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.

North Korea Today No. 389, February 9, 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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Grain Price Drops due to Food Imports from China
Central Party Emphasizes Trade with China for Food Relief
Trade Officers Allow Deferred Payment to Chinese Traders to Earn Trust
Thwarted Negotiation with the South led to Dependence on China
Trade Officers Welcome Pro-China Trade Policy
More Import-Export Companies Likely to Open in Three Northeast Provinces
All-out Efforts to Secure 2.16 Holiday Rations

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Grain Price Drops due to Food Imports from China
The soaring prices of grain and foreign currency peaked on January 25 and started to drop. The prices of rice and corn, which were 3,200 NK won and 2,200 NK won respectively on January 20th, dropped to 2,200 NK won (rice) and 1,300 NK won (corn) in Pyongyang on the 30th. The exchange rates for the US dollar and Chinese yuan dropped from 3,400 NK won to 2,750 NK won and 515 NK won to 415 NK won respectively. The Central Party interpreted this to be the successful result of the Party assignment to overseas trade offices and individual trade officers. The exact amount of the food import is not known, but it is acknowledged that the imports from those trade officers are fairly robust.

Overseas trade offices were assigned to secure food imports for military provisions and holiday food rations for the laborers in many critical construction sites such as Heecheon Power Plant and Pyongyang 100,000-unit housing project. The officers have made great efforts to achieve the national goals, even if it meant borrowing money from Chinese merchants with whom they have trusted relationships. When asked why they are trying so hard when they themselves must be having a difficult time as well, an officer said, “If you do not achieve the goal, the Party will doubt your loyalty. You might get repatriated, and I am nervous about it. I do not know how I can earn my living if I go back to North Korea. It is better that I stay overseas, working hard, making every effort, and make a lot of money for my country. This way is more rewarding and also good for my own livelihood. So I do my best, even borrowing money, to complete my assignment.” Possibly thanks to these officers’ effort, there was some food distribution, which was then released in the market, resulting in a grain price drop.

Central Party Emphasizes Trade with China for Food Relief
The Central Party is emphasizing trade with China by issuing orders one after the other. The food constraint should be resolved first in order to boost the national economy and make a Strong and Powerful Nation in 2012. The content of the orders usually goes like this: “We should develop our endless natural resource of iron ores and boost iron production to strengthen our trade ties with China.” It ratcheted up the level of the message, saying “We should sell any material resources that can be traded to China and import food to overcome the current situation and improve people’s lives. We should bring foreign investments even if it means we have to give out the rights to expedite the development of mines and other industries to grow our economy as soon as possible.” This is completely opposite to its past protectionist attitude and tight restrictions on natural resource exports for self-sufficient economy. This practically nullifies last year’s regulation that said “Do not waste national resources. Raw materials should be processed and then be exported as semi-processed or manufactured products. Anyone exporting raw materials shall be subject to the law.”

An official from the Central Party said, “The guidelines on trade with China are getting very specific and detailed. I can feel the strong resolution of the Party and its urgency.” For example, the Central Party recently sent out an order: “Trustworthiness is most important in trading with China. In the past, there were many occasions where companies and organizations received materials and money for investment and did not keep their end of the bargain. If you do so, your level of credit drops down, and who in the world would trust you? The Party will punish those who make troubles in NK-China economic relations or breach any agreement, thus making us less creditable. From now on, carry on the NK-China trade in a bold and courageous manner.” This message reveals that the current economic and food crises are extremely serious and that they are desperate and cannot wait until China approaches them with aid and investments. According to the official, “this means that now we need to show our sincerity and resolution (to China).”

In December 2010, the North Korean Joint Venture Investment Committee signed an MOU with the Chinese Department of Commerce and Trade on development projects of Ra-sun exclusive zone and Hwanggeumpyung wood processing factory complex. It is now in an on-going negotiation with China on the extension of the land lease in Wihwa island and Hwanggeumpyung island from 50 years to 100 years. The investment on the Ra-sun exclusive zone amounts to a record two billion dollars based on the agreement that China builds roads and power plants in return for the mining rights. In addition, there is another negotiation going on with China about a 70 year lease of Chungjin harbor, stirring worries whether North Korea is giving away its largest harbor to China.

Trade Officers Allow Deferred Payment to Chinese Traders to Earn Trust
According to the Central Party’s principle to strengthen the trade between North Korea and China, the frontline trade workers started to devise several plans for recovering trust with their Chinese counterpart. In the past, it was normal not to pay full cost of the products even after 2 or 3 years of taking delivery. Now it is totally changed. North Korean trade workers pay some in advance with mineral or marine product then they contract with Chinese merchants as deferred payment. Merchants see that the trade between China and North Korea will be more active, so they are resuming the deals after the repayment. Some Chinese merchants are responding positively to the new approach, and a few agreements have been signed. However, issues such as underdeveloped facilities and lack of energy at the production level still remain. Even in the case of the products first and money later, if the quality is low and the scarcity of the quantity, they are not able to establish their worth as a trade partner.

Thwarted Negotiation with the South led to Dependence on China
One official at the Central Party says, “The internal atmosphere in the Party is perturbed by the enhanced dependence on China in new year”. He goes on to make a direct connection between this massive dependence - like selling land and tradable resources - with the North Korea’s succession issue. His analysis is that the Party is trying hard to solve the food problem in order to set the stage for designating a strong successor and having recognition from the public. He also points out that the Party is not as vigilant as before against China’s encroaching influence, considering the desperate condition of getting help from any country that is willing to help. After China established diplomatic ties with South Korea the relations between the North Korea and China had had grown worse. However, the common perception now is that China is the only option, minimizing any previous animosity that had still existed. At one time, there was a hope of concluding peace treaty with the US through the assistance of South Korea and developing the economy, but it has now become an absurd plan. Some officials explain that as the Unification Bureau of Worker’s Party failed in trade with South Korea, the Central Party began to focus on the relationship with China by going through the cabinet. Trade workers who had supported economic cooperation with South Korea lamented North Korea’s selling of the land and valuable resources to China, especially in light of the historic lands that Korea lost while under Japanese colonial rule. It’s doubly insulting that North Korea has to actually force a reluctant China to purchase her land just to survive. They, however, admits that it is an unavoidable situation of the country.
Since the government’s plan to import 500,000 ton of food from South Korean government under the condition of resuming the Geumgang tourism and of the reunion of the separated family went in vain, there was no option but to choose China. Additionally, the expected food from China failed to arrive on time, so the domestic food condition got worse, and the hardship that people had to go through got exacerbated. One official at the Central Party foresees that “to maintain the power and keep the regime intact, this was an unavoidable step. But it will be increasingly difficult to keep Chinese influence away from North Korea, even if we could solve the food problem and maintain the regime.

Trade Officers Welcome Pro-China Trade Policy

Unlike some Central Party officials worrying the strengthened relationship with China would undermine the independence of North Korea, trade officers working in day-to-day operations welcome the pro-China trade policy. They blame the frequent failure of attracting foreign investments to the loss of Chinese trust in NK due to its unstable and inconsistent national policies. However, they “welcome the fresh change brought by the Great Leader’s order of ‘bold and proactive’ trade with China.” They are relieved that they do not have to worry whether the national policy would change again. According to Jeong Seong-il (alias) who commutes between Shinuiju and Dandong, “People were very concerned when we were studying the New Year’s Collective Editorial, but now everyone is happy to hear the Great Leader’s order (of reinforcing NK-China Trade). They are so excited that all trade companies in the nation can fully operate and invigorate trade with China, bringing lots of food and other necessities and contributing to the making of the Strong and Powerful Nation if the order is well implemented.” Their reaction is in a stark contrast with the reactions of some Central Party officials who said, “The New Year’s Collective Editorial is the official philosophy and policy of the Party, and yet it is completely reversed by the order of the Great Leader. Now we have to set up anew all the overseas policies of every department all over again.”

More Import-Export Companies Likely to Open in Three Northeast Provinces
The Central Party conducted a nationwide survey of food shortage as they continue to receive the news of increasing number of death among the elderly due to food shortage, freezing weather, and disease since the end of last year. After reviewing the reports from investigation teams dispatched to each province they have reached a conclusion that they have to revitalize trade with China after a long deliberation. Following the words of Chairman Kim Jong-il they examined the ways of electing policies for strengthening the cooperation between North Korea and China and increasing the number of import-export companies overseas. As more import-export companies open up in China, more trading officials are expected to be dispatched. Just for the month of January this year, about 4-5 import-export companies newly opened offices in each city of the Three Northeast Provinces. Once the February 16 holiday (Kim Jong-il’s birthday) is over, more trading officials staying in China for a long-term are expected to be there. It was about this time when the directive ordering to reestablish policies to strengthening the cooperation between North Korea and China was handed down. The reports submitted by each government office will be reviewed and released to the officials on February 16. Currently, the overseas representatives dispatched to China’s Three Northeast Provinces are attending an annual meeting in Pyongyang, and they are likely to receive the new polices before February 16.

All-out Efforts to Secure 2.16 Holiday Rations
All the Party institutions, organizations and import-export companies are doing their best to secure holiday food provisions for February 16 (birthday of Kim Jong-il). A plan for massive food provision was set up for Kim Jong-eun’s birthday on January 8th, but the plan was only partially implemented, with food going to select privileged ones as the food import went awry. This failure, on top of the lack of New Year’s Day holiday ration supply, resulted in food price rising and public unrest. Subsequent efforts to secure Lunar New Year provision were also fruitless.

The food prices temporarily dropped when the overseas representatives delivered food every day from January 25 to 31 for their army provision assignment and conscientious relief project. However, the Lunar New Year provision was again extended only to some people such as Security Department officials. It is reported that the food sent from abroad will be distributed for the holiday provision for 2.16 and military provision and provided to Heecheon power plant and Pyongyang 100000 housing construction sites.

Import-export companies in and out of the country are particularly working hard to secure 2.16 holiday provision. They worry that fail to do so will significantly mar the authority and people’s confidence of the Party. Central Party officials said “2.16 provision needs to happen since it can be detrimental to the confidence level of the officials and not just the people.” They also said “(even in the Central Party) there is a high level of concern that famine will reoccur nationwide if there’s no provision made by February 16. Simply put, we order all-out efforts every day since the situation is pressing and urgent.”

Currently, the food price is dropping with a rumor of food influx from China and the expectations of 2.16 holiday provisions shared among people. However, the residents do not feel the price drop yet. People even say living is “worse than dying.” Some people also foresee that the food situation may not be resolved in short-term since the Chinese government has not confirmed the approval of food export. However, government officials and trade officers hope that the situation will improve once the full-scale trade policy with China stabilizes
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North Korea Today No. 388, February 2, 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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Mortality Rate of the Elderly Rising in Pyongyang due to Cold Temperature

Chungjin Kkotjebies (Homeless Youths) Go to Steel Mill Ash Piles for Warmth

Merchants in Sariwon, "You need 1 million won for a round trip to Chungjin.”

Torture that Nobody Knows About Except Women Who Work as Household Maids

“I Will Gather Shellfish Rather Than Cultivate the Soil,” Say Farmers in Bongsan Collective Farm __________________________________________________________________________

Mortality Rate of the Elderly Rising in Pyongyang

According to an official, the morality rate of the elderly has been increasing noticeably since last December. Physicians at the People’s Hospital in Pyongyang have attributed this sudden rise to cold temperatures and hunger which have been exacerbating the elderly’s existing conditions, such as malnutrition, tuberculosis and heart disease. According to another government official, official death statistics note that “about 40 to 50 people die in Pyongyang on a normal day. Yet, since January 10, deaths have exceeded 150 per day. For example, January 14, 15 and 16 have resulted in 207, 196 and 231 deaths, respectively. Currently, the average mortality rate is 150 per day.”

Another official blames the power shortage for the spike. Since the elderly are expelled from subway terminals after 5:00 pm, where they shelter themselves from the harsh elements during the day, they are forced to go home where they cannot even boil water or cook. There are also times when there is no tap water and they are forced to collect water from frozen sources. The elderly are trying to survive by wearing multiple layers of clothing and covering themselves with blankets. Those who live in high rise buildings have given up the idea of seeking outside help because they cannot manage to exit through stair wells when elevators are not working. Unfortunately, there is little that the city government can do. The government asserts that there is not enough food to go around after distributing rations to high ranking officers. Ms. Kim, a Sunkyo District resident, demands better action. She argues, “Already more than 15 died in this area from dehydration and exposure. However, aisles are filled with all types of merchandise in the “First Department Store.” There is no need to give any more food to high ranking officers who already have enough. How can we sing the praise of the Mother Party when the poor and the elderly do not have anything to eat or wear?”

Chungjin Kkotjebies (Homeless Youths) Go to Steel Mill Ash Piles for Warmth
The situation of the homeless has deteriorated due to the cold and persisting winter. In Chungjin City, North Hamgyong Province, many, including vagrant youths commonly dubbed “kkotjebie[s]," have been gathering at the Gimchaek Steel Mill in order to combat the brutal weather with the warmth of left-over ashes. Kkotjebies usually lay sheets of vinyl on top of the ashes to use as beds, but this practice sometimes results in fires when the ashes come in contact with their clothes. Every day, children wait at the mill and struggle to take their share of the newly discarded ashes. The fresher the ash is, the hotter. Lately, kkotjebies have been roaming around in groups, resulting in gang fights over who gets first dibs at the ash. Some children say they prefer traveling with their groups instead of staying at welfare institutions, where food is scarce and life is strictly regimented. Homeless adults travel alone, while kkotjebie groups tend to be in their teens or twenties. These groups scavenge for food around the Soonam Market during the day and spend their nights at the Gimchaek Steel Mill.

Kkotjebies at the Soonam Market dress in rags and their faces are so dirty that the whites of their eyes are very pronounced. Due to their disheveled appearance, people question whether the kkotjebies are humans or animals. They eat off the dirt and snatch plates of food from unsuspecting customers in the market. Although people used to chase after them to retrieve their food, reactions have become more nonchalant; people see no merit in eating something that has been in a kkotjebie’s dirty hands. Complaints regarding the kkotjebies have increased, however; according to a Soonam Market security officer, their population has been becoming unusually large since 2009. Another guard pities them, saying that watching them travel in groups reminds him of the Arduous March. One Songpyong County Party official states that the kkotjebies might as well as keep warm at the mill since welfare institutions are not heated anyway. In other words, the Party does not have a solution to this problem.

Merchants in Sariwon, "You need to drop 1 million won for a round trip to Chungjin.”
Large-scale merchants in North Hwanghae Province say that it is difficult these days to do long-distance trading. On top of the high cost of traveling itself, the foreign currency exchange rate is soaring and it became more difficult to find gasoline and diesel oil. It costs at least 400000 to 500000 won to transport products in a 10-ton cargo vehicle to Sinuiju. The price doubles for gasoline vehicles. If they add food and lodging expenses for the driver and merchants, they need to spend over 1 million won for the transportation. Travel to Chungjin or Rasun in North Hamgyong Province costs even more. Ordinary merchants cannot afford long-distance trade. Those who trade gold or large amount of products would try it, but most merchants do their business in markets or engage in 'running' business model, transporting products from rural areas.

Pak Myung Hak (alias), selling sweet potatoes from Sariwon to Chungjin, said “In order to make a large profit after the cost for “servi” (transportation), we need to hit cities like Chungjin. In Sariwon City, there’s a large influx of sweet potatoes from Goksan and Shingye County. You can make a big profit by selling them to Jagang or North Hamgyong Province. Despite the bad flood damage last year, Sariwon has relatively abundant resources since it holds good regions for growing grain crop such as rice, corn, as well as sweet potato. The crop decreased due to the flood damage, but it’s better than nothing.”

The Torture that Nobody Knows About Except the Women Who Work as Household Maids
The lower class people in Sariwon, Hwanghae North Province live by working as household ‘servants’. The people labor for wages by fixing floor heating systems or kitchens and repairing shoes, and as maids for the affluent, such as businessmen and law enforcement officials. Under the guide of being a long-distance relative, middle-aged or old women move in with the host families to do housekeeping like cooking, laundry, and taking care of the young children while the parents are not home due to business trips.

30 year-old Myung-sun Lee (alias) is working as a maid because she had no place to stay after her husband passed away. She was hesitant at first, but after hearing that many people have started working as domestic servants, she soon poured out her pitiful life story and said that nobody would understand how weary the work of a servant is.
“I accidentally met the man who owns this house in a car. I told him that it was hard to start a business because I didn’t have enough money. Also, I couldn’t get a job and furthermore, there’s nobody around me I can ask for help. Then he offered me a job to work for his family. So, at first, I got paid with a small amount of money or rice for cooking, laundry and housekeeping. I endured all the rudeness and coarse language from the family because I could help my lonely mom with the money and rice when I visit her. This couple leaves the house turn by turn. For instance, the husband comes back home from a long business trip and then the wife takes a trip next. I took care of the 4th grade boy as if he were my son, but he disrespected and mistreated me like a slave. One day, the wife went away to Hamheung for a business trip. That night, I was called by the husband as I was doing laundry, and he asked me to find something. When I got in the room, he pretended to comfort me and grabbed my hand, then said, ‘Your life is too tough for such a young age. Why don’t you get married again?’, then pulled me into his bed. I ran from his grasp out of the room right away, and I felt that he treated me cheaply because I didn’t have a child or even a husband. The next morning, the husband came to me and still treated me like a toy and said that if I listen to him I can have an easier life. Later, the wife came back home and was distant to me because of the husband’s strange attitude. I was very nervous that I might get fired by her. I had no choice but to stand whatever vulgarity she directed at me. I felt like I was a criminal even though I didn’t do anything wrong. I had no one to confide in and was vexing myself. It is not fair being treated as a subhuman servant just because I didn’t have a place to live.”

Women who work as a maid often experience similar calamities. They are embarrassed at first, and sometimes there are cases where they accept the house owner’s advances because they feel they have no choice. Moreover, the social tendency has changed; people think that morality is a luxury and does not put food on the table. They used to point fingers and report these incidences to the authority in the past; however, now people pretend to not see anything.

“I Will Gather Shellfish Rather Than Cultivate the Soil,” Say Farmers in Bongsan Collective Farm
Using the word ‘servant’ is a prevalent trend these days in North Korea. Although the Central Party, which believes it has stamped out the vestige of a feudal society, may not want to admit it, people have used the words ‘servant’ and ‘feudal landlord’ for a long time in their everyday life. The word ‘servant’ is also frequently used in Bongsan Collective Farm in Bongsan County of North Hwanghae Province. When asked how the farmers were living, they responded that they live by ‘gathering shellfish as a servant’. Gathering shellfish and receiving some money as wage is called ‘gathering shellfish as a servant’.

Park Hae-sung (alias) says that farmers who gather shellfish as a servant are better off than the farmers who diligently show up at the Bongsan Collective Farm to work. Farmers who farmed diligently since the early spring could not receive proper distribution because the crops failed as a result of the flood damage last year. Since no grains were harvested in the farm, they have not been able to do the End of Year Distribution so far. Mr. Park says that even if the End of Year Distribution is done, the amount will be less than 1/5 of last year’s amount. That is why people say that those who rather went to the seashore to gather shellfish as a servant have food in their houses. Some savvy people also went to the city to engage in business; they saved at least 3 months’ worth of food and are even better off than the ‘people who gathered shellfish as a servant’. The na├»ve farmers who only cultivated the land last year are paying attention to these various cases and say that they will give up on farming and will go to the city to do business or go to the seashore to gather shellfish as a servant.

The Average Rate of Absentees Without Leave Amounted to 40% Last Year in Bongsan Collective Farm
An officer from Bongsan Collective Farm in Bongsan County of North Hwanghae Province revealed that the average attendance rate last year was approximately 60%. The attendance rate fluctuates depending on the season; usually there are most absentees from the spring lean months season until the end of August, then the attendance rate goes up somewhat during the harvest.

In July of last year, more than half of the farm members were absent as they went to work on individual patches of land or to sell agricultural products in downtown Sariwon. Upon receiving the report that there are absentees without leave, the City Party instructed the responsible police station to drag the absentees back even by using force. They threatened people by saying that they will arrest and discipline the long-term absentees or send the people who were absent for more than three months to Discipline Center, but it was not effective enough to raise the attendance rate. This goes back to the July 1 Economic Reform in 2000 when some of the farm members began to engage in business regularly. People used to miss work temporarily whenever a farmer’s market was open, but after the Economic Reform, some people began to miss work in order to engage in business. Kang Sun-jung (alias), who has worked in Bongsan Collective Farm for more than 17 years, says that the attendance rate plummeted since then and the average rate is now only 60%. “More people think that there is no point in working at the farm and that it is better to do business. People are seeking other sources of income because the food and cash distribution they receive are getting less and less each time even though they toil themselves without ever taking a break throughout the
year,” she says.

North Korea Today No. 387, January 26, 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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Rice Price Hits 3,000 KPW in Pyongyang
Food Prices Fluctuate due to the Forced Collection of Army Provisions Nationwide
Party Officials Not Exempt From Military Rice Obligations
“The Nation cannot Exist without Soldiers” - Mobilizing Military Food Supply Daily
Central Party Directs to Take a “Bold and All-Out” Stance When Dealing with China

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Rice Price Hits 3,000 KPW in Pyongyang
The price of rice in Pyongyang has exceeded 3,000 KPW for the first time. Rice was traded at 3,200 KPW per kilogram on January 19th, 2011. This sudden increase happened only one week after the price dropped to 1,500 KPW. The price of rice had soared to 2,100 KPW on January 7th, 2011 and went down temporarily the next day, as each police station and security department was provided with ten days’ worth of food in celebration of the birthday of Kim Jong-un, the Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission of Worker' Party of Korea.

However, the price started to surge as some of the originally expected food rationing did not happen. One City Party official noted regarding the soaring rice price, “it is because the food imported from outside has been delayed and no food is available at the market in Pyongyang because the neighboring farms were required to provide the army provisions first.” It was also pointed out that the increasing value of the dollar and yuan day by day is another factor that added fuel to the rising food prices. On the 19th of January, the dollar exchanged for 3,400 KPW in Pyongyang and Pyongsung. As for the reason of skyrocketing foreign exchange rates, one City Party official pinpointed the intensified competition for foreign currencies among institutes, public enterprises and trade companies. He noted, “Everybody purchases dollars to use for trading with Chinese partners. On the contrary, some foreign representatives bring dollars and exchange those dollars for Renminbi in North Korea. This is because the price of the Renminbi is higher in North Korea than in China. In recent days we observe an increasing number of trade representatives looking for international traders in China. After the lunar New Year’s, the customs offices are expected to overflow with trade representatives.”

Prices of Rice, Corn and Dollar in Major Cities as of January 19th



Food Prices Fluctuate due to the Forced Collection of Army Provisions Nationwide
The price of rice hit 3,200 KPW in Pyongyang, and the corn traded at 2,200 KPW, which shocked the majority of North Korean people. By January of this year the price of rice skyrocketed to 2,100 KPW. However, the price of corn had never passed 1,000 KPW before. Even Central Party officials felt puzzled at the fluctuating grain prices. However, local party officials say that it is an inevitable result. One city party official in Pyongsung pointed out, as the first reason, the fact that the government is exacting army provisions on a priority basis although it had promised not to do so. On October 30th, 2010, the Central Party decided to stop collecting army provisions and gave notice to some regions on November 1st 2010. However, it resumed its requirement as a form of “voluntary sharing” of the provisions because of the emergency situation for securing army provisions. Recently farms near Pyongyang were provided with food provisions for one year. However, the actual amount barely covers 10 months. Many farmers in South and North Hwanghae, Kangwon, South Hamkyong and Ryanggang Province did not receive food provisions enough for even half a year. Since the party is requiring food for the army despite its promise not to do so, the farmers have minimized the purchase of essential goods and stocked up on food to prepare to make it through the lean months in the spring. As a consequence, food has not been distributed to the market.

One City Party official in Hamheung noted that the expected food provisions on January 8th, 2011 (Birthday of Kim Jong-un) did not materialize, and this is one of reasons for the increasing food prices. Food should be distributed using whatever pretext; absent that, food prices are bound to rise.

Party Officials Not Exempt From Military Rice Obligations
Party officials and those in law enforcement, even those who received 10 days’ ration, are not exempt from making contributions to the military. For those in law enforcement, even the lowest-ranking officials are each required to donate 50kg of corn. The higher their rank, the more they must donate. A police officer in Pyongyang remarked that the 10 days’ ration he received was limited to himself and did not include his family, resulting in difficulties with food shortage, like all other ordinary families. For fear of losing his position, he still contributes food to the military, but states that this kind of situation goes hand-in-hand with colleagues’ practice of increasing crackdowns on illegal behavior. Tightened law enforcement increases bribing practices by civilians. This is reflected in the expression, to “squeeze blood from citizens to meet food contributions”.

The supposedly voluntary food contribution is in fact an obligation, and there is even greater pressure placed on trade representatives in foreign countries and officials in international trading companies. When domestic officials in North Korea donate 1 to 2 tons of food, they are well received, but if any officials overseas or in a trading company contribute the same amount of 1-2 tons, they are subject to great scrutiny. It is not explicitly stated how many tons of food are required in their contributions, but it is generally established that the minimum contribution is 5 tons, and to receive a good evaluation, it must be over at least 10 tons. If they (trade representatives) donate less than 5 tons, the party can suspect the officials’ loyalty to the party and country, and in the worst case scenario, will audit their assets. Hence, officials are willing to sell their personal assets to meet food contribution requirements. An official explained that the same fixed standards apply to monetary contributions that are accepted in lieu of actual food.

“The Nation cannot Exist Without Soldiers” - Mobilizing Military Food Supply Daily
The Central Party recently issued a nationwide order to collect food for soldiers, stating, “Our country cannot exist without soldiers. We are in a difficult time, but you must help secure food for them.” Every organization, enterprise, and people’s unit of district offices held lectures in which ordinary people are made to swear the oath, “Without the General and soldiers, we cannot be happy. Even if we are starved or ragged, we will follow the Great Leader’s measure and do our best to support the soldiers.” Although they swear an oath of support at the lectures, they leave cursing, “This is crazy, and they are killing the people”. The farmers, who had been ecstatic at news of halting the military food contributions, responded now with a sense of having been fooled. Some outright refuse to trust the party any longer, disbelieving what they hear regardless of the content. A Central Party official explained their own perspective on the situation, saying, “The food shortage of the people is worsening despite the Party’s efforts, due to an unexpected situation. Last September, when a Party organization meeting received report of the people’s unspeakable troubles and we decided to stop collecting food contributions for soldiers, we still had a way out of this situation. It was when our plans to import food from China did not come through that we could not put off the issue of feeding the soldiers any longer, and we began collecting military food contributions again”.

Central Party Directs All Departments to Take a “Bold and All-Out” Stance When Dealing with China
The Central Party is once again emphasizing to all institutions, enterprises and government units the importance of strengthening cooperation with China. Following the instructions requesting to take a "big and all-out stance," every government unit, including economic trade, political, and military areas, is reshaping its China policy. In particular, they are setting up internal guidelines at the party level to punish those enterprises or individuals committing credit violations or damaging credit in trade with China. Thus, there are claims that recent currency soaring valuations of the Yuan can be linked to the atmosphere of encouraging trade with China. As each of the institutions and enterprises tries to establish credible trading with China, many transactions based on credit are no longer possible. As a result, competition to acquire foreign currency has become more intense because deals can only be made with Yuan or dollars. Although recently there is a sharp increase in the number of inquires coming from China’s Three Northeast Provinces about investing in North Korea’s mining or ore mines, not many deals have been finalized. Therefore, foreign investment influx is insignificant. In other words, the value of foreign currency is rising rapidly because there are a lot expenses to be paid with foreign currency while there is no source of foreign currency income.

Especially, with all trading companies attempting to acquire food in preparation for February 16 holidays, the foreign currency value is expected to continue to rise for the time being. Trading companies have established the policy of refraining from importing everyday essential goods other than special items, and making every effort to acquire food instead. In terms of politics, the recently proposed political dialogue with South Korea can be interpreted as North Korea’s attempt to win China’s good will by showing respect to China’s demand. An official says, "All the departments of the government are having on-going discussions to reshape the policies with China because we are instructed to honor the demands made by China as much as we can and cooperate closely with China to solve all the problems by strengthening our ties with them. We are reaching out to South Korea first because of China's influence, but it doesn’t matter whether South Korea accepts our offer or not. We are not responsible for South Korea’s refusal to accept our offer. We're just trying to show that we have done our part.”



North Korea Today No. 386, January 19, 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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Skyrocketing Food Prices
The Grain Price in Pyongyang (KPW/kg)
U.S. Dollar Up 60% in Over One Month
The Grain Price and Exchange Rate in Chungjin
Gimchaek Steel Mill Only Distributes 10 Days’ Worth of Corn This Year
Food Ration in Gimchaek Steel Mill in 2010
Police Officers Afraid of Psychic Fortune Teller in Hamheung City
“I’d rather Send my Son to Jail than to the Army”

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Skyrocketing Food Prices
The price of rice in Pyongyang has exceeded 2,000 won/kilogram since the New Year, compared to its previous rate of 1,600 won/kilogram at the end of last year. On January 7th, rice traded at 2,100 won/kilogram. Yet, following the recent first bimonthly ration, prices dropped to 1,500 won/kilogram. Although it is presumed that holiday (Lunar New Year) ration distribution led to the decrease, prices are still surging in areas where food distribution has not taken place. In Hamheung, the price of rice was 1,500 won/kilogram on January 1st. By January 7th prices were at 1,800, 1,750 and 1,800 won/kilogram in Hamheung, Chongjin and Sinuiju, respectively. Ten days later in Chongjin, prices again rose to 1,980 won/kilogram.

Meanwhile, one kilogram of corn traded at the rate of 950 won in Pyongyang on January 7th, a record high, as well as 780 won in Chongjin and 850 won in Hamheung, Sinuiