North Korea Today No. 383 December 29, 2010

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Pyongyang Residents Nervous about Repeated Delays in Food Distribution
[Table] Grain Price Change in Chungjin, N. Hamgyong Province
Many Regions are Collecting Military Rice Again
Central Party Official, “Ongoing economic cooperation with China will take time.”
Hwanghae Province Cracks Down on Poor Children
[Investigative Report]
Evaluation of 2010 New Year’s Joint Editorial and Perspective for the Future
Pyongyang Residents Nervous about Repeated Delays in Food Distribution

Residents in Pyongyang, dependent on government’s food rations, say they have never been so nervous about the unstable food supply as they are these days.  Although streets are clean and government run stores are full of merchandise, the food supply is still problematic.  Last November, only a 15-day food ration was distributed, and the rest was not released until December.  The food ration for December is still not released at the time of this writing, the end of the month.  Residents in other regions do whatever they can to feed themselves such as farming in small land patches or selling because they do not have any expectation for government to provide them with food rations.  In contrast, residents in Pyongyang do not have such ability to support themselves.  The 5.26 order this past May mandating self-sufficiency by every unit and workplace made it even more crucial to work for the right organization.  People working for companies that have trade channels with other countries such as China have rooms to wiggle, but others have almost no means to survive this winter.  Concerned Pyongyang residents express their worries; “In summer, we understood the difficult food situation because we knew that there was no food.  Now that the harvest season is over, I really don’t understand why the food ration program is not running well.  Whenever people get together, they talk about their concerns over starvation in the winter.”  As of December 20, the rice price in the Pyongyang market was 1,600 NK won, which had jumped from 1,100 NK won last month.  With some local variations, the rice price is around 1,400-1,500 NK won on average.

[Table] Grain Price Change in Chungjin, N. Hamgyong Province, Second Half of the Year
(Unit: KPW/kg)

Many Regions are Collecting Military Rice Again
In spite of the announcement of the Central Party on October 30 that the military rice remittance obligation will not exist anymore, it was discovered that this did not go into effect in many regions.  In addition, regions that collect military rice to secure the food for the People’s Army are increasing as the food situation has been aggravated recently.  Regions that were obeying the superior authority and were not collecting the military rice began to collect it in earnest as there were no other ways to secure military rice.  For troops residing in the regions of Kangwon Province and North and South Hwanghae Province, a soldier is not even provided of 500g of food per day.  A mixture of corn with a little bit of rice and a salted napa soup is all they receive.  Many people are suffering from malnutrition since the meal is poor and has almost no side dish.  The food situation has not been improved even after a semi-state of war was declared.

The farmers who briefly cheered at the news of stoppage of military rice obligations became depressed again.  “My understanding is that instead of collecting military rice from the people, (the Central Party) attempted to trade with China or secure the military rice by spending the military fund”, says an official from the Provincial Party of South Hamgyong Province.  It seems like their efforts to win the hearts of the people by reducing their burden were in vain.  The Central Party is urging the Ministry of Overseas Trade Representative to take extensive action in purchasing food, but the situation is not going well.  An order delivered at the end of last November instructing to purchase materials for constructing Heecheon Power Plant in Jagang Province was already changed into an order to prioritize and focus on the purchase of food with the same money.  However, Ministries of Overseas Representative as well as the foreign currency earning companies in the nation cannot engage in trade even if they wanted to because they have a limited export items to deal with, such as agricultural products or products from mining; moreover, no matter how strong the organization is within the Korean Workers’ Party, foreign companies are not willing to do the business with them unless they have an ability to pay in advance.  The reason that the price of the grain went up from approximately 1,100 NK won to 1,600 NK won in every major market of North Korea is because food was not imported sufficiently and the amount of grain in circulation within the nation decreased as a result.  As the food situation remained difficult in December, each local party delivered its own guideline, asking to collect the military rice where it is possible and to give up doing so where it is appropriate to do so.  The Central Party then issued an order to each local party, stating that the military rice is the first priority and that it must be secured no matter what.

Central Party Official, “Ongoing economic cooperation with China will take time.”
The economic cooperation with China is picking up this year (2010), but the speed is not up to the expectation of the NK government.  In order to ease the tight food situation, the government requested 500,000 tons of food aid from China but received no answer yet.  It is said that the NK government urged China for economic aid when Dai Bingguo, Chinese State Councilor in charge of foreign affairs, visited Pyongyang on November 9.  One official from the Central Party said they had a plan to import 1 million ton of food from China by January 2011 by exporting all of the mineral resources, if necessary.  The export of mineral has been limited due to the argument for the natural resource protection.  However, realizing that it had to loosen the export regulation in order to attract Chinese and Russian investments, the Central Party issued an order early December to “sell everything that can be traded with China to import food.”  This includes various kinds of rare earth metals that have been previously banned from export.  It shows how desperate the situation is.  Up until early this year, the NK government tried to reduce its dependency on China by normalizing its relationship with the U.S. and pursuing economic cooperation with Western countries.  Now, its self-analysis concluded that this attempt completely failed.  Despite its complaints that the Chinese pay only lip service for economic aid and investment in North Korea, the NK government for the moment is determined to make every effort for economic cooperation with China.  It said it would strengthen its diplomatic ties with China and Russia in the future so that it could take time and control the speed of normalization of its relationship with the U.S.

