GoodFriends: Research Institute For North Korean Society

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North Korea Today No. 354 July 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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Strict Control on Residents Using Cell Phones on Mountains in Hoeryung
Hoeryong city Implements Stricter control over Illegal cell phone Usage because of Recent Propaganda Leaflet incident
Tightened up Security Checks at Chungjin, Heoryung, Onsung in North Hamgyong Province
Pyungsung National Border Security Command Implemented Night Vision Goggle Operation Training

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Strict Control on Residents Using Cell Phones on Mountains in Hoeryung
Moon Ji-Young (alias, age: 37), a member of Democratic Women’s Union of KangAn-dong in Hoeryung city, was arrested by security officers when she went on Sopoong Mountain on June 25 to call her relative in China. Due to increased control on cell phone use, she could not make a phone call in the city. Sopoong Mountain, located behind Hoeryung city police station, is a popular destination among residents because its elevation facilitates cell phone use. Noticing this phenomenon, the security department placed security officers in every corner to check passers-by whose attire looks unsuitable for small plot farming. Ms. Moon also got arrested in this way right on the spot while making a phone call. She confessed that despite knowing cell phone use was illegal she had to make a phone call to her relative for help because her family was starving.
More than ten people got arrested while using cell phones from June 10 to 25. National Security Department and the City Security Department are tracking down cell phone users who make international phone calls to China and strengthening the educational ideology campaign during the first half of this year. Residents are complaining against the severe control and appealing for condoning of phone calls for economic help. However, the authority regards cell phone use makes misleading rumors spread out, which gives wrong images of the nation. The authority is determined to crackdown on cell phone use even harder.

Hoeryong city Implements Stricter control over Illegal cell phone Usage because of Recent Propaganda Leaflet incident
On June 25th, around 3am, propaganda leaflets were scattered throughout many streets of Hoeryong city, North Hamgyong province. Most of the leaflets were found in “heavy-traffic” streets such as Sanupdong food street construction sites, bus terminals to and from Chungjin city, and Osandong grocery stores. The front of a leaflet is a copy of new 5,000 won bill showing the portrait of the late Chairman Kim Il-Sung, and the back of a flyer contains a handwritten propaganda stating that “North Korean society is a hell for most of the people and a paradise only for few high-ranking officials” and “do not suffer anymore and come over to the Republic of Korea.” Rangers patrolling the construction sites found the leaflets at issue and immediately reported to the police station, and the police station reported to the City Party immediately. The City Party promptly notified the relevant safety bureaus such as the security department, police station, and the public prosecutors office. Around 4am, they thoroughly searched even to the small alleys to collect the leaflets before dawn. They collected 60 leaflets in total, but suspect that there may be more uncollected flyers. So, they urged people to make a pledge that they shall not see nor disseminate the leaflets. The City Party propaganda department et al. received hand-written pledges from people pledging that “they shall not see the reactionary political propaganda and they shall immediately return the leaflets when found.” Meanwhile, because of this propaganda leaflet incident, the city safety bureaus that focus on the illegal cell phone usage control decided to initiate the national investigation program with the help of the Provincial and the National Party. Starting from July 4th, investigators from the National Security Agency, the Defense Security Command, and other special agencies came to the city for the special mission. They will participate on the investigation program until the propaganda leaflet incident at Hoeryong city is resolved. The Safety Bureaus at issue suspect that South Korea intentionally did it, and thus they enforce even stricter control over those who use cell phone, cross the river, or help crossing the river. The situation is very tense due to the propaganda leaflet incident, so the people are troubled and anxious. The radio detection department under the National Security Agency newly installed the state-of-the-art radio detector in Hoeryong city. A new detector performs well in identifying the location of cell phones when used. Prompted by this political incident, Hoeryong city is determined to eliminate the illegal cell phone usage.

Tightened up Security Checks at Chungjin, Heoryung, Onsung in North Hamgyong Province
Security checks at Chungjin-Heoryung-Onsung, North Hamgyong Province has been tightened since last May. There are three security check points between Chungjin and Heoryung; and anyone who passes through the checkpoint needs to show travel certificate, proof of citizenship and identification card in addition to baggage check. Because they perform a body search for travelling residents from inner part of the country including South Hamgyong Province and South Pyongan Province, it would take at least 30 minutes to 1.5 hours for complete inspection. They crackdown anyone with expired certificate or have no clear birth place. Inspectors in the three check points are notorious for harsh inspection to seize money or merchandise. Residents try not to give up at first but end up giving cigarettes or money so the inspectors would let them go.
Since a period of all-out crackdown of drug trafficking near the border district area in effect, inspection has been more tightened. Last May 23, a woman merchant on a bus was caught carrying 300g of ‘ice’ (methamphetamine) at the check point of the Providential Security Department. Now, inspectors are not hesitant to do a body search in the name of drug trafficking enforcement purpose including stripping women’s underwear which is creating public rage. In order to capture a few drug trafficking women, a large number of women are suffering from the insult and humiliation.

Pyungsung National Border Security Command Implemented Night Vision Goggle Operation Training
Pyungsung National Security Command began the night vision goggle operation training from last April 18. The National Security Command distributed 1,200 night vision goggles and had them practice. After completing training on May 4, they began using night vision goggles on site and had one trained soldier to manage the devices for each check point. The night vision goggles distributed are the 300-400m short distance type. The National Security Command emphasized “We spent lots of reform money to import these from foreign countries in order to eliminate invasion of spies and enemies so we need to fully strengthen the security checkup in the border district” They also promised, “We will continue to strengthen the national border blockade project and we will fully reinforce border control.”

North Korea Today No. 353 July 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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North Hamgyong Province Party Holds Daily Meetings to Cope With Hunger Death
Most
of 230 Deaths in Heungnam Between February and June are Due to Starvation
Onsung County Border Guards Instructed, “Take what you can take from those crossing the river to China and then report them.”
[Editorial]
Use Rice as Animal Feed while Our Own Brethren Die of Hunger?
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North Hamgyong Province Party Holds Daily Meetings to Cope With Hunger Death Going into July, there are still no signs of solution to the starvation crisis in North Hamgyong Province. Therefore, the Provincial Party has been busy holding meetings to solve the crisis. In Chunjin, the Party is taking steps to renew and extend the closing hours of the businesses. Though the General Market closes at 7 in the evening, those who wish to continue business are allowed to do so outside the Market or in a nearby area. The thought of being able to buy corn when they sell more goods motivates the business people to continue working late into the night. More active business people are also said to have lit a gas lantern to continue working into the night. However, the Provincial Party does not have a clear solution to end the hunger crisis. As such, the Party officials and the factory and enterprise managers have been trying to visit their relatives in China or looking for any individuals who have trade experience with China. At the moment, the Party is directing all of its efforts to importing food from China.

Most of 230 Deaths in Heungnam Between February and June are Due to Starvation
The Residential ID Registration Department of the Heungnam Police Station in the South Hamgyong Province compared the residents’ preexisting residential ID cards against the Residence Registration Numbers before the new residential ID cards are issued. The comparison showed that from February to June 15, 230 people died in the various areas including the farming areas. The family members of the dead commonly cited diseases followed by a long period of starvation as the main cause of death of their family members. The family members said that those who died would have been able to live a little longer even with such diseases if they had been given some kind of nutrition, but they eventually died of hunger because they could not eat well for such a long time. This severe food shortage situation is not only occurring in Heungnam but also in nearby areas such as Hamheung, Shinpo, and Kowon in the South Heungnam areas. The suffering Hamheung residents say, “Our people are filled with so much anger and live with so many difficulties. We are probably the only country in the whole world where the people are starving to death or struggling to survive even without raw corn to eat.” Even the Hamheung Party officials criticized the former Party Leading Secretary, Tae Jongsu, who falsely reported that there are no starving people in South Hamgyong Province. They also lament, “We thought there would be some improvements regarding the food crisis after the Central Party grasped that many people were starving to death, but nothing has changed.”

[Table] The Exchange Rate and Food Price Trends for the Third Week of July in Hamgyong Province








Onsung County Border Guards Instructed, “Take what you can take from those crossing the river to China and then report them.”
Cases of people trying to cross the river to China at night are ending up dead are still continuing from time to time. In mid-May, a family of five consisting of a young couple, their two children, and an elderly, were swept away by the current and drowned as they tried to cross the Tumen River near the Joowon district, Onsung-Eub, Onsung County in North Hamgyong Province. It was revealed that this family had sold their home and property beforehand and established a connection with the Border Guard. When the Border Guard officials educate the guards, they emphasize, “Whoever bribes you to cross the river, you should take whatever you can take from them but make sure you report them.” However, they were told to make arrest immediately of anyone who they think is involved in espionage without taking bribes. Around the time that the family of five died, a man who sold news, pictures, and video clips about North Korea’s domestic affairs to South Korea was arrested. However, the man accused a Border Guard officer of having helped him of this crime, so the officer was arrested by the National Security Agency. The Border Guard officials re-emphasize that even when the guards are taking the money from the residents, they should always be careful not to be accused of national treason.

