selling bean sprouts and bean curd. Her husband stays at home being dejected after spending 6 months in labor discipline center for absences from work without notice. Her mother-in-law excretes urine and stool lying down due to stroke. When there was nothing to eat during her pregnancy, Mrs. Jung ate a mix of dried radish leaves and residues from making bean curd that were simmered and brewed for 2 days. The residues from brewing are poisonous, so when not simmered properly, it has a side effect of body swell, which happened to Mrs. Jung several times. Mrs. Jung has made the ends meet by making and selling bean curd early in the morning every day. Even later in her pregnancy, she walked for 3 hours to gather firewood and carry them on her back. Currently she sells bean sprouts although she has not been eating well and recovered from childbirth yet. Even if she sells bean sprouts and bean curd, all she can provide for the family is porridge from a mix of bean curd dregs and powdered corncob and bean sprouts with salt for side dish. Since Mrs. Jung is not fed well, she does not produce enough break milk and her child whines all day due to hunger. She has to spare some liquid extracted from making bean curd and feed the baby with it little by little. Even worse, tap water is not provided sufficiently so she draws water from a river. Currently the river is frozen so she breaks the ice and draws water from the hole. Not knowing when the tap water will be available, she draws and secures water using all the water containers she can obtain. Rubbing the dry skin of her face with her chapped and coarse hands, Mrs. Jung however showed a faint smile saying that she needs to survive by any means for the sake of the baby.

[Accidents]
Suicide at Kim Jung-Suk Historic Site
On February 24 there was a suicide at Kim Jung-Suk historic site in Osanduk-Dong, Hoeryong City, South Hamgyong Province. The victim was Dae-Han Kim, who was a laborer in a factory making iron supplies. After his wife’s business went bankrupt and the family debt increased, Kim’s family lost their house and was evicted in August. His wife left him soon after, and he lived with a relative. In the fall, he started gathering grains in the farm or private field where the harvest was already complete. After the currency measure announcement, his relatives had a hard time living by themselves, and he had to leave the house. Since January, he stayed in the staff lounge of his workplace where he suffered from severe weather without heating. In February, he suffered from a cold for more than 10 days and eventually went up to the hill near the Kim Jung-Suk historic site and hanged himself from a white apricot tree. Osanduk-Dong is a historic place with a statue of Kim Jung-Suk and is sparsely populated. The following morning at 11:20 a.m., a ranger found Kim dead and reported it to the police substation. The police officer checked Kim’s residence and then informed his workplace. The factory did not hold a funeral. He was laid in a coffin and buried right away. Neighbors who were told the news are whispering that Kim killed himself filled with complaints about politics because the suicide happened at a historic place.

Leading Secretary of Kangwon Province Died in a Car Accident Heading to a Meeting in Pyongyang Last Year
Lee Chul-bong, the leading secretary of Kangwon Province, died in a car accident heading to Pyongyang at the age of 73. Lee was going to Pyongyang to attend a welcome meeting for laborers of the Sungjin Iron Works United Enterprise when his car lost control on the snowy road causing an accident on December 25. He held several posts during his career. He was head of the social security department of Jungmoowon (the highest level public administration institution) in 1984, head of the urban management department in 1989, general manager of politics in the national railroad administration of the cabinet from 1999 to 2005, and leading secretary of Kangwon Province in October 2006. He served as a congressman in the 8th to 12th terms in the Supreme People’s Assembly from 1986 to last March. Chosun Joongang TV reported his death on December 26.

North Korea Today No. 333 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]
Even Distributing Unpaid Salaries does not Improve Living Conditions

[Food]
At Sungjin Steel Mill in Gimchaek City, Starvation Means High Absenteeism
Military Units in Kangseo County Clash with Farmers

[Economy]
Ministry of the Metal and Industry Instructed “to Procure Food by Melting the Pig Iron and Selling the Cast Iron Products”
Growing Worker Starvation at Steel Mill and No Clear Solutions
Mill Decides to Barter Chinese Fertilizer with Hoeryong City in Return for Rice
Corn Trade with Gimchaek Steel Mill Leaves Little Left for Locals in Hoeryong

[Politics]
National Border Area, All out Inspection of Border Areas in February
Superior Officers Will Be Punished Upon the Occurrence of Defection

[Society]
Gimchaek Steel Mill, Number of Theft of Coke Increased Rapidly
Man’s Attempt to Support His Widowed Mother by Stealing Charcoal Results in Death

[Women/Children/Education]
Haeju City to Distribute War Reserve Supplies to Aid Kkotjebis

[Accidents]
High Fever Spreading at Jeongurrie Reeducation Center in Hoeryong and the Death Toll Keep Rising