Hwanghae Province Cracks Down on Kkotjebis (homeless children)
Local governments of Hwanghae Province have begun their crackdown on kkotjebies (homeless children, usually orphans, runaways, or deserted) in major cities as winter is approaching.  The increase of kkotjebies is caused by residents moving into urban areas in search for food and livelihoods.  Farmers have been leaving their farms because they do not qualify for food ration although they cannot produce in the winter.  The recent flood has increased the divorce rate and the number of youths deserted by their parents.  In response, the People’s Council reconvened the standing committee to control these kkotjebies.  The kkotjebies caught by the council are turned over to the police if their parents are alive or sent to relief institutions if the parents are deceased.

North Koreans are suffering even more from the food shortage because of the severe cold spell.  The temperature has even dropped to negative thirty degrees Celsious at one time.  The elders claim that it was not this cold even during the Korean Liberation War era, and the youths say that the scenes of people starving and freezing in pre-liberation era movies have become a reality.  The state of affairs is worse in North Pyongan Province and Hwanghae Province, which were especially affected from the flood.  Farmers have not been receiving sufficient ration because the crops were ruined by the flood.  Residents say that they will not be able to survive through the lunar New Year in February.  In agricultural regions in Sariwon, North Hwanghae Province, those who cannot afford to get a second job have been perishing.  South Hwanghae Province and outskirts of Pyongyang are in a similar situation.  Recent inflation that has caused 1 Yuan per 210 won to increase to 1 Yuan per 270 won has worsened the crisis.

[Investigative Report]
Evaluation of 2010 New Year’s Joint Editorial and Perspective for the Future

Let’s Make a Decisive Turning Point in the Life of the People on the 65th Anniversary of the Founding of the Party by Once Again Spurring Light Industry and Agriculture.”

The year 2010 is fading away.  Each year on January 1st, North Korea issues New Year’s joint editorial of North Korea’s Rodong Sinmun, Korean People’s Army Daily and Chongnyon Jonwi.  The New Year’s joint editorial is the only channel through which the Party announces its resolutions and intentions to the people.  This is a useful tool to assess the visions of a new year because it proposes the nation’s goals and declares the directions to take to achieve the goals.  In a few days the 2011 New Year’s joint editorial will be issued, and a lot of attention will be paid to what kind of visions will be proposed in the year 2011.  Nevertheless, it is worthwhile to look back and assess the past year’s joint editorial before the issuance of the new joint editorial in the sense that it allows the chance to evaluate North Korean government’s performance level against the goals and the limitations because we can see what was achieved and what was not.  Our intention in this edition is to make attempts to evaluate some of the major issues based on the joint editorial.

1. The Major Characteristics of 2010 New Year’s Joint Editorial

A. The titles are very specific compared to the previous years.  The expression of “Let’s Make a Decisive Turning Point in the Life of the People … by Spurring Light Industry and Agriculture” is more specific and commanding compared to the previous expressions of “let’s make a reap,” “let’s achieve a great revolutionary enhancement,” or “let’s demonstrate the achievement of military first policy.”  It shows the underlying confidence of creating a turning point in the life of people.

B. The Background for the Confidence
1) They argue that there is no reason for not achieving progress in light industry and agriculture because of the enormous economical and technological potential demonstrated in the “high-tech breakthrough’s” with the launching of Kwang-myong-sung 2, execution of the second nuclear testing, the completion of Juche steel production system, and the adoption of CNC computerization.
2) They viewed that the four priority sectors of people’s economy, i.e. power, coal, metal, and railroad, could be largely renovated and reinforced through 150-day battle and 100-day battle carried out in 2009.  In other words, they intended to increase production drastically and reabsorb the labor power lost to the market back to the factories.
3) They think a quantum leap has been made in agricultural production and construction in rural areas.  However, there was no specific description about this.  It was simply described as better than the year 2008.

2. 2010 New Year’s Joint Editorial Execution Strategy

A. Military-First Policy based High-tech Breakthrough: They think high-tech breakthrough is required on every front.  The defense industry should be the forerunner.  The victorious sound of cannon knocking at the door to Strong and Prosperous Nation should be initiated by the defense industry.

B. Imbuing of military-first political ideology in the ideology sector – The strengthening of spirits without limits is needed in the ideology sector.  This can be achieved by continuously building up soldiers’ spirits and preventing ideological wavering of party members and the people so that they can stay loyal to the Party and the Dear Leader.  This means that the military should take the initiative as the flag-bearer for the construction of Strong and Prosperous Nation, emphasizing the union between the military and the citizen.

3. Did They Succeed in Creating a Turning Point in People’s life by Putting Spurs to Light Industry and Agriculture?

A. The series of measures of currency reform on November 30, 2009, banning of foreign currency in January 2010, and closing of markets disrupted the economic basis of the country.  The North Korean authorities underestimated the fact that not only the lives of North Korean people, but also the governmental agencies and enterprises are all sustained by the market.

B. The 5.26 Party directive issued in 2010 was asking everyone to provide for themselves.  The government, in turn, lifted the market closure and the ban on international trade completely.  They had no choice but to deal with the aftermath of the failed currency reform.

C. The food problem is in a standstill with difficulties in the supply due to the flood damage during the summer and the importing of food from China is not working out either.

D. In the light industry sector, an exemplary case is the completion of modernization of 2.8 Vinalon Unified Enterprise, which was celebrated in a large scale with a crowd of 100,000 people for the event.  One full year has passed since then, but, there is no news about how much Juche fabric has been produced at the Vinalon enterprise.

E. Based on the Pyongyang City Modernization Plan the capital city is noticeably changing with beautification of Daedong Riverside, construction of modern houses, renovation of lightings of major facilities, and maintenance of urban infrastructure.  The supply of goods to the government-run stores and retail shops is done relatively smoothly, but the gap between Pyongyang and the provinces is widening.  The food situation is not so good in Pyongyang as well.

4. Assessment of Inter-Korean Relations

A. As this year was the historical 10th anniversary of the June 15 Joint Declaration, they firmly believed that ‘Woori-minjok-kkiri’ (among we Koreans only) is the Korean ethnic spirit in the Era of 6.15 Unification as well as the one and only ideology.  Also, inter-Korean relations are in a stalemate as North Korea’s ‘peace treaty first and then denuclearization’ policy and South Korea’s ‘non-nuclear open-door 3000’ policy clash with each other.

B. They strongly expressed their will for improvement of inter-Korean relations by saying, “We should give the mutual interest of all Koreans the first priority, promote harmony, and work together on cooperative projects through exchange and interaction on various levels.  All legal and institutional devices that hinder mutual interest and prosperity should be abolished and free discussions and activities for unification among people from various fields.”  However, with the failed attempt of inter-Korean summit in the beginning of the year it had rapidly dissipated.

C. Their intention was to use both carrot and stick for their South Korea policies, but it ended up with heightened military tensions as a result of military clash.  Their intention to obtain massive economic aid by ways of signing peace treaty through normalizing of relations with the U.S. that can be achieved through improved relations with the South Korean government went awry.

D. Reaffirmation of establishing hereditary succession of power for three generations within the family and opening the doors to Strong and Prosperous Nation through independent national economy has been made.  Nevertheless, their reliance on China has deepened as they failed to improve relations with the U.S.

E. Consequently, with the growing influence of China in the Korean peninsula in the midst of deepening power struggle between the U.S. and China both South and North Korea suffered enormous setback in terms of national status in the international community as well as in the diplomatic community.  The higher the level of confrontation between the two Koreas, the higher the level of reliance to China will be for North Korea, which will inevitably lead to diminishing independence for them.

5. Perspectives for 2011 New Year’s Joint Editorial

A.  It is expected that they will propose a new direction for ‘Chosun’ as the New Year marks the 100th anniversary of Juche ideology, and come up with a catch phrase of strong confidence, emphasizing that 2012 Strong and Prosperous Nation is not far away.

B. Nevertheless, the format is expected to be stressing confidence and hopes using only adverbs and adjectives rather than proposing specific quantitative milestones.  It is also expected that they will envision big progress in all sectors in contrast to the year 2010 where only the agriculture and light industry were given much weight.

C. It is expected that a strong emphasis will be given to the goal of constructing Strong and Prosperous Nation in 2012 with demonstrations of pride and confidence through the expressions such as the 100th anniversary of Juche ideology, the year before the realization of Strong and Prosperous Nation, the base year for unification, military power with nuclear weapons, and a vanguard nation with strong Juche ideology.

D. Delivering of a message conveying the belief “unification is nearing as the republic is standing tall in the center of the world because of the leaderships of Kim Jong-il, the great Sun of the 21st century and the young general Kim Jong-un” is expected.

E. It is expected that they will issue a message of warning that the cause of the current deadlock between South and North Korea as well as heightening tensions of war in the Korean peninsula is none other than American imperialists and South Korean regime, and reemphasize the necessity and legitimacy of a peace treaty.

F. It is expected that they will call for a rising by the South Korean people and uniting of those who desire unification across the society, imparting the conviction of unification that they can crush any threat and liberate South Korean people as long as they have the military armed with strength and the military-first ideology.