[Editorial]
Use Rice as Animal Feed while Our Own Brethren Die of Hunger?

On July 6 the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Fishery, and Food announced that to relieve the problem of rice overstock it is actively exploring a plan to convert the surplus rice, a crop of year 2005, to animal feed (at a rate of) about 30,000 ton a month, a total of 360,000 ton, and distribute them. Due to long storage, the quality of the rice had deteriorated and it is not suitable for human consumption. Other than using them to make rice drink, there is no other usage.
In South Korea a proper level of reserve rice is about 720,000 tons, but the current reserve is about 1,400,000 tons. The cost to maintain the reserve alone is about 42 billion won. Good harvest in recent years contributed to the surplus reserve rice but the main cause would be the changing patterns of diet and subsequent decrease in the demand for rice.
Another contributing factor for increased reserve is that the current administration suspended food assistance program to North Korea. The previous administration used domestic rice for the North Korea food support program despite the fact that the domestic rice price (1.74 million won ($1,783) per ton) was about five times higher than international commodities market price ($330/ton) in order to resolve the problem of reserve rice, to prevent the price drop, to reduce the cost to maintain the reserve, and as a means to support the domestic farmers. If the food support to North Korea continues to be suspended, surplus rice is expected to be about 15 tons per year.
When the minimum consumption amount (per person) figure is used, the shortage of food in North Korea is estimated about 1.09 million to 1.4 million tons while the total amount would be 2.29 million to 2.6 million tons. Even when the South Korean administration's estimate is used, the shortage is above 1 million ton. However, as the actual harvest in North Korea falls far below the administration's estimate, the shortage could reach more than 2 million tons. Since the currency exchange, food situation had severely deteriorated, and the North Korean government had issued 5.26 Party Directives, which announced that as the food shortage cannot be solved by the government on short term, the residents should resolve the food issues by themselves.
In one side, people are going to use rice as animal feed because there is too much surplus, while people are dying of hunger because there is nothing to eat in the other. We would like to ask this: no matter how difficult South-North relations are and no matter how confrontational the situation is, does your conscience allow you to feed surplus rice to animals while your own people are dying of hunger? We also like to ask whether the current administration's stance to never supply rice to North Korea unless the South-North relations are improved would be morally justifiable. Is this really the way to love North Koreans, and is this the only way to achieve unification? Even if unification is achieved, what good is it when the people have been neglected?
A bowl of warm rice could melt hardened heart, restore health, and prolong life. For us it is a way to get rid of surplus rice but for the hungry North Koreans it would be a tonic of life even if it is not made of a new crop of rice. When this surplus rice are sent to North Korea and consumed by them, it would bring strength to their weakened body, restore health, and thaw the frozen South-North relations. It would also give hopes to the exhausted North Korean brethren that "there are none better than my own people." Who would extend a helping hand now if not us? If we wish unification, there could be no better unification policy than to earn the hearts and minds of North Koreans now. It is ardently hoped that to support South Korean farmers and to give life to the North Koreans, the South Korean government should immediately carry out the humanitarian food aid program to North Korea.

North Korea Today No. 352 July 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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The Rice Price Goes Up Along With Sudden Increase of Foreign Exchange Rate in Chungjin
Operation of Market Prohibited Nationwide in Commemoration of the 16th Anniversary of Late Kim Il-Sung
75% of Workers at July-Seventh Enterprise at Eunduk County Cling to Small Plot Farming
Pyongyang city Reduces its Administrative Districts
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The Rice Price Goes Up Along With Sudden Increase of Foreign Exchange Rate in Chungjin
The foreign exchange rate in Chungjin is skyrocketing in July. On July 1st, 1 renminbi was 142 won, and it has jumped to 168 won on the fifth. The exchange rate for a dollar was increased by 170 won, and became 1,180 won per dollar. As the foreign exchange rate skyrockets, the price of rice goes up along with it. The price of rice, which had been staying around 500 won, has increased to around 800 won, and the price of corn has also increased from 350 won to 400 won. This problem is not only for Chungjin. In Hamheung, the price of rice was 800 won while the price of corn has increased up to 450 won on July 8th. As to the reason for the value of the foreign currency increase, an officer of Chungjin City says, “Since the 5.26 Directives, people were asked to find their own ways to survive, so they are trying to finance the goods as much as possible from everywhere. Since our currency does not have credit, only the value of the foreign currency is increasing. As the value of the foreign currency is increasing, the price of rice goes up along with it”. On the other hand, the residents of Chungjin City sigh as the price of food goes up, saying that they do not know what they will do to support themselves and how they will be able to get through this year.

[Table] The Exchange Rate and the Price of Food in Chungjin on the First Week of July







Operation of Market Prohibited Nationwide in Commemoration of the 16th Anniversary of Late Kim Il-Sung
As the 16th anniversary of the death of its founder Kim Il-Sung is approaching on July 8th, the Central Party delivered an instruction prohibiting the operation of the market to the cities and counties nationwide. Each region received the instruction and began to regulate the market since the day before. In Hoeryong of North Hamgyong Province, even the great numbers of people who make a day’s earning around the market were regulated.
The residents of Hamheung, South Hamgyong Province, snorted at the instruction of the Party that stated “As a token of commemoration, do not express laugh and live the day with a grieving heart”. As the price of food increased up to 800 won approximately, the residents say, “Even if the Party does not compel us not to laugh, we do not laugh.” “A daily food, regardless of whether it is sufficient or not, can be prepared only by operating a market, and they are banning the commerce; I cannot laugh even if I would be forced to laugh,” sighs Choi, Young-Mi (alias), who lives in the area of Sungchun River.

75% of Workers at July-Seventh Enterprise at Eunduk County Cling to Small Plot Farming
It is reported that 75% of workers at July-Seventh Enterprise are clinging to small plot farming. There was no food distribution at this factory during the past two months in May and June. The workers are barely feeding themselves with two meals of porridge made of mixture of corn powder, artemeiia, and wild herbs. After being informed by the County Party about the 5.26 directives, the workers completely gave up on the possibility of food distribution and immersed in finding side jobs, and relatively easy to find is small plot farming. Up until last year that was not an easy work because it had to be done in hiding. The number of workers who engage in small plot farming has gone up because the ban on small plot farming was lifted this year.

Pyongyang city Reduces its Administrative Districts
The Central Party issued an order regarding Pyongyang city’s population reduction and district restructuring. The Pyongyang City Party met for the issue of restructuring four counties and reached a conclusion to keep Kangdong county and transfer Junghwa, Kangnam and Sangwon counties to other regions. Those three counties were included to North Hwanghae Province except for the Sangwon Cement Factory in the middle of Sangwon county. Therefore, the factory remained to belong to Pyongyang City. Originally, Kangdong county was also discussed to be excluded from Pyongyang administration, but the fact that it has one of Kim Jong-Il’s vacation villas saved it. In those counties excluded from Pyongyang, the authorities are collecting people’s Pyongyang ID card and issuing new resident ID. In response to the new situation of complicated demography, police stations also restructured themselves to increase public security starting from June. The security guard troops are now called security guards departments and their rank is also downgraded from army officers to noncommissioned officers. Security guards have always been treated as noncommissioned officers rather than security officers, and now they are officially called as what they actually are.
When asked why the administrative district reduction measure is implemented only now, an official of the Central Party answered that it is because “Pyongyang city is experiencing food supply problems due to the food crisis”. The current food crisis of 2010 is too serious to ignore and to delay the needed decision. Pyongyang has to be protected because it is the nation’s capital and the center of politics; and the city authority is receiving a continuous stream of reports of failed food supply. On the other hand, this measure also aims to manage the city more complete and pleasant for the 2012 Strong and Prosperous Nation. Pyongyang is always better managed and groomed because of the presence of many foreign embassies in the city. If sufficient efforts are made to groom the downtown, it would look much cleaner and beautiful. According to him, the population reduction and administrative district restructuring was in summary ‘for smooth food supply to Pyongyang’ and ‘for better management of Pyongyang’.

