GoodFriends: Research Institute For North Korean Society

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North Korea Today No. 390, February 16 , 2011

[“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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Nationwide Reoccurring Death from Cold of Kkotjebies (homeless youth) and the Old
Frozen Father’s Corpse Found on a New Year Visit
The Korean War Veteran Frozen to Death
Border Security Reinforced at the Increase of North Korean Defectors This Winter
Officers are Lukewarm about the Order of Intensifying Nation Border Area Patrol
Three North Korean Defectors Found Frozen to Death Inside a Chinese Dugout
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Nationwide reoccurring Death from Cold, Including Pyong-Yang City, of Kkotjebies (homeless youth) and the old
The Pyong-yang City keeps taking over the matter of death from cold of young orphans (alias as flower-sparrow) and old people without any specific solution. One of the official of Pyongyang City passed the alarming news of the district “(in Pyongyang) we have uniquely higher population of old people than the other area due to the stable standard of living, however the rumor runs that the old people might all die this situation” He also said that he has not seen this many death from cold even in the period of Suffering March.
If Pyongyang is like this, he added on, the other cities must be worse then.
In fact, besides Pyongsung, Ham-Heung, Won-San, Chung-Jin and other main cities have the same problem of death from cold of flower-sparrows and old people. The result of the investigation in Chung-Jin City, Ham-Gyong North Province, about the death from cold or starvation is up to 150 people during January only. There is no way to find where the flower-sparrows originally came from. It was assumed that most of them had flowed into [Chung-Jin] from some place else except Chung-Jin City, because these flower-sparrows formed a stronghold around big city stations where they easily pick-pocket and pan-handle based on the heavy traffic of businessmen. People easily see the group of flower-sparrows begging at the front of stations in big city like Chung-Jin, Ham-Heung, Pyongsung and Won-San. However, it is impossible to avoid bone penetrating hunger even though they were successful begging to people. Some lucky children wrapped themselves up with vinyl, most of them shakes terribly only with torn rag. It is painfully pitiful to see the blackened bony body covered in dirt. Many children have pneumonia symptoms and there are no children without frostbite due to the torturous starvation and cold. This is the situation where there is no place to take care of these children.

Frozen Father’s Corpse Found on a New Year Visit
The old people who live in many story apartment are trapped inside of rooms because of the difficulty to step up and down stairs. Many people die of cold and starvation due to the very high price of foods and kindles. Last February 4th, in Chung-Jin Sunam District Sumokdong, Lee Young-Ok(alias) found her father’s frozen corpse when she visited her father’s house to celebrate New Year. With the sudden loss of her father, she was overwhelmed and was just sitting there with utter shock. Later the neighbors came and comforted her, “[I] heard about many happenings like this, but [I] never knew it would happen to your father. It is such a shame that he had been shivering by himself [in the cold].” When more people gathered, they talked about rumors that several people died of cold, it was very difficult to move the stiffly frozen body because of the rigidity, [I] have seen many people die of hunger during the Suffering March and it is the first time to see people dying of cold. Then, a security officer came up and reprimanded the sobbing daughter, “Stop criticizing society. Your father is not the only one who died from cold these days. If you thought of him deeply like that you should have stopped by earlier instead of visiting after his death, why do you make such a disturbance.” She just kept sobbing without saying anything, and then somebody comforted the daughter “If they had easy lives, they would have visited their parents often since their parents gave birth and raised them. Even with your visiting only, [I can say that] you are a devoted daughter. There are only few daughters and sons who visit their parents on holidays from far away in this dire circumstance.”

The Korean War Veteran Frozen to Death
This harsh winter, many elder people have been dying from cold and starvation in Hamheung City, South Hamgyong Province. On February 2, Korean New Year’s eve, the frozen dead body of Kim Dong-Seok (Alias) was found in his house, who was the last veteran of the Korean War in Shinheung 1 Dong. His neighbor, reported Mr. Kim’s death, said that she saw him knocking door to door in freezing cold in condition with severe coughing and begging for a little bit of food. He had come over her house as well the day before he died to ask for some corn, but she couldn’t share it since not much corn was left for even her family. She felt pity for him as she couldn’t get rid of his extreme pale and scary looking face from cold and hunger in her thought. She visited him next morning to give him a hands-full of corn. When she got his house, she felt absolutely no warmth of the heating but cold air. Opening the bedroom door, she saw his frozen dead body lying down on the icy cold floor. His room was extremely cold as much as water in the cooking pot in the room had frozen up. She sobbed out his tragic death, saying “if I knew he would die in cold like this, I would have given him food when he was my house.” and cried throughout.

An official and a secretary of the Shinheung town showed up at the house after hearing the last veteran’s death. They couldn’t believe how unbearably cold the house was and the cauldron was rusty from not being used for a long time. The secretary requested the municipality to observe a memorial service in honor of the last veteran, Mr. Kim, but it was denied. They informed of Mr. Kim’s death to his children and held a simple funeral service for him. Mr. Kim’s children didn’t even come to visit their father over the Korean New Year’s holiday. The neighbors sadly remarked, “We’ve been unable to afford to go visit our families and siblings for many years even though we miss them so much. Even a veteran, who has a priority, has been dying from cold and hunger due to the ration cut-off. That’s the horrible reality we are undergoing now” and sighed hopelessly.

Border Security Reinforced at the Increase of North Korean Defectors This Winter
" Many people cross the river to China when the Tumen River is frozen. However, the number of people who leave their homes is increasing this winter. From December 1 to 10 of last year, the number of defectors who were forcibly repatriated from Tumen to Namyang Bridge in Onsung County was amounted to 109. In spite of the reinforced border security, it was found the hundreds of people have escaped to China in January. The Ministry of the People’s Armed Forces and the Department of the General Staff have issued alerts so that “there is going to be no one defecting from the country” and conducted a self-inspection for a month from December 1 to 28 of last year. On December 17, the National Border Patrol Headquarter dispatched the directive officers consisted of high ranking officers in brigade or battalion level to every subordinate battalions, companies and platoons. The directive officers are instructing the military directly after they thoroughly grasp the matters such as political educations and training conditions of the dispatched unit and progress of the border security. It is because the military tightened its security after the armed conflict with South Korea, but in addition to that, there was an instruction to reinforce the border security as the number of defectors has increased conspicuously due to the food shortage in the nation. They encourage the soldiers by saying, “if you catch illegal border crossers, smugglers or fugitives, you will be prioritized in entering the desired college after you are discharged, you will be awarded with a vacation and your family will receive a gift such as Arirang color television”. They also emphasize that “if people come to them and ask them for help to cross the border illegally, they should accept the request and arrest the border crossers when they enter the national border area” and that “they will be rewarded unconditionally for doing so”. The North Korean representatives are visiting China frequently as the trade between North Korea and China is recently strengthened, but ordinary trade dealers and residents cannot avoid themselves from stringent border security. A trade dealer who visits Tumen in China says that the atmosphere is becoming brutal, “All of them are people who pledged loyalty to the new chief, so their minds are blinded by their zeal. If a person is caught for bringing prohibited items these days, he is brutally punished even if it is a trivial matter.”

Officers are Lukewarm about the Order of Intensifying Nation Border Area Patrol
While the enlisted men are interested in the superior authority’s promise of a great reward for detecting illegal border-crossers or smugglers, officers have lukewarm reactions to the promise. Married officers complain their difficulties of maintaining their livings because they have to feed their family and themselves with only 4,000 won and a little food ration per month. Chang, Ho-suk (alias) describes the situation by saying, “Officers do not want to work for military for their entire life and they will be civilians eventually. Thus, they have a big pressure of saving money for their retirement and try to help illegal border-cross to make money.” Considering this situation, the superior authority warns and punishes officers by announcing, “Officers who help border-cross will receive punishment with border-crossers together.” With special inspection before the New Year’s Day, the announcement that they will intensify inspection for the officers’ illegal conducts and punish them made officers in a bad temper.
Officers complained about this situation by saying, “If they want to do that, do not let us to build and repair guard posts.” Because border patrols have recently received military missions of building and repairing posts, officers of these units were in trouble. Officers said that they ordered us to accomplish this task, but they did not provide any construction materials. We have very difficult time because we have to secure cement, acquire other materials such as lumber, gravel, and paint. Officers have to provide materials by themselves because “the upper part issues an order to build and repair guard posts without providing any equipments or supplies.” Because superior authority will examine whether officers clean the posts, put glasses on the windows, and fix the roof, they have to eventually finish the mission. Thus, they mobilize any possible ways to accomplish their mission. Some units cross the river to beg materials in China and some other units borrow money from civilians in the town. However, these units seem to be gentle. The most common way to secure money and acquire materials is selling food rations for the post in the market. Platoons that have small patches of growing field sell tofu beans or corns in the market, but officers who do not have skills of this business let squad leaders or noncommissioned officers to do some illegal conducts. Squad leaders or noncommissioned officers go to the town with their men and steal or loot food, so they make worse the relationship between military and civilians. Officers say, “When the upper part forces us to accomplish tasks, we have nothing to do but make money by helping border-cross or smuggling.” Although the government issues a strong order to guard and inspect Nation Border Area, officers pretend to follow this order and in fact they do not guard the area. It is a current tendency that officers want to get assigned at the Nation Border Area because they can make a lot of money for their retirement. When a strong order of controlling the border area issues, the expenses of crossing the border go up but the number of crossers does not decrease. The upper authority begins to search officers’ houses and inspect illegal possessions. Recently, it is detected that two lieutenant majors and one major revealed information to North Korean defectors. And other officers’ personal illegal conducts and illegal business related to luxury vehicles were also found, so inspection and examination get intensified.

Three North Korean Defectors Found Frozen to Death Inside a Chinese Dugout
On January 15th, three North Korean defectors were found frozen to death inside a dugout in Tumen, China. The deceased comprised of one man and two women, who had supposedly left Onsung, North Hamkyong Province and had chosen to climb the snowy hills instead of traveling by car in order to avoid the Frontier Regulation Squad. According to an eye witness, the victims had unsuccessfully tried to find refugee inside a dugout far away from the village, but failed to withstand the freezing weather. A Korean immigrant from nearby village stated that the number of refugees have been increasing in China due to the ongoing food crisis in North Korea, but Korean immigrants are less willing to help them, and the refugees have grown apprehensive toward the Korean immigrants as well.
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