[Editorial]
Cries and Lamentations Reverberate Across the Nation – Help is Urgently Needed!
__________________________________________________________
[Hot Topics]
Even Distributing Unpaid Salaries does not Improve Living Conditions
Factories and enterprises throughout the country have been distributing unpaid living expenses (salaries) to workers during the month of February. Workers in Hamheung City, South Hamgyong Province said that receiving salaries immediately after the currency exchange in November and December of 2009 was significant, because the amounts were converted at a rate of 100 won of the old currency to 1 won in new currency. After hearing that they would actually receive wages, workers enthusiastically showed up to work on their own accord. Before the resumption of wage payment, workers would have to be incited to return to work and would not show up unless compelled to do so. In hopes of earning higher wages, workers even began to offer bribes and tried to get as much work as possible, including those jobs they avoided earlier that require physical hardship and have greater risk.
With average prices increasing over 10-fold these days and the NKW’s value falling, even the new salaries do not significantly improve workers’ livelihood. Workers who received a payment for living expenses prior to New Year’s Day lamented, “We are not sure if they paid us to celebrate the New Year, but this is certainly not enough for New Year’s Day and we are not sure if it’s even enough to buy a decent meal.”

[Food]
At Sungjin Steel Mill in Gimchaek City, Starvation Means High Absenteeism
A month after the new currency was instituted, there is a significant decrease in the attendance rate at Sungjin Steel Mill in Gimchaek City, North Hamgyong Province. Households that were barely making a living are starving to death amid the current economic difficulties, another reason for lower attendance. There were only about 10 absences per workplace in early January, but these days about half of all employees fail to report for work. They no longer consider showing up for work to be a concern because they are starving to death. The party secretary of the Party Committee at Sungjin Steel United Enterprise holds meetings twice a week in order to increase worker’s attendance, but workers say, “These meetings are ineffective and a waste of time, as long as the food problem remains unsolved.”

Military Units in Kangseo County Clash with Farmers
In Kangseo County, South Pyongan Province, 6,500 tons of rice were earmarked for army provisions this year and subsequently provided to nearby military units. Most of the food was delivered to the new army divisions within the 3rd Corps, including the reserve forces division, the 9.1 training camp, and the antiaircraft artillery regiments. However, there are often disputes between support bureau officers and local grain enterprise workers concerning the moisture content of the received army provisions. Military units demand more rice, saying that the added moisture should not be counted toward the overall weight. Local grain enterprises refuse to subtract the moisture content. As the dispute intensified, high ranking officers of the support bureau raised the issue with their superiors, who immediately reported the problem to the corps headquarters. Corps headquarters subsequently discussed this issue with party officials of the South Pyongan Province Grain Administration Department. Officials from the province asserted that “Because of last year’s poor harvest, we could not provide any provisions to our people, even if they were starving to death. Honoring the military first policy, we are supplying provisions to the military units first, so please accept them as they are without disputing the moisture content.” Corps headquarters settled the issue by accepting the Province Officials’ recommendation. However, small disputes still occur in the field between military officers and the farmers.

[Economy]
Ministry of the Metal and Industry Instructed “to procure food by melting the pig iron and selling the cast iron products”
Ministry of the metal and industry promulgated the food related order to each province because several steel mill workers died of hunger during the last couple of months. The order instructed that “steel mills must resume food rationing by selling the cast iron products made by melting the pig iron to China.” Moreover, the order further instructed that they must receive rice – not money – when selling the products to China. The reason is to prevent the misuse of thus received money to some other purposes and to ensure not to sell the cast iron products if China does not give rice (China is recently controlling the rice). Unfortunately, the order was not effective since many Chinese companies could give money but not rice because of the permit issue. As a result, planned holiday food rationing by selling the cast iron products did not happen. Steel mill workers were highly disappointed because they expected to receive some provisions on 2.16 holiday.

Growing Worker Starvation at Steel Mill and No Clear Solutions
The Gimchaek Steel Mill in ChungJin City of North Hamgyong Province is facing difficulty proceeding with the first step of achieving the goals stated at the joint-editorial starting in March. Subsequent to the currency reform which took place late last year, they are unable to pay wages causing a shortage of laborers at the mill. They are desperately searching for a means to settle the food crisis after laborers have begun to starve to death as of mid-January. One worker at the Mill spoke his mind, “The standards of living for laborers are unutterable and many people are starving to death everyday. Upon their death, the Support Bureau of the Public Enterprises just provides funeral commodities, corn noodles, a few kilograms of rice and five liters of liquor” and stated that there are currently no concrete measures to solve the problems.

Mill Decides to Barter Chinese Fertilizer with Hoeryong City in Return for Rice
Gimchaek Steel Mill faced with the dire crisis of laborers starving to death has been denied the option of bartering steel with a trading partner in China in return for food as an industry policy. After much consideration, the Mill has struck a deal in which the Chinese trading partner provides Hoeryong city fertilizer and plastic covers and the Hoeryong City chairman of the Farm Management Council provide corns to the mill. Consequently, from February 12th to the 13th, they were able to secure 18 vehicles carrying the fertilizer. The Mill has been striving to get the food to its starving work force, committed to saving as many lives as possible. The vehicles available and the costs associated with the transport of the crops are being evaluated because the crops must be transported from each of the farms in Hoeryong. The food must arrive within two weeks in order to supply the food to its laborers efficiently. However, there is a concern that due to the rise in transportation costs there may be a restriction on the number of vehicles that can be used for this operation, otherwise ox carts may be used instead. The Support Bureau employees said that “It is impossible to cut the transportation time further, despite the desperate situation of the laborers,” and expressed a strong will to try their best.

Corn Trade with Gimchaek Steel Mill Leaves Little Left for Locals in Hoeryong
Hoeryong City has been distributing the fertilizer received from the Gimchaek Steel Mill to collective farms in its jurisdiction. The amount of corn handed to Gimchaek is proportional to the amount of fertilizer received, but the food supply given to Gimchaek amounts to one to two months of food reserved for the local residents. Residents have been complaining that the fraudulent report of the Party workers claimed that it met the 2009 crop production standards, seven thousand tons of grains are taken as army provisions, and now the barter with Gimchaek Steel Mill would cut further into their shares. The City Party and the People’s Council have been conferencing for measures to overcome the distribution issue, but there has been no fitting solution.

[Politics]
National Border Area, All out Inspection of Border Areas in February
The Central Party planned on January 27th that since the “National Border Area of North Hamgyong Province is the area where the number of defecting family is the largest, a more concentrated inspection will be starting in February.” Consequently, the Province Party of North Hamgyong Province is planning the inspection with the safety department and guards when the ice begins to melt starting from February 1st to the end of the month. A village in the vicinity of National Border Area is inspected everyday. Each night, the number of family members is checked, and if one is missing, they are investigated thoroughly and investigated again the next day. If the number of family members increases, the family would have to go to Police Station and get scrutinized whether they have evidence or not. The family can come back when all the questions are answered.

Superior Officers Will Be Punished Upon the Occurrence of Defection
Starting this year, if there is a defector in a factory or public enterprise, superior officers such as the party secretary of the public enterprise or the administrative manager will be punished. If there are many cases of defection, the party secretary of the relevant region and the factory manager will be discharged. Such a policy was brought into effect on January 4th of this year for the first time and was emphasized again on February 4th at the plenary meeting of each city and county party. The Central Party stated that the ideological work must be done more thoroughly in order to prevent the defection of the workers, and delivered an instruction to reinforce the role of the primary party secretary of the public enterprise. In addition, it emphasized that the national party cell secretaries and the field party must make sure that a defection would not occur among the members of the cell party (i.e. Workshop Union and the Youth Union) by summoning them to the workplace every day to arouse the ideological mind so they would not have any fantasies about China.
Kim Yong-Il, who works at the Automatic Production Unit of the ‘January 17’ Factory in Hoeryong City in North Hamgyong Province, was arrested while crossing the river on January 15th and was repatriated to North Korea. The City Party told the primary party secretary of the factory that he will be punished as he takes the responsibility for not properly educating the workers. On February 3rd, Huh Yong-Su, a worker at the Transportation Unit crossed the river followed by his wife and daughter who were captured. As the Huh Yong-Su Case occurs in addition to the Kim Yong-Il Case, the Organization Department of the City Party called the party secretary of the public enterprise and the secretary of the Transportation Unit and reprimanded them saying, “Take the joint responsibility as you mismanaged the education and the livelihood of the workers.” The primary party secretary of this factory has already received the first warning from the Party so he will not be able to avoid the discharge this time. In the afternoon of the following day, February 5th, the City Party called upon the officers of safety organizations and conducted an emergency meeting to prevent the "crimes" of defection. The City Party decided to temporarily organize a security patrol and inspect the living conditions and the ideological mindset of the workers in every factory and public enterprise in Hoeryong City starting with the ‘January 17’ Factory. This work is to identify those who are likely to defect. Namely, people who are suspected of at least one drug transaction or people who use a mobile phone are expected to be placed under scrutiny.

[Society]
Gimchaek Steel Mill, Number of Theft of Cokes Increased Rapidly

As the result of the difficulty of obtaining food, coke stealing has increased to a great extent at the Gimchaek Steel mill. This is because laborers try to solve the lack of provisions by selling the stolen cokes (solid fuel used in furnace). Cokes stealing is not the newest incident in the mill, but during the latest two months after the currency exchange, about 40% of laborers strive to live by selling raw materials. Although the atmosphere of the mill was filled with high spirit when Kim Jong-Il visited the mill last December and encouraged production of Juche steels, the death of starving laborers a few days after disturbed the order of the steel mill. There are an increased number of laborers who were arrested while selling stolen coke at a market and were interrogated at the Police Station for days.

Man’s Attempt to Support His Widowed Mother by Stealing Cokes Results in Death
Kim Younsik (20 years old), working at steel casting workplace in Gimchaek Steel mill in Chungjin, lived with his widowed mother and barely escaped starvation because of his mother’s business in the market. However, the business was no longer feasible after the currency exchange, and without the Steel Mill distributing rations, Mr. Kim and his mother survived on 1 kg of corn noodles for one and a half day. Finally, Mr. Kim began stealing cokes from the Steel Mill in order to provide food for himself and his mother. He sold 1kg of cokes for 500 won and bought ground corn to cook thin gruel. On February 12, 2010, Mr. Kim was stealing cokes along with three other colleagues when he was caught. As he attempted to escape over the frozen Sungchun River, the ice cracked and he fell into the icy water. Although his colleagues tried to save him, they could not do anything due to the darkness. At 10 a.m. the next day, police officers and the primary party officials recovered Mr. Kim’s body and his backpack full of cokes. His mother, who arrived after receiving the news, wept over her son’s body. Many people who were going to the market for the Lunar New Year celebration stopped to watch. Laborers who heard Mr. Kim’s news were angry. Kim Soochan (alias), who works at the Steel Mill, condemned government, saying “the Party, while ordering us to produce more Steel, is never concerned about our living and working conditions. The hard truth is that hunger pushes us to steal charcoal from the mill, so we end up losing our lives in the cold river with nobody left to take care of our mothers.” The bystanders also blamed government for the unfortunate situation, saying “Currency reform is no help to us. Instead we feel more aggrieved for them.”

[Women/Children/Education]
Haeju City to Distribute War Reserve Supplies to Aid Kkotjebis

Haeju City in the South Hwanghae Province held a meeting to prepare measures as the number of Kkotjebis increased rapidly recently. As it becomes more difficult to obtain food after the currency exchange, more families are selling all their belonging for rice and becoming Kkotjebis. While Kkotjebis were primarily children in the past, more adult Kkotjebis can be seen. As the number of Kkotjebis around train stations and markets increase, the city party reported to the provincial party that they could no longer handle it with the city’s welfare institutions and provisions. As deaths from starvation are on the rise not only in Haeju City but in other cities as well, Hwanghae Provincial Party decided to distribute war reserve supplies. However, the provincial party officials say reserve supplies are not enough to save the Kkotjebis and other desperate households. It was reported that more than five people have died of hunger every day for the last ten days. Jung Il-sun (alias), who went to the market to sell his VCR, said, “my family might become Kkotjebis soon because things have been so bad.” He said in tears, “I exchanged my old Hitachi color television for 18kg of corn noodles last month. I don’t think my VCR would be worth 5kg of corn noodles. I hate buying at a high price and selling at a low price, but getting something to eat is more important than anything else right now.” It is easy to see people like Mr. Jung who bring their home appliances to the market to bargain for food. It is happening not only in Haeju City but also in other major markets nationwide such as Pyongsung, Soonchun, Wonsan and Hamheung.

[Accidents]
High Fever Spreading at Jeongurrie Reeducation Center in Hoeryong and the Death Toll Keep Rising

Since January 10, high fever is spreading at Jeongurrie reeducation center In Hoeryong City, North Hamgyong Province. As a result, female inmates are dying one by one. Since February 5, the death toll has further increased so that five people on average (and up to 7 or 8 people) are dying every day. Male inmates are also dying, but female casualties are overwhelmingly large because there are 4.5 times more female inmates than the male ones; namely, female inmates are approaching 4,500 people while male inmates are about 1,100 people.
Since December of last year, people rarely visit them due to economic distress; in fact, there are virtually no visitors because of the H1N1 alert. As a result, the immunity of the inmates has further deteriorated. So far, they have received food and medicine from their families. However, since the supplies were disrupted, their bodies became weaker because of malnutrition and cold room temperature. Interior of the reeducation center has been dirty as ever and thus inmates are prone to a variety of diseases; recently, many people are dying because of the contagious flu. Currently, sick people are just waiting to be dead because they do not receive treatment. The reeducation center does not take any preventive action although inmates are dying in large numbers. They just set up a crematory and burn dead bodies to ashes in mass. The crematory facilities are old so that smell from crematoriums spread to surrounding areas everyday. People living in the nearby town smell the stink of death everyday and experience dread; most importantly, they shudder at the feeling of repulsion that they really do not want to live in this country.

[Editorial]
Cries and Lamentations Reverberate Across the Nation – Help is Urgently Needed!
Two biggest holidays in North Korea, the lunar New Year and February 16 holiday, are over. The authorities tried their best to boost the celebrating mood for the holidays, but the cries and lamentations still rock the whole nation. It seems that the leaders of North Korea turn deaf ears to the miserable cries of people facing the end of their lives.
Millions have died from starvation since the Arduous March, but the external aid and peoples' determination helped them get through the hardship only a short while ago. Now, however, due to failure of the authorities, valuable lives are being lost again. In the beginning of year 2010, there has been continuous news about the starvation not only from the infertile provinces of North and South Hamgyong and Kangwon but also from the bread basket provinces of North and South Hwanghae and North and South Pyoungan. The news is more shocking because death by starvation is occurring outside the period of "bori gogae," critical period in spring when the stored grains run out and new crop of barley not yet harvested.
The revaluation of currency was done under the pretext to improve the livelihood of people. It in fact had helped farmers who could not do any work due to hunger when the (government) distributed money up to 15,000 won per person. In a way, it had ended up handing over the pain to the city laborers who have not regularly received wages and ration. The result was, contrary to the Central Party's intention to induce economic development and to stabilize people's livelihood, exacerbated chaos in society and deprivation of the means to make a living, and it pushed people to death.
There is a hope though. The cabinet issued an apology about the chaos brought upon by the exchange of currency and decided that the banning of market activities will be completely lifted and any control should be stopped. If the (government) boldly admit its failures like this, there will surely follow a new start. Now is the time to stop harassing people with unrealistic policies derived from idealism, and to start implementing policies for the welfare of the people.
In order to overcome the current crisis of food shortage, the North Korean government should disclose the food situation and seek humanitarian aid from the international community. On the other hand, the international community and NGOs should not just wait for the North Korea's request for aid but to actively find out the extent of the food crisis and extend their aids. The media that deals with the news from North should also tell the situation vividly and in detail to solicit the attention of international community and to encourage humanitarian aids. The South Korean government and civilian organizations should provide food and medicine first over any other item. At present, immediate delivery of one ton of food is worth many times over the verbal guarantee to supply hundred-thousand tons of food under certain conditions. Hunger, malnutrition, infectious disease, tuberculosis, H1N1, etc. are going around in vicious circle and threaten the lives of North Koreans. Speedy humanitarian aids from the international community, South Korean government, and civilian organizations are urgently needed.

North Korea Today No. 332 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.]
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[Hot Topics]
The Central Party says, “Reopen the market as it used to be. No questions asked.”
Commoners Suffer because of Mistakes made by Economy Leaders, Inmin (People) Unit Meeting, Sinuiju

[Food]
In Sinuiju, the Government Distributes the Relief Provisions to Save the Poor

[Economy]
Food Distribution Price Readjusted, but Meaningless because there is no Distribution
Despite the Price Cap, the Frozen Market does not Respond

[Politics]
A Woman Arrested by the Security Department for saying “National policy went too far.”
Arrested Pyongsung Female Border Crossers to China Talked about Everyday

[Society]
Many who Died from Hunger had Pulmonary Tuberculosis
Frustration at 2.16 Holiday without Provision in Chungjin, Gimchaek Steel Mill
No mood to Celebrate Holidays
Construction Continues on a Holiday in Hoeryong City
Same Amount of Electricity Given During New Year Celebration in Sinuiju

[Women/Children/Education]
Number of kkotjebi (street kids) Keeps Increasing in Wonsan

[Accidents]
Fire Accident in Osandong, Hoeryong City

[Investigative Reports]
Background to Cabinet Prime Minister’s Apology

__________________________________________________________
[Hot Topics]
The Central Party says, “Reopen the market as it used to be. No questions asked.”
The Central Party Committee permitted the reopening of markets after it examined the report from the Economic Policy Investigation Bureau of the Central Party regarding the food situation and the conditions of residents across the country. The statement said, “Open all markets without any conditions as they used to be until the food distribution from the central government improves.” The statement also informed every law enforcement authority about “no restrictions or arrests regarding food-related circumstances.” Following the announcement, the Peoples’ Police Agency issued a special order to every police station in each province, city and military security office. “No control should be exercised over markets other than over illegal products. There should especially be no control over food.” The order included an instruction, “The police should not get into any altercation or provoke a quarrel with merchants. The police should also try to reconcile the merchants without getting involved in their arguments or arresting them.”

Commoners Suffer because of Mistakes made by Economy Leaders, Inmin (People) Unit Meeting, Sinuiju
In the morning of February 7, Sinuiju, North Pyongan Province, each inmin (people) unit in each district office held a meeting in which the topic was “With a sincere mind and optimistic view, each of us should be actively engaged in the battle to improve peoples’ lives.” After the currency exchange reform was announced, residents said, “The mistakes made by some economic leaders created unstable prices and insecure food situations, which brought suffering to peoples’ lives and led to economic trouble as well.” Therefore, it was announced that the price of food and necessities would be lowered as much as possible. In addition, the police said that they would not control food sales in markets until the lives of people became stable. They would also lift the ban of food outflow in each city and county. As a result, residents can sell food in markets openly as they used to do and go out to country farms to get food.

[Food]
In Sinuiju, the Government Distributes the Relief Provisions to Save the Poor

In Sinuiju, North Pyongan Province, the government expanded the investigation of actual food conditions of the residents to other villages because of a rapid increase in number of people who died of hunger in Soo Moon village. The results of the investigation showed that many households did not have grain at all, so the government distributed about 5kg to 25kg of the relief provisions to each neighborhood unit. However, there is no food rationing at all for the general population. The residents in Sinuiju clamored that “we can barely see grain now. I hope there would be food rationing by the February 16th holiday.”

The food crisis occurs in workplaces as well. Special institutions carried out full food rationing for their workers and households with mixed rice, corn, and beans, but regular workplaces failed to secure provisions to do the food rationing. For example, teachers in the Sinuiju University of Medicine still do not have food rationing this year. Workers in towel factories received some rice imported from China in December and January for their food rationing, but the amount is still unreasonably small. Gye-soon Lee (alias), who lives in South Sinuiju, said that eating is the most difficult problem. He said, “One of my neighbors has nine family members, but none of them receives food rationing. It is rare for my neighbors to eat small amounts (1.5kg) of rice. About half of my neighbors in our apartment complex eat corn noodles.” The Sinuiju City Party ordered that all confiscated foods after the currency exchange measure was announced must be returned to the original owners, but the police officers found it hard to implement the measure. A police officer said that there is no food left to give back. He said, “How foolish is it to believe that there are still confiscated provisions left? All of them were gone as soon as they came in.”

[Economy]
Food Distribution Price Readjusted, but Meaningless because there is no Distribution

Food distribution prices have been readjusted as follows: per kg basis, 24-25 won for rice, 9 won for corn, 13 won for crushed maize, and 10 won for corn noodle. It is reported that the Central Party recognized the reality of severe food crisis experienced by people so they wanted to stabilize people’s lives as quickly as possible by at least redefining and readjusting the food prices. Readjusted food prices are significantly lower than the current sales prices, but it is meaningless because there is no food distribution. Even in South Pyongan Province, Hwanghae Province, and South Hamgyong Province, which are the granaries of the country, people could not receive food distribution. The food shortages in inner regions aggravated because they had to meet the planned army provisions despite the poor harvest in last year. At present, only public enterprises affiliated with military and military families receive food distribution. Even for them, except for certain special classes, they suffer from the food shortages due to increasing food leakages during the food transportation and the class standing. Except for them, there is no food rationing to the general population.

Despite the Price Cap, the Frozen Market does not Respond
The Central Party nationally posted the price cap of more than 100 goods in each market. However, goods are actually sold in much higher prices despite the city and party officials’ vigilant efforts to enforce the Central Party’s instruction. In addition, since the goods are in short supply due to illiquid trades since the ban on the market operations, they even allow sellers selling previously unsold or defective goods. At present, more and more market transactions use foreign currencies such as Chinese Yuan and American Dollar instead of using the new domestic currency. The value of the new currency keeps on falling. Even if the price cap is lower than the current sales price, people still cannot afford to buy. The situation is not much different in government procurement stores; they also have difficulties selling goods because goods are in short supply and the prices are too expensive for goods entrusted by individual sellers. In Pyongsung, there are many government procurement stores that cannot even achieve 10% of the planned sales. Managers of some the government procurement stores request refunds in exchange for entrusted goods to the individual sellers because “they are too expensive to sell.” At present, individual sellers also do not have money so they respond that “just keep them there until sold.” Goods are still poorly circulated due to the chilled commerce, and the people also are having difficulties with buying foods since they are not earning money in their businesses. Since the enactment of the currency exchange measure, the market was only crowded when the government gave the relief money to the people so that they came out to buy household goods. Now, it is rare to find people who come to the market to buy something.

[Politics]
A Woman Arrested by the Security Department for saying “National policy went too far”

In Chungjin, North Hamgyong Province, there was an incident where a female merchant in Soonam market was accused of being a political offender for what was considered an inappropriate statement regarding the difficulty in trading caused by the currency revaluation. The female merchant has not been seen since she was called to the security department on February 3 after saying that people do not make purchases after the national measure because the prices are too high, and the high prices and slow business have made life even more difficult. Fellow merchants thought (the authorities) arrested her as an example to warn people to watch their words saying, “she thoughtlessly criticized the government, and (the authorities) are trying to track down reactionary words and handle this incident as treason as the first example.”

Arrested Pyongsung Female Border Crossers to China Talked about Everyday
In Jurye dong, Pyongsung City, South Pyongan Province, the story about the females arrested after crossing the border comes up in daily conversation. Kim Myonggeum (alias) from Jurye dong was arrested on January 20, two days after she crossed the border to China with the help of a relative. As her food ran out and had to skip meals frequently after the currency revaluation, she accepted a suggestion from a relative to be introduced to a man in China. Hearing that even dogs eat steamed white rice in China, the woman managed to borrow some money and went to Hoeryong. However, she hesitated because she had to pay too much money to cross the river. Eventually she crossed the river, only to be caught in two days. About 40 women and families have returned to Pyongsung for similar reasons. All of them were deported to a rural village near Pyongsung on the afternoon of January 31. People who watched them leaving to be exiled reported, “It appeared that they have been beaten so much that even walking was painful for them.”

[Society]
Many who Died from Hunger had Pulmonary Tuberculosis

According to the health department, most of those who died of starvation had pulmonary tuberculosis. Those who lived below the poverty line tended to have more cases of pulmonary tuberculosis, common cold, and influenza (flu) that were the cause of death. The death toll had reached 47,000 as of January 22nd based on the collected reports from each city and county. It is speculated that there are more people with pulmonary tuberculosis who haven't been diagnosed. The central party requested drugs for tuberculosis from the overseas enterprises. The medicines for tuberculosis were offered by a pharmaceutical company in Hong Kong. However, it has been put on hold due to a delayed process in China.

Frustration at 2.16 Holiday without Provision in Chungjin, Gimchaek Steel Mill
The workers of Gimchaek steel mill in Chungjin, North Hamgyong Province, expected some provision. But it turned out that no provision was distributed, which disappointed them. They complained that, "No provision was distributed even on the birthday of Kim Jung-Il. How could we survive? Is our county going to be bankrupt? How would this country remain without its people?" Some of the workers in Gimchaek steel mill were unable to purchase foodstuff to cerebrate the New Year holiday. Nearly every household barely survived with only two meals per day. In the meantime, Sungjin steel mill in Gimchaek City, North Hamgyong Province provided workers with a bottle of alcohol, 1,500g of wheat flour and 200g of corn oil.

No Mood to Celebrate Holidays
Chungjin market was quiet, with few people on the day before the New Year holiday. People were in no mood to celebrate the New Year holiday. The lack of enthusiasm about the New Year holiday can be attributed to the fact that residents barely survived because of the governments’ failure to distribute provisions. Many had tried to eat meat soup to celebrate the holiday even if they couldn't afford it, so meat used to sell relatively well. However, it was difficult to sell 10 kg of beef this year. Residents who used to purchase 1kg of pork, however, rarely buy even 500g of pork. Those who could afford it purchased at most 1kg of pork this year because of the increased meat price due to inflation and economic distress.

Construction Continues on a Holiday in Hoeryong City
The government criticized Hoeryong City in North Hamgyong Province, for delay in the completion of construction of kitchens. Therefore, to speed up work, the construction continued even during the holidays. The soldiers from the Army Corps of Engineers and Youth Special Labor Brigade mobilized to work took only the New Year holiday off and resumed their work on the 15th. Soldiers who had family were given beef stew, white rice, tofu soup, and 200g of alcohol at least one meal a day. The rest of the soldiers in low ranks were given a mix of corn and white rice in the ratio of 7 to 3 along with cabbage soup. The workers claimed staying on the construction site was harder than having the holidays taken away. Sleeping on the floors with no heating or thick blankets, they could not fall back asleep after 2 -3 am due to the freezing weather. Before, they could at least get by with help from the city council or factories. However, they do not even have that support anymore.

Same Amount of Electricity Given During New Year Celebration in Sinuiju
In Sinuiju, Northern Pyongan Province, no special electricity distribution took place during the New Year celebration. Normally, electricity runs between 6am -7am in the morning and between 9pm to 11pm at night. However, even during the holidays, electricity only came on around the same time, between 7pm-9pm or 9pm-11pm and no more. The citizens of Sinuiju finished their meals according to that time and spent the rest of the holiday in a dark room talking with family. One University student on Sinuiju claimed that he received 1kg of pork for 1000 NKW, which is cheaper than the usual market price of 1,200 NKW. Some affluent families had a nice holiday gathering with beef stew, but other families with no money could barely enjoy the New Year. Life is not easy for these poor families to begin with, but they expressed that they are becoming even more hopeless during the holidays.

[Women/Children/Education]
Number of kkotjebi (street kids) Keeps Increasing in Wonsan

The authorities of Wonsan City, Kangwon Province, are experiencing difficulties dealing with increasing number of kkotjebis (street kids) in train stations, bus stops, and other public places. One worker in Wonsan said that 70 or more street children are showing up at restaurants and either begging for food or stealing it from others. With so many street children there is not enough room in the homeless shelters for all of them and unfortunately, the number is increasing. The majority of the children are from the ages of 9 to 13, and the number of younger children is slowly increasing.

[Accidents]
Fire Accident in Osandong, Hoeryong City
On February 13th at 11:00pm, a fire began at Mr. Kim’s home on the 3rd floor in Hoeryong City, Osandong, North Hamgyong Province. Kim’s children jumped out off the back porch with fortunately no injuries, while Mr. Kim was burned when he tried to take his money from the closet, leaving him with 3rd degree burns. He was quickly taken to a hospital but his life was already in critical condition. The fire occurred when Kim’s gasoline container accidentally caught on fire. By the time the fire department got there it was too late to do anything. The fire was almost out and it had affected other homes around it. There are a lot of damages done, but there is no compensation plan for this situation.

[Investigative Reports]
Background to Cabinet Prime Minister’s Apology
In early February, the cabinet minister made a public apology at a plenary meeting with the heads of Neighborhood Unit and People’s council officials that “From the time currency exchange until early New Year, prices of goods at state-run stores were incorrectly set and that caused confusion and instability in people’s lives.” The cabinet minister’s statement was an official announcement on the part of North Korean authorities asking for people’s understanding on societal confusion caused by currency exchange.

1. The Background to the Statement: Commotions on the part of provincial party officials and people
The series of new economic measures such as prohibition of foreign currency after currency revaluation and closure of general market can be viewed as an attempt to regress toward centralized planned economic system. This is putting a break in a type of decentralized economy where provincial parties established on their own after going through the Arduous March in the 1990s. Provincial parties could not simply sit and watch their own people starving, so they allowed schools, hospitals, and enterprises to do small patch farming and overlooked people trading in the market as well. They enforced crackdowns whenever the Central Party intervened, but all for the sake of a formality. As a result of allowing people to make a living with their own effort, the provincial economy became stable as well. Since the 7.1 economic measures in 2002, provincial economy continued to be strong and in the name of practical socialism, production and distribution in each factory and enterprise became market driven. However, the new economic measure rapidly deteriorated people’s lives and the provincial party official who relied on them also took the blow. This is the situation where people’s and officials’ ideological commotion should be of concern. Since the failure of normalization attempt in October 2005, the Central Party’s control has been strengthened through closure of market, ban on patch farming, ideological inspection of provincial party officials and import-export officials. Nevertheless, considering the fact that the power of central control has been weakened, the commotion among provincial party officials and people is a serious problem for the Central Party. Moreover, under the current situation of serious food shortage not during the time of spring lean season, the commotion in people’s mind is serious enough to cause a feeling of crisis on the part of the Central Party.

2. Questions on the part of Provincial Officials
There was a need for the Central Party to listen to problems of provincial officials and to impart confidence to them. The provincial officials questioned on two major issues in the meeting as well.
First, was that really a well thought-out measure?
The provincial party officials focused on the issue of the feasibility of the centralized supply system after closing the markets. They have the suspicion that deterioration of people’s livelihood and the ensuing societal chaos was because the cabinet closed markets without sufficient prior preparation.
Second, is distribution of food possible?
The question is whether distribution is really possible. Not receiving distribution for a long time resulted in the number of people dying of starvation each area and people’s reaction is getting stronger. Therefore, the provincial party is under enormous pressure. If things go wrong, there is a possibility of recurrence of tragic food shortage that happened in the middle of 1990s. Also, breakout of starvation among poor people in urban area leading to social unrest cannot be ruled out. This is a burden to the provincial party which is responsible for maintaining the control of regional area. In the case of Pyongyang, the rationing system will become normalized, but the food situation is uncertain in the Province. As such, their agony deepens.

3.The Central Party’s Position: “We admit the confusion, but the direction is right.”
The position of the Central Party is that they admit the rapid deterioration of people’s livelihood and the confusion, but the direction of the new economic measures was right. The Cabinet Prime Minister, Kim Young-il said in the meeting, “There was an element of radical enforcement, but the direction was right. We can resolve the problems soon. So, please be more patient.” It was a plea for understanding and trust for the Party because they will soon alleviate the food problem and revitalize the goods supply system. Previously, their attitude was “once the Party makes a decision it will be carried out.” Now, the new attitude is that of solacing people’s sentiments, saying “The Party’s direction is right. Please be more patient and follow our direction.” Despite such unprecedented effort, the Central Party is unable to regain the trust of provincial party officials and people who did not receive clear answers to the issues of food distribution and securing of food.
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