North Korea Today No. 351 July 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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Recruit Women as Officials Instead of Incompetent Men
Ministry of Education Orders No More Field Days
Despite Ministry of Education’s Order, North Hamgyong Provincial Party Enforces Field Day
What Do Children Do When They Miss School?
“School? I Should Be Earning Money for Corn.”
“It was a shock to see a fellow luggage carrier die of starvation.”
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Recruit Women as Officials Instead of Incompetent Men
A Central Party policy calling for "Recruiting women as the Nation's officials and train many women to become Party secretaries and managers of province, city, county, factory, enterprise" is handed down. Since it was mentioned on January 20 for the first time it was repeated four times until February. The provinces as well as the Central Party and the ministries under the Cabinet are not exceptions. It was urged that incompetent men should be either fired or reduced and recruit women between the ages of 25 and 35 who were discharged from the military or party members who graduated from college or professional school as officials. As such, the Party took it up as one of the main policies to be implemented, and initiated the "Recruitment and Training of Women as the Nation's Officials" project since February.

In case of North Hamgyong Province 13 women who were discharged from the military and joined the Party with college degrees were recruited and assigned to Party positions. The Provincial People's Council of North Hamgyong Province also newly appointed 15 of them as the directors, associate directors, and members, and the City and County Party also assigned women at the director level administrative positions. In case of Hoeryong City a large number of women were appointed as officials including the head of the kitchen equipment factory, factory manager, and Party secretary. The Central Party made a statement on the policy of recruiting women as officials that "For the past few years the problems of officials abusing their power and position and misappropriate government resources as well as exploiting citizens for personal gain in disregard of the society and the collective well being of people were pervasive." As such, it is expected that the problems would be ameliorated as they assign women who are familiar with people's living conditions in place of male officials who are incompetent and preoccupied with personal gains.

Ministry of Education Orders No More Field Days
On May 9, Ministry of Education announced, “Schools should no longer have any spring field day.” This announcement was made to reduce the financial burden on parents as many of them are suffering financially after the currency reform. Furthermore, it appears that a spring field day will be difficult to hold as the student attendance rate dropped by more than half due to growing number of starving households.

The party of the North Hamgyong Province visited elementary and middle schools to assess student attendance in Songpyong and Ranam districts of Chungjin and realized that student attendance rates were less than half. Ordinarily, a class usually has 30-35 students, but currently most classes have only 10 -12 students. Because many parents cannot feed their children or afford to pay extra 2,000 won a month as non-tax burden, they stopped sending their children to school. Parents are saying, “What’s the use of education when we have a miserable life? They do not need to study.” Because the authorities blame teachers for the low attendance rate, teachers wander the markets or visit parents’ homes to avoid the criticism. While they try at first to coax the parents into sending their children school, it often escalates into an argument. Ae-kyoung Jung (alias), who is a middle school teacher at Pohang district complains, “It is really difficult to visit all the parents of students who miss school. I need to sell noodles at the market after school to support my family, but I waste so much time meeting parents.” Jung’s colleague was severely criticized for saying that he could not meet the parents. This occurrence is not unique to Chungjin but a common occurrence across the country.

Despite Ministry of Education’s Order, North Hamgyong Provincial Party Enforces Field Day
The Ministry of Education had sent out directives to discontinue field day, but it was discovered that some of the schools were still having field days. On the surface, their reasons have been that they did not want to disappoint the children who have been anticipating the event. However, the real reason for continuing field day activities is because it is a chance to receive money and food. For field day, some well-off families treat teachers with various kinds of food, cigarettes, and alcoholic beverages, while others go as far as to slip 1,000 to 5,000 NKW. Consequently amongst teachers, field day has now become a day of making extra money and they happily await the arrival of field day. The North Hamgyong Provincial party announced that “elementary schools should hold their field days on May 15th”, violating the Ministry of Education’s orders. Thus, on May 15th, elementary schools of North Hamgyong Province simultaneously carried out their field day activities by abiding by the provincial party’s orders. On the day before field day, the marketplace benefitted from this event, showing that a lot of eggs, pork, snacks, and other groceries were sold. However, this year’s event was a flop compared to last year’s due to the drastic decrease in participants and students leaving for home after morning activities for lunch. At Eunjung Elementary School located in Ranam, a region located in the city of Chungjin, some students were fortunate enough to bring gourmet lunches such as rice, bean sprouts, spinach, meat, rice cake, and twisted bread sticks, all of which are rare treats. However, all of this was not enough to feed even one-third of the student body. At the teacher’s discretion, some students shared with less fortunate students, but this was not the case for most classrooms that day. Students who could not pack lunches went home early and this was reported to the principal later, which led to many teachers being criticized for their lack of judgment and irresponsibility for not distributing the food amongst the class. At the end of the day, teachers who did not distribute the lunches stayed behind to listen to lectures.

What Do Children Do When They Miss School?
What do children who miss school due to poor living conditions do with their time? Children who are old enough to take care of themselves search for food. During this time of the year the growth of herbs and plants is abundant, so they go to the mountains and fields to collect edible plants. Middle school students are more active about earning money. In Pyongsung and Soonchun in the South Pyongan Province, many middle school students get paid working as bicycle cabbies. Of course, this is possible only if they have a bike, but once they are able to ride a bike, they work diligently. Because the pay increases depending on the distance, many students try to find customers with longer distances.

Many children trying to earn money are also seen at train stations. When the train arrives, they approach the passengers, offering to transport their luggage. They want to carry the passengers’ luggage and earn a little bit of money. Children with carts busily look for customers alongside adults doing the same business. It is likely that these children do not earn much, but they say they have no intention of going back to school. They say they cannot concentrate in class on empty stomachs. They also do not like being compared to rich children, so it is much better to work and get something to eat rather than to sit in class.

So why do children mostly work in the luggage carrier business? When the passengers get off the train, they need luggage carriers because there are no other forms of transportation. Furthermore, children are cheaper and more trustworthy than adults. The adult carriers do not like the children because they have to compete with children for work. Consequently, there is discord between children and adult workers who try to drive them away. However, children are able to get some work when the train is carrying a large number of passengers.

“School? I Should Be Earning Money for Corn.”
A teenager who works at Hamheung train station in South Hamgyong Province complained that luggage carrier work using cart has not been paying well. The decline in the number of merchant travelers following the 2009 currency revaluation is the main reason for the lack of work. Chul-hwan Kim (alias), completed the second year of middle school before dropping out last spring. He said, “Last year, I would sometimes earn up to 20,000 won a day (before the currency revaluation). I used to make at least 8,000 won a day, but since all merchants have gone bankrupt, people who ride trains or carry heavy luggage have become scarce.” He admitted that his pay is not enough to buy 1 kg of rice and said that 3,000 won is considered a lot these days. Despite the hardship, Kim smiled, saying that if he works all day, he makes enough money to buy 1 kg of corn. At times like this, a person who can afford to eat corn noodles it is considered fortunate.

When asked if he wanted to go back to school, Kim said no without hesitation, explaining that his mother’s food peddling business is nowhere near sufficient to sustain their household. He said he was lucky to be established in the luggage carrier business because he had dropped out of school early. Kids who dropped out this spring have not been able to find a way to earn income.

“It was a shock to see a fellow luggage carrier die of starvation.”
Jung-hyuk Cho (alias), who seeks work at the Shinsungchun train station in Sungchun County, South Pyongan Province, is 16 years old. He dropped out of school last winter and took on a job as a luggage carrier when his father grew very ill. Although his job was inherited from his father, he said he is having a difficult time because there is not enough business. Most of the time, he waits aimlessly for a customer at the train station, and when he is lucky enough to get a customer, the distance is too short to make adequate amount of money. But Cho, who eats nothing but watery corn gruel, doubted he would have enough energy to handle a long distance customer even if he encountered one. Other luggage carriers waiting at the station are not faring any better. Most lie down while waiting because they do not have much energy.

Cho talked about Mr. Kim, who also worked as a luggage porter. Kim, who had not eaten for two days straight, was seen lying down in the luggage cart. Cho initially thought Kim was resting, but it turns out that he was dead. Cho said he was completely shocked to witness an incident that he had only heard about before. Because Kim was a good friend of his father, Cho said he was very hesitant to tell his ill father about Kim's fate. Although the Shinsungchun train station has a large number of travelers, the luggage carrier job does not provide an adequate living, and everyone spends their days in desperation, he said.

North Korea Today No. 350 July 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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Relatives of Park Nam-Ki Transferred to the 22nd Detention Center in Hoeryong
Price of Salt more than 8 Times Higher for Households in the 16th Hwasung Detention Center
Kkotjebis are Gathering Again at Shinsungchun Station
Kkotjebis at Shinsungchun Murdered a Female Vendor for her Knapsack

[Editorial]
North Korea Should Abolish Its Public Execution Practices
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Relatives of Park Nam-Ki Transferred to the 22nd Detention Center in Hoeryong
On June 14th, relatives of Park Nam-Ki, former Minister of National Planning and Financial Affairs, who was executed after taking blame for the currency exchange debacle last year, and relatives of other relevant officials – a total of 34 households – were all transferred to the 22nd detention center within the Hoeryong Unit under the instruction of the 3rd office of the National Security Agency. They were allowed to carry simple luggage such as bedding and toiletries under the control of the People’s Safety Agency, but that has changed since they were transferred to the detention center. A cadre of the Safety Bureau reported that “all of them, including the sick, were transported in prisoner transportation vans (with roofs) under the pretext of attending an evening meeting.” He also added that “they were transported discretely in the middle of the night so as not to provoke international outcry regarding North Korea’s violations of human rights.” The 22nd detention center is located in Hoeryong city; 8 prisoner transportation vans and 3 fully armed military trucks were used for the transportation at issue.

Price of Salt more than 8 Times Higher for Households in the 16th Hwasung Detention Center
Rules under the aegis of the 16th unit Safety Agency of Hwasung County of North Hamgyong Province are different from those under the control of the National Security Agency. Inmates are mainly offenders who committed economic crime or relatives of fugitives who have fled to South Korea. Although quarantined, they could watch television and engage in farm work for pay. Households that are able to work make their living off of the earnings, but families that are not able to work mainly eat porridge. Last May and June, they suffered because there was a lack of basic foods such as soy sauce, soybean paste, and salt. Families in quarantine cannot go out and obtain salt. Taking advantage of this situation, wives of the detention center officials would acquire salt from markets outside and sell them to the detained families at a much higher price. Shin, Myong-hee (alias), a family member of a detention center official said that she buys salt at 70 won per kg and sells 1 kg for 3 kg of corn to the families at the detention center, which earns more than eight-fold profit.

Kkotjebis are Gathering Again at Shinsungchun Station
Many travelers gather at Shinsungchun Station at Sungchun County in South Pyongan Province because of its proximity to a triangular junction extending over the east, south, and north. Because of the large number of travelers, many kkotjebis (wandering homeless) from different regions flock to the station and stay there permanently. Despite the fact that poor business conditions this year led to a substantial decline in the number of train passengers, the number of kkotjebis continues to increase.

The majority of kkotjebis are children, but kkotjebis over 40 years old have been seen more frequently this year. The number of kkotjebis belonging to the same family is increasing. Usually, kkotjebis travel in groups of 20 people. In the Shinsungchun Station area, three or four groups of kkotjebis are bunched together. The 3-4 member kkotjebi family units often move independently from the large groups. The age of kkotjebis ranges from 6 or 7 year-old children to adults in their late 50s. With the increase in the number of kkotjebis, the crimes rate in the station area is rising.

Kkotjebis at Shinsungchun Murdered a Female Vendor for her Knapsack
On the evening of the June 16th, a murder occurred in a neighborhood near the Shinsungchun Station. A background check revealed that the victim was a 31-year-old woman who lived in Kwail in Kwail County. She was murdered while traveling on a business trip. The authorities investigating the incident conducted overnight patrols to catch the suspects. They arrested three adult male kkotjebis based on tip offs.

The kkotjebis confessed to the murder soon after their capture. The detainees stated that they followed and attacked the victim when she was looking for an inn, carrying a heavy knapsack on her back. According to their statement, there were a large number of shoes in the knapsack including 25 pairs of Kkachi Shoes (까치신발) made in Sinuiju and 30 pairs of male sneakers and 50 pieces of “spring-scent” facial soaps. The kkotjebis dumped the body in a nearby public restroom and fled with her knapsack, a watch, and cash amounting to 230,000 NK Won.

After this incident, the Safety Bureau in South Pyongan Province ordered the arrest of all kkotjebi staying in Shinsungchun. The majority of kkotjebis immediately left the station upon learning this news. About 12 kkotjebis who were arrested were still in detention at the train station police department as of late June 2010. New kkotjebis are expected to gather again at the station when the latest crackdown dies down, because the nearby market and the train station are the only places where kkotjebis can get food.

[Editorial]
North Korea Should Abolish Its Public Execution Practices
It is reported that the North Korean authorities have publicly executed Park Nam-ki, the former Director of Planning in the Financial Department of the Central Party, along with 13 others, for their failure in the currency reform effort. Even worse, his family and relatives up to seventh degree of kinship were supposedly rounded up and sent off to forced labor camps for political prisoners. Park's public execution was witnessed by mid-level officials in Pyongyang, Department of Production under the Cabinet, and other director or higher level officials. Park's list of offenses covered nine separate charges, including having filed a false report stating, "The underlying potential of the nation's economy has strengthened, with 3 years worth of food and 4 years worth of essential goods at hand." Other charges included impeding NK-China relationship improvement through the policy of stopping cross-border trade, as well as being co-opted by those engaged in ideological sedition. In order to soothe the people's disgruntlement rising out of the currency reform, the authorities circulated documents justifying Park's execution to each local party office.

However, the reactions of the officials forced to witness the execution tell a whole different story. They were lifelong colleagues of Park and others who were executed, who knew Park as someone who devoted all his life to North Korea’s planned economy with dedication and diligence. The witnessing officials were enraged at the public, made-for-example execution of Park as a scapegoat. While ordinary citizens might have had their blood thirst for the currency reform debacle satiated with Park’s death, the officials felt this execution hit close to home, complaining, “What did we ever do wrong?”

North Korean authorities traditionally maintained control over its society during crisis by targeting officials and foreign trading officials. Just to name a few examples from recent years, the president of Reungla 88 Company in Yeonsa County, president of Soonchun Vinalon Factory, and manager of Soonchun Stone works Factory all met their deaths through gruesome public executions. As such, the recent execution of Park Nam-ki and the forced banishment of his family to the labor camps is only the latest of North Korea’s punishment tradition. But it’s becoming apparent that these methods are being counterproductive. Even the central party officials are fearful and resentful over the possibility that they could be made into scapegoats overnight because of policy failures. Their shared thinking is that “What good is there to serve as a faithful public servant to a nation that could accuse you of sedition the next day? Even worse, what need is there to loyally serve a government that can’t even provide food?” With such mindset, they all believe that it’s foolish to answer the nation’s call for frontline leadership and sacrifice; in fact, answering such call would only hasten their deaths.

This is especially dire today ever since the May 26 official party directives asking local units to take care of the food situation by themselves. To make this possible, sincere and diligent efforts by the officials are crucial. However, not much can be expected from the officials in the absence of guarantee of their personal safety and security. Therefore, the North Korean authorities should reserve punishment for officials only for cases of personal corruption or criminal activities and not punish individual officials for policy failures. And even in cases of personal corruption, the accused officials should be dealt with according to existing laws, not publicly executed as an example. Especially, the practice of extending the blame to extended family of the accused should immediately be abolished.

North Korean authorities should, for the sake of justifying their rule, maintaining power, and enhancing political effectiveness, respect procedural democracy and the rule of law. Only then will the government attain the respect of the officials.

North Korea Today No. 349 July 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.]
_________________________________________________________
Passport Issuing Procedure Simplified but still Complicated
Hoeryong Closes Down the Factories of No Operating Value Pursuant to May 26 Directives
How do Workers Respond to Deployment of Labor Force at Closing Factories to Special Labor Brigade?
Sariwon Threatens New Army Recruits, “Those who desert from army will be sent to a coal mine.”
Long Distance Bus Drivers Arrested for Transporting Drugs
[Table]
Price of Yuan and Rice in Chungjin, N. Hamgyong Province
[Investigative Report]
5.26 Party Directives, an Experiment to Improve Economic System

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Passport Issuing Procedure Simplified but still Complicated
After the 5.26 Party Directives, passport issuing procedures were to be simplified but residents do not see much change. Kim Gil-sun from Pyungsung spent 2,000 Chinese Yuan to get a passport in order to visit his relatives in China. He was very disappointed that even though he invested enormous sums of money it would take at least one year or up to three years. He has heard that with more residents facing poor living condition, the government has simplified passport issuing process so that people can visit their relatives in China and receive help from them. Nevertheless, there are still complicated procedures people have to go through to receive a passport. One of those procedures is attending a mandatory education class. The main topic of the class is “You should never make any contacts with South Koreans or try to find out about South Korea.” They warn that people will be severely punished when any contacts were made with South Koreans. They also teach to propagate about “constructing a Strong and Prosperous Nation by recognizing Chosun’s reality and uniting under one goal” when people see their relatives. They also recommend people to take Chinese money rather than merchandise when receiving assistance from their relatives. “The food situation is very tight but you can only bring up to 100 kgs of rice. However, there are no restrictions on Chinese currency so you can bring a lot.” Excessively expensive issuing fee, complicated procedure, and most importantly, long wait time are still challenges to overcome.

Hoeryong Closes Down the Factories of No Operating Value Pursuant to May 26 Directives
Pursuant to the May 26 Directives of the Department of Labor under the cabinet, Hoeryong City of North Hamgyong Province has decided to close down the factories and public enterprises of no operating value and to relocate the laborers. Hoeryong City has decided to find out the factories and public enterprises where the production had ceased completely because they do not have raw materials and supplies at all as well as examining the possibility of production. According to the respective officer, whether there are raw materials is the first thing to be reviewed and he said, “There are many factories that do not have any raw materials as the foreign trade was completely blocked, so the factories that do not have one month’s worth of supplies will be the first to be closed down.” The factories where the production has been completely suspended cannot pay the monthly wages of the laborers, so they do not have an operating value any more, according to him. It is decided to set aside the minimum amount of labors in the closing factories and to relocate most of the laborers into Urban Construction Team, Farm Construction Team, and Building Maintenance Facility of Hoeryong City. The plan is to deploy the laborers primarily in various construction projects processed as a part of the construction project of Mother Kim Jung-Sook’s hometown. Pursuant to this decision of the City Party, the related departments, such as the Department of Labor, have decided to process the assignment of the laborers from the closing factories to the Special Labor Brigade for construction. However, the assignment to the Special Labor Brigade is not as easy as it seems because various factors such as the conditions, ratings and duties of the laborers must be considered. People cannot be assigned to the Special Labor Brigade blindly without sorting out people like laborers who were not able to come to work because they do not have anything to eat and long-term patients. Accordingly, the City Party began to classify laborers since June 1st and is known to enter into a major labor disposition as soon as the classification process is finished.

How do Workers Respond to Deployment of Labor Force at Closing Factories to Special Labor Brigade?
After hearing the news that the labor force at factories to be closed will be deployed to the Special Labor Brigade, most of the workers are, in general, displeased. No one prefers to work for the Brigade because the food and other necessary supplies for the Brigade are not guaranteed and the labor is very intense. When the Brigade requests labor force to Public Enterprises, Public Enterprises have had a hard time finding the workers because many of their workers are unwilling to join the Brigade. Many try to avoid the Brigade even though each Enterprise promises to provide food and supplies for them. It is also very common for those who were pushed into working for the Brigade to return to their homes after working for a brief period of time.

In Hoeryong, a factory manager also pointed out similar problems. He says, “Why aren’t people joining the Special Labor Brigade? First of all, if people join the Brigade, the work intensity will be hard and the break time will be very limited. At a regular factory, if the work is finished, the workers can have various sideline jobs such as working in the patch farm or doing trading at the market. However, because the Brigade is controlled much like the military, it is impossible for the workers to engage in such activities. Second of all, the Brigade workers have to provide their own shoes, gloves, etc. If their shoes wear out, no one will provide new shoes for them. The same goes for clothes; there aren’t even any work clothes. Third of all, almost no workplace in the Brigade provides proper safety arrangements for the workers. Who would want to work for the Brigade when it is almost like a labor camp? Nobody!”

These are the current situations. Therefore, many people expressed a great concern about which factories will be totally closed and which factory should reduce the number of workers. Some of the workers are expressing doubts towards the fairness of the labor force re-arrangement. Kim HyunChul (alias) says that the officials will always forcefully drive away the workers who are on their black list. He is worried that the process of the re-arrangement will be at the officials’ discretion. The only people who will evade working for the Brigade are those with money or those who have maintained close relationships with the officials. It’s inevitable that those without power or money will be the ones to be assigned to the Brigade.

Sariwon Threatens New Army Recruits, “Those who desert from army will be sent to a coal mine.”
Sariwon City, North Hwanghae Province had the highest number of enlisted army deserters who could not endure hunger during new recruit training of the People’s Army Enlistment that began on April 7. Because 12 new recruits deserted within a week period and the numbers of deserters only increase, the Military Recruitment Division of the Ministry of People’s Armed Forced ordered Sariwon City Party to deploy the runaways to a hard sector. Accordingly, Sariwon City Party placed them at a coal mine. In principle, for those army deserters suffering from malnutrition the Military Recruitment Division is supposed to supply nutrition to them and bring them back to the base. However, due to the fact that there are too many runaways suffering from malnutrition the Military Recruitment Division is unable to take appropriate measures, so they can only resort to coercive measures to prevent desertion. The Ministry of People’s Armed Forces is also threatening that the deserters will be deployed to the most difficult and harshest places such as coal mines and mining sectors.

Long Distance Bus Drivers Arrested for Transporting Drugs
During the middle of May, many bus drivers were arrested by the police in ChungJin, North Hamgyong Province, for transporting drugs. A total of 22, including 14 long distance bus drivers and 8 bus conductors for the ChungJin, Onsung, and Hoeryong route, were arrested. On June 19, the police in Chungjin convened a drug-related meeting with the bus drivers, conductors and assistants. The police delivered a clear message to those who attended the meeting: “If the bus workers are arrested for drug transportation, they will be convicted of a felony and sent to the Labor Education Center, regardless of the amount of drugs involved.” Since last year, small-scale arrests have been made regarding drug transportations, but this is the first time that a large-scale involving 14 of the 17 long distance bus drivers were arrested. One policeman indicated the food shortage as a cause of the spreading of drug deals, by saying, “It’s not uncommon that the bus drivers were conspiring with drug dealers to transport drugs in order to make money. However, it seems that the number of secret drug deals have been increasing lately due to the rapidly deteriorating life conditions for the residents.”

[Table]
Price of Yuan and Rice in Chungjin


[Investigative Report]
5.26 Party Directives, an Experiment to Improve Economic System

On July 1, the price of rice and corn in Chungjin City, North Hamgyong Province, was 570 won and 350 won per 1 kg, respectively. The exchange rate was 142 won for 1 Yuan and 1,010 won for $1. Compared to the prices in April and May when rice was 400 won per kg and the exchange rate was 110 won per 1 yuan and 800-900 won for $1, it shows an ascending trend, but compared to the previous years' Spring Hardship Period, it is relatively stable. We have yet to see whether the ascent is going to get steeper or not. What are the most important factors that maintain the exchange rate and market prices relatively stable?

At first, it could be regarded as the effects of the 5.26 Party Directives. The directives stated, "The government will not be able to solve the food situation for the time being and each agency and enterprise should take care of the food supply on their own.'' With such directives it was anticipated that the price of staple grains and the exchange rate would skyrocket, but so far, there were only small scale increases. The major tenets of the directives are to lift all restrictions on markets and provide cash, a minimum of 150,000 won to a maximum of 600,000 won, to public enterprises. The directives ordered the closure of factories that suspended operations or have little prospect for productivity. The trading companies that were disbanded prior to the currency exchange and the military trading companies can resume trading as long as they can secure investment fund. Various trading restrictions were lifted. On June 7th, after the meeting of the Supreme People's Assembly, the central bank distributed 100 million won to municipal banks and 50 million won to county banks.

The directives are short-term measures to address the food crisis from June to August as well as the national economic crisis. As such, it appears to be an emergency measure. After the currency exchange measure, officials closed markets, banned trade and suspended foreign exchange activities. The effect was immediate paralysis of the North Korean economy. The restrictions on trading activity illustrated that North Korean society can no longer function without markets. Once the markets were closed, national and public enterprises, and even the national stores in Pyongyang had come to a stop and there were no movement of money and merchandise. As a result, from mid January, people began dying of hunger all over the country. North Korean authorities recognized the policy was a failure and sought to calm citizens by lifting market restrictions and reprimanding individuals responsible for the policies. "(For food supply) please be patient for three more months," officials said in an attempt to buy time, but three months elapsed and there was no economic recovery.

The 5.26 Party Directives appear to be an attempt not only to resolve food supply issues but also to revitalize the economy nationwide. It included instructions about the need to clarify the self-supporting accounting system. It instructed agencies and enterprises not to let laborers starve, and each enterprise should secure its own capital to pay wages and acquire resources. It provided cash to local banks in order to provide food and daily assistance. By adopting a series of measures the government abdicated responsibility for the socialist supply system, which is nominally surviving only in some core sectors and reduced the burden that the government must supply resources to public enterprises. In a way, it might be an aspect of strengthened self-supporting accounting system. It seems that they are even contemplating measures to either reduce the ration system with set prices or to discontinue it completely. Even if it's a stop-gap measure, it recognized the imbalance between the socialist supply system and a market system and placed more weight on the market economy.

Economic reform is necessary to encourage economic cooperation with foreign countries including China. It is inevitable that the North must implement internal reform to attract foreign investments in its eight cities. The North needs to demonstrate it is making every effort to improve its economy. If the reform experiments succeed despite its ad hoc nature, there would be no need to return to control-based socialist policies. It seems that officials will wait for the results of the experiments and then decide the direction of institutional restructuring. This is likely the reason why the authorities sent out the May 26 Directives to each unit quietly in contrast with the July 1 economic reform measures in 2002.

As the Party released money to provinces and enterprises and granted full responsibility to department unit managers, the success of this measure is dependent on the managers’ self-discipline and capability. Since they know this is a short-term emergency response, officials might siphon off the money that arrived in their hands without making any effort and just wait, doing nothing. However, if they take advantage of this opportunity and manage well until August, the current directives could lead to an institutional reform in the future.

However, it is doubtful that officials will work proactively and responsibly. To encourage their sense of responsibility, the authorities should regain their trust by guaranteeing security of the officials. In the past, the authorities controlled the wealthy private financiers by letting them grow for a certain period and then abruptly suffocating them with strict controls. Public managers and officials on the business front line remember cruel public executions of trade unit officials and private financiers starting in 2007. They might fear that they could lose their lives if they try to take the initiative for the new measure. Also, there is the usual pitfall of favoring family members and collective behaviors maximizing group interest.

If the reform measures of May 26 are to succeed, great leadership that guides each economic unit to survive through the market autonomy is necessary. Public officials and managers are the only ones who can assume that role. If they do not carry out the work, the nation might not be able to overcome this critical period until August or achieve economic recovery in the future. It appears that the government is trying to reshuffle the cabinet's authority which is traditionally responsible for economic recovery and convince the people that their efforts are sincere by changing the premier of the cabinet and appointing eight vice premiers. Concerns are arising as to how the new Choi Young Lim cabinet will navigate a new economic structure that will change in accordance with the May 26 directives.

North Korea Today No. 348 July 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.]
_________________________________________________________
After 2 years, Professional Counterfeiters in Pyongsung Finally Arrested
Students at Cho Goon-sil Teachers College are out for Herb Collection Break due to Food Crisis
Jung Juntaek Economics College in Wonsan reduced to Two Provided Meals a Day
Even Honor Students Drop out due to Food Shortage in Wonhaeju Agricultural College in Kimjae
Farm Youth Group is Strictly Watched on a Cooperative Farm in Kang Won Province
Who are the members of the Farm Youth Group in Kangwon Province?
_________________________________________________________
After 2 years, Professional Counterfeiters in Pyongsung Finally Arrested
This past June 1st, the Pyongsung City police succeeded in arresting 7 people involved in a professional counterfeiting operation. 4 out of 7 were women. Working out of a hidden location within the city, they were counterfeiting travel documents, Pyongyang residency proofs, Renminbi, dollars, and the new North Korean currency. Among those arrested included an employee of the Pyongsung currency printing press. After searching through their location, the authorities found about 5.8 million Won’s worth of counterfeit bills of new NK currency, dollar, and Renminbi, along with about 10 printing presses, 3 computer printers, and other tools.

The Pyongsung investigators are interrogating the suspects separately, assuming that they would have a distribution network that spans all over the country, including major cities such as Pyongyang, Sinuiju, Hyesan, and Chungjin. They are narrowing their investigative focus to those working in export/import firms, related factories, and those who deal with travel permission documents. One investigator expressed amazement at the sophistication of the counterfeit bill, saying that there is no way to tell the real and fake ones apart just with the naked eye. “Because of the charges from the international community about us printing counterfeit bills, the Defense Security Command and The National Safety and Security Agency formed a joint investigative unit to catch the perpetrators, but couldn’t track them down,” spoke one of senior police officials. “We were fortuitous in catching these people because we came across them when the local police were actually interrogating drug offenders.” After the investigation is over, the investigators involved can expect a significant promotion.

Students at Cho Goon-sil Teachers College are out for Herb Collection Break due to Food Crisis
After the May 26 directive, which ordered institutions to supply its own food, Cho Goon-sil Teacher’s College in Wonsan City in Kangwon Province decided to have a school break with herb collection assignment to its students as they return from farm mobilization. The students were assigned to collect 10kg of herb and given 15 to 20 days of unscheduled break. Since late January, the university started feeding students and staff with noodle made of corn harvested in its sideline farm because the university’s food rations were suspended. They were able to provide three meals a day until February. However in March, they were only able to provide breakfast and lunch. The university was relieved from providing food in May because of the farm mobilization. However, the problem returned once the farm mobilization ended. Officials of the university support department said, “We can’t help but give the students breaks because we can’t feed the students who return to school after the farm mobilization.”

Jung Juntaek Economics College in Wonsan reduced to Two Provided Meals a Day
After the May 26 directive, the Jung Juntaek Economics College in Wonsan City in the Kangwon Province reduced its meals to two meals a day. The school provides breakfast and lunch, but the students have to take care of their own dinners. Students who live in the dormitory bought rice cookers and pans to prepared their own meals. Some of the students prepared their meals in secret before, but these days all the students are busy preparing their meals at night. The washroom in the dormitory is experiencing shortage of water due to the influx of students who come to wash the rice. Wealthy students visit restaurants or boarding houses that have agreed to prepare their dinners.

Even Honor Students Drop out due to Food Shortage in Wonhaeju Agricultural College in Kimjae
Of the first and second year students at Kimjae Wonhaeju Agricultural College in the South Hwanghae Province, more than 20 students have dropped out due to food shortage. Among them were three students who scored in the top ten on the achievement test. Since the May 26 directive, Kimjae Wonhaeju Agricultural College has cut its meals from three to two meals a day. Until June 11, they were able to provide three meals, although they were small amounts of steamed corn meal. However, since June 12, students were asked to provide their own dinners. Students who receive help from home pool their money together and prepare their meals. Wealthy students go off campus and buy breads or noodles. However, the number of families supporting the student decreased due to the currency exchange measure. As a result, more students are unable to continue their education. Aside from food, non-tax burdens and other educational fees heavily burden the parents. No matter how well they do in school, the students cannot avoid the financial problems. With even some of the honor students dropping out of school, students are saying, “What’s the use of doing well in school? We can’t do anything without money.”

Farm Youth Group is Strictly Watched on a Cooperative Farm in Kang Won Province
Concerns are arising that the restrictions imposed on a Farm Youth Group composed of kkotjebi children at a cooperative farm in Pyonggang County Kangwon Province are excessively severe. The County Party officials are dispatching Youth Union officials every ten days to the farm to monitor the Farm Youth Group. The officials prohibit Farm Youth Group members from going anywhere besides their bedroom and work place. Even visiting a neighbor’s house nearby requires official permission. If they leave the farm without prior permission, they must face ideological criticism and a severe reprimand. Villagers and farmers in the area criticize the officials’ poor management, claiming that the Farm Youth Group cannot function properly because the officials treat them no better than individuals in the Labor Discipline Centers.

Who are the members of the Farm Youth Group in Kangwon Province?
The Farm Youth Group in Pyonggang City, Kangwon Province was established in 2007. The city council recruited impoverished middle school students who were part of youth kkotjebi rescue facilities. The group originally consisted of 40 individuals all below the age of 26. The number decreased to 20 people in 2010 because members got married and left the group. Three 5th graders were chosen by the city council to bring membership to 23 people. The children do not go to school but perform work supported by the city council. Some farmers criticized the council’s selection of 5th grader kkotjebies for work as they are considered too young to work, but the council replied that sending the children back to school would fail because they would escape again and continue to be kkotjebies once more. The council dismissed the criticism and justified the decision by arguing that sending the children to work in the farm from the very beginning benefits everyone.

North Korea Today No. 347 June 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.]
_________________________________________________________
Central Party Secretly Dispatches Investigative Unit to Report on Peoples’ Living Conditions
Leading Secretary of the South Hamgyong Provincial Party Severely Criticized for Making False Claim: “Nobody died of starvation.”
Central Bank Distributes Newly Minted Currency to National Banks
Over 20% of the Laborers at Saenggiryung Pottery Factory Barely Surviving on Watery Gruel
Democratic Women’s Union (“DWU”) Members Failed to Attend Farming Mobilization at JaeRyong County
Chinese Yuan Rises in June
[Editorial] Urgency of North Korea’s Food Aid Request to International Community
_________________________________________________________
Central Party Secretly Dispatches Investigative Unit to Report on Peoples’ Living Conditions
After the 12th three-part conference held by the People’s Assembly came to a close on June 7th, the affiliated branches of the Central Party dispatched investigative units to secretly report on living conditions throughout the country. The first report was presented to the Party on June 18th describing the conditions in South Hamgyong Province. According to the report, in each of the following cities, Hamheung, Heungnam, Shinpo, Gohwon, Jungpyung, and Danchun, at least 100 people have died of starvation in three months from March to June. In Hamheung alone, 190 people have died of starvation from March to May. However, the actual number of deaths is suspected to be much higher. In Hamheung, 40 percent of the population is reported to have survived on porridge alone. Military units were also within the scope of the investigation, and it was discovered that not only privates, but high-ranking officers have also died of malnutrition. One public official in Hamheung stated the following: “Despite the number of people dying of starvation, not enough food is being provided; the divorce rate has quadrupled since last year; and people have already sold all of their belongings, and many are now thinking of selling their homes. The City Party is aware of this grave situation, but is failing to take any appropriate action.”

Leading Secretary of the South Hamgyong Provincial Party Severely Criticized for Making False Claim: “Nobody died of starvation.”
Jong-soo Tae, the Leading Secretary of the South Hamgyong Provincial Party was severely criticized after publicly stating that no one has died of starvation in South Hamgyong Province at the Supreme People’s Assembly on June 7th. Mr. Tae reported: “Although food cannot be distributed to the people due to economic difficulties facing the nation, nobody died of starvation thanks to all the hard work of the Provincial Party and officials of all ranks.” However, the report compiled by the secret inquiry commission painted a different story, where starvation turned out to be a very severe problem in the Province. Mr. Tae was also criticized by the Organization and Guidance Department of the Central Party: “The Provincial Party’s Leading Secretary cannot fathom how many people are starving to death because his own stomach is full. He does not know how many people die of hunger every day; how many are at the brink of death; and how many people are barely surviving on porridge alone. Doesn’t this indicate that he who is holding the trust of the Party and responsible for managing his Province, betraying our leader, Kim Jong-il, and the Party’s expectations?”

Central Bank Distributes Newly Minted Currency to National Banks
After the Supreme People’s Assembly meeting on June 7th, the Central Party decided to ease the illiquidity in the economy through the Central Bank distributing up to 100 million and 50 million NK won in new currency to the banks in the cities and in the counties, respectively. The Party determined that after the currency exchange, lack of circulation of the currency brought paralysis to the functioning of the public enterprises upholding the nation’s economy; workers were not receiving their wages markedly reducing their purchasing power of even food and daily necessities. With the additional funding, the public enterprises would be able to pay their workers up to three-months of deferred wages; however, it would not be sufficient for the enterprises to meet their operational needs.

Over 20% of the Laborers at Saenggiryung Pottery Factory Barely Surviving on Watery Gruel
Even the once profitable Saenggiryung Pottery Factory in Kyongsung, North Hamgyong Province is impacted by the food shortage. This company is known for producing high quality pots, which helped to sustain profits for some time. Nevertheless, over 20% of its employees were barely surviving on thin gruel last month and in April, seven laborers reportedly starved to death. As the food shortage worsened, the company secured a contract with a trading company in Ryanggang Province to acquire five tons of food to feed its workers. First, it distributed 10-12 kg of rice to each of the starving workers who could not work, and then 10 kg of rice each to workers who come to work and to the officers such as the company manager and the Secretary of the Party. However, the newly acquired provisions ran out quickly, and on May 11th the pottery company once again engaged in trade with the same trading company for five tons of food.

Although they were able to settle immediate food shortage needs, the manager of the factory and the Secretary of the Party were rebuked for acting on this decision prior to obtaining permission from the government. It was before the 5.26 directive went into effect and at the time bartering pots for food was illegal and punishable by law. The laborers grumbled and complained about this incident at the public prosecutors’ office: “The government had failed to distribute food to us, so many of us could not go to work to make pots. We did not use any illegal or inappropriate materials; we made products with ordinary materials and incorporated our skills.” The public officers refuted this complaint by saying: “The nation controls and manages the pottery factory, and because the company has illegally sold products to a trading company, it interfered with the nation’s development plans. You must not trade with any individual trading companies in secret, or sell items without permission. What you have done compromised our nation’s productivity and well-being.” Laborers angrily retorted to this statement: “If it was a critical crime, does it mean we should starve to death?” However, with the passage of the 5.26 order, the Saenggiryung Pottery Factory can now engage in unrestricted trade with any trading company.

Democratic Women’s Union (“DWU”) Members Failed to Attend Farming Mobilization at Jaeryong County
According to the data reported by the Democratic Women’s Union (“DWU”) town office at Jaeryong County, South Hwanghae Province, approximately 380 DWU members did not participate in the farming mobilization due to lack of food. Jaeryong County is a very important region in the nation because it is a granary that engages in rice farming. However, officials of the County Party and the People’s Assembly went to each neighborhood unit to investigate the actual conditions and submitted the report because women’s participation rate in the farming mobilization was very low. A decision was made at a countermeasure meeting of the South Hwanghae Province Provincial Party to quickly release some of the army provisions and the food earmarked to send to the Mount Baekdu special labor brigade because of a report informing them that women could not come to work due to starvation. The provincial party distributed 10 days worth of food at the end of May to the regions inside the South Hwanghae Province which have the most serious food problems such as Jaeryong County and Taetan County. Each family in the region received approximately 7-9kg of corn. The Provincial Party’s action, however, provides very little help because more than half of the people in the region at issue do not have any food to eat or eat only one or two porridges a day. People in the western seashore regions of the South and North Hwanghae Province are anxiously waiting for the potato harvesting that will happen around June 20th. Farmers are anxiously waiting for the newly harvested potatoes saying that now is the most difficult time and when the newly harvested potatoes are available then they can survive. In the mean time, weak people are silently dying from starvation.

Chinese Yuan Rises in June
The value of Chinese Yuan noticeably rises since the middle of June. Since the early June, regional parties instructed relevant departments and institutions about the 5.26 Party Directive, and this seems to impact the market price since the middle of June when the news spread all over the society. Since the majority of goods circulating in the nation are Chinese made, the market prices respond very sensitively to the value of Chinese Yuan. In Chungjin City, North Hamgyong Province, 1 Chinese Yuan per 110 NKW was maintained in May, but it went up to 120 NKW in early June and again rose to 130 NKW in the middle of June. Finally, the value of Chinese Yuan went up everyday since the end of June. Namely, 130 NKW on exchange rate in June 22nd rose to 140 NKW the next day, and the next day it jumped to 155 NKW. Merchants anticipate that prices of goods and foods imported from China will also increase given that the value of Chinese Yuan increases by 10 won per day. Markets do not have a fixed price concept yet, thus the prices of goods are determined by the value of Chinese Yuan. People worry that the food price may increase even further given that they already cannot afford to buy food.


[Editorial] Urgency of North Korea’s Food Aid Request to International Community
North Korea’s Central Party has recently conducted a secret survey on the condition of livelihood of provincial population. The survey is said to be focused on the number of deaths by starvation and food situation among people. This implies that the Central Party is seriously concerned about the acute food shortage problem of the people. This rare move by the government is highly welcomed although conducting surveys to examine the food crisis and to try to address the problem is mandated to a government by default.

Actually, the Central Party has previously taken this type of measure in last January through its Economic Policy Censor Department. With reports from various regions revealing significant number of people dying from starvation, the Cabinet convened for an emergency response and yielded a policy that practically allows markets. It also tried to contain civil discontent with a statement about the currency reform, saying that “the policy itself was designed in the right direction, but we recognize the confusion in the society.” Now it went even further to give a Party Directive of May 26th which asked people to be ‘Self-support for food’, along with allowing of full market opening, and abolition of various trade restrictions and regulations. This is to admit the government’s inability to provide food and let people do whatever they can do to survive. This action is a positive step in the sense that the government changed its control-driven policy to allowing more autonomy to businesses and individuals. Moreover, it rationed 40 to 60 thousand NK won to state-run companies and 5,000 won to 100 million won to regional banks for their operation. All these measures represent breakthroughs from the previous responses.

The Central Party leadership officially admitted incidents of deaths by starvation through this survey. However, the actual number of deaths will be much higher than the data Party collected. The Central Party organization department’s criticism against wealthy high officials is right in that they do not know the dire situation of the people. Since food shortage is absolutely critical in North Korea, the government should step forward to secure food resources from abroad. It should not sabotage its responsibility by pushing it to individual government officials and letting loose people to survive on their own. It does not matter if the food is coming as aid or as loan; the government must bring food to its people by any means. The capacity of individuals or units of departments and regions is not comparable to that of the government, and the amount of food they can manage to secure is limited.

Therefore, the government should request international food aid and commit to the actions the international community is calling for. Foremost, it should request the Chinese government’s cooperation and humanitarian aid. In the recent North Korea-China summit, the Chinese government expressed its willingness to cooperate and make an alliance. At the North’s request, the Chinese government can quickly respond with humanitarian aid and economic cooperation. At the same time, the North government should communicate with the international community and South Korean government about its humanitarian crisis and ask for help. The South Korean government has already made a statement ensuring its continued humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable population of the North regardless of the sinking of the Cheonan. The international community also recognizes the need of continuation of humanitarian aid despite the UN Security Council’s resolutions 1718 and 1814 against North Korea in response to the North’s nuclear experiment. A special attention is required from the United States because 2/3 of its pledged food aid of 500,000 ton is still pending since it stopped last year. If the North Korean government commits to cooperate the US’ monitoring procedure, its humanitarian aid may resume without delay.

In the current tension amid the international sanction on North Korea and the sinking of Cheonan, it is understandable that it must be difficult for the North government to request humanitarian assistance. However, it is nothing to be ashamed to ask for help when in a desperate situation. A great general puts every effort not only to win the war but also to prevent unnecessary deaths of his soldiers. Time is short for the North to solve its serious food crisis only by its own effort and through agricultural reform. Foreign food aid is necessary to avoid further innocent deaths. To facilitate the aid, the North Korean government should accept the demand of international community to certain extent. If the North responds to its food crisis proactively, it will be able to take advantage of the momentum and induce more international cooperation.


North Korea Today No. 346 June 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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Central Party Says, “If the electricity to produce Juche Steel runs out, officials will take the responsibility”
Many Hungry Laborers Are Absent Without Leave Even Though They Were Asked to Produce Juche Steel
[Investigative Report] What is Juche Steel?
Gimcheck Steel Mill Struggles to Prepare Food for June through August
Chungjin City Officials, “The City Party is also responsible for the Chungjin food crisis"
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Central Party Says, “If the electricity to produce Juche Steel runs out, officials will take the responsibility”
On April 1st and 12th, a molten metal that was rapidly boiling in the furnace to produce Juche Steel happened to harden all of a sudden in Gimchaek Steel Mill of Chungjin, North Hamgyong Province. This accident occurred as the supply of electric power was cut off. The full account of this accident was conveyed to the Central Party as the No.1 report. As soon as the Central Party who manifested a strong will in producing Juche Steel heard the report, it delivered an instruction that says, “Make sure there is no interference in producing Juche Steel even though the electricity may not be provided in every other areas of the society other than the area of military supplies.” It also warned that if the operation of the steel mill suspends again due to the electricity problem, every respective officials in the Ministry of Electrical Industry will take the responsibility. In addition, it emphasized again to accelerate the production of Juche Steel by saying, “How much more we produce Juche Steel determines how much we can purchase food from foreign countries.” Apart from the Ministry of Power Industry, the Provincial Party of North Hamgyong Province decided to reduce the amount of electricity provided in each city and county. “We have not received much electricity so far, but it seems like it will be even scarcer in the future, so the electricity problem is becoming extremely strained,” an official from the Chungjin City Party worries.

Many Hungry Laborers Are Absent Without Leave Even Though They Were Asked to Produce Juche Steel
As the policy of the party to “pour out every power without hesitation in producing Juche Steel as we need to resolve the strained food problem of the nation by exporting Juche Steel to foreign countries and exchanging it with food” was delivered repeatedly to Gimchaek Steel Mill of Chungjin. The Provincial Party of North Hamgyong Province is very interested in the production of Juche Steel in Gimchaek Steel Mill. However, the laborers themselves do not seem to be much enthusiastic. It is because they are too hungry. 90 laborers who reside in the dormitory of Gimchaek Steel Mill eat 150 grams of steamed corn meal only twice, in the morning and afternoon, and eat corn noodles that are heavily soaked in water in the evening. It is as if 8 co-residents are sharing 1 kilogram of dried noodles. Among the hungry laborers, there were many who were absent without leave in early March, but as the rations were distributed fully later, the number of absentees without leave was visibly decreased from late March to April. As the food ran out again in May, the number of absentees began to increase one by one. In steel casting workplace where it runs on two-shift rosters for a day, the number of absentees amount to 25 people among approximately 130 laborers. Approximately 75 people, excluding 10 people who went out to social mobilization and 20 long-term patients, are attending to work. The party officials demanded that the party members would take the initiative in working, and warned that the laborers who are absent without leave for more than a week will be punished at the Labor Discipline Center.

[Investigative Report] What is Juche Steel?
In North Korea the industries of steel, fertilizer and vinalon are regarded as the three major industries. They are also the symbols of 'Self-reliant People's Economic Policy' that prescribes 'the domestic resources, domestic skills, and domestic endeavors to develop the technology industry'. The self-reliant production of these three items is presented as the impetus for the Strong and Prosperous Nation. It would not be an over-statement to say that the national economy depends on the production of vinalon (2.8 Vinalon Plant), fertilizer (Namheung Chemical Plant), and Juche Steel (Sungjin Iron Works Plant, Gimchek Steel Enterprise). Juche Steel refers to the steel produced by using domestic coal rather than diesel and cokes that need to be imported.

On December 19, 2009, while visiting the Sungjin Iron Works Plant in Gimchek City, North Hamgyong Province, Chairman Kim Jong-il said that, "(Successful) development for the production of Juche Steel using domestic technology is a greater victory than the success of third nuclear testing." A special statement of appreciation, issued on March 5 to congratulate the 2.8 Vinalon Plant production, said that, "The transformation of 2.8 Vinalon United Enterprise to a modern chemical plant and its fabulous ascent is an extraordinary event comparable to launching an atomic bomb and is a great victory for the socialism." There was also a large-scale propaganda about the fact that in Namheung Chemical Fertilizer Plant they were able to independently produce fertilizer using gas from coal rather than naphtha.
However, contrary to the gigantic propaganda in the country, there are a lot of problems in producing Juche steel, fertilizer, or vinalon using domestic resources. In cases of vinalon and Juche steel, the amount of electricity needed to produce them was so enormous, it was termed "an electricity-eating hippopotamus" and thus greatly reduced the economic rate of return; for the production of fertilizers where expensive high-heat coal was being used, there are even talks that it would be more efficient to buy fertilizers rather than using money to buy high-heat coal to produce them. That was the reason why even in the inside of the Central Party it is viewed more of a political propaganda than practical economic benefits.

Gimcheck Steel Mill Struggles to Prepare Food for June through August
Gimchaek Steel Mill has been able to continue its food ration thanks to Juche Steel production. On top of a ten-day portion of corn distributed last February, they were able to provide food for both first-half and second-half distribution with the corn produced from Hoeryong city in March. However, most products made from corn were low-end because farming did not go well. 190 workers were unable to receive food rations of even the low-grade corn product. In April, the situation got better due to the 4.15 Day of the Sun (Kim Il-sung’s birthday) and 50 percent of rice and 50 percent of corn were distributed to workers with certain positions and those in labor-intensive positions received a paycheck of 9,000 NKW. In May, corn for the first half of the month distribution was provided from May 3rd in some workplaces. After providing paychecks and rations, some of the food was released temporarily to the Chungjin Market as people tried to sell the food in the market. However, it is uncertain whether the food distribution for June through August can be made.

The Provincial Leading Party Secretary of North Hamgyong Province has been looking to export pig iron and import food from China. The workers begged the leading secretary to resolve food problems since people started to die from hunger. Although food distribution is made the amount of ration varies at different in each workplace. The leading secretary in charge of the provincial party stressed to the leading officials of Gimcheck Steel Mill that, “No matter what the situation is, we should make food distribution to workers as our first priority. Juche Steel production is directly linked to our nation’s food situation this year. And that shows how important it is that the workers work hard." He urged that food ration to workers should be guaranteed no matter what it takes.

Chungjin City Officials, “The City Party is also responsible for the Chungjin food crisis"
The officials of Chungjin City, North Hamgyong Province pointed fingers at the City Party that they did not fulfill their jobs. They said that even though food crisis is a nationwide problem the City Party was too passive about the problem and not proactive enough to resolve the food crisis. Below are some issues raised at the meeting.

First, the food crisis in Chungjin is due to the nationwide food shortage and stopped food distribution. Second, Juche Steel production did not meet the expectations despite efforts to increase production and secure food from its sale. Even the small amount of food acquired from China in exchange of Juche Steel exported went to other cities in in-land areas such as Pyongyang instead of being distributed in Chungjin. Third, although officials selected the poorest families and provided them with food, it only covered limited number of families. Only 2 to 3 families in each Neighborhood Unit received food. Among the 30 households in a Neighborhood Unit up to 14 to 15 households are considered to be suffering from hunger. As they focused on providing reliefs to only 2-3 households that were suffering the most they were unable to come up with plans for the whole residents which resulted in food crisis for the whole city. Fourth, food crisis is deepening even with blanket permission to open markets because goods do not circulate well and purchasing power is weak. Chungjin City officials stressed that people should not depend solely on Juche Steel production but also look for other ways to acquire food. It is reported that about 70 people died from hunger from March through May in Chungjin City based on the report from the People's Life Investigation Group deployed by the Organization and Guidance Department of the Central Party. A Chungjin City official mentioned that although the figure reported to the Central Party was 70 people died from hunger the actual figure was bigger than that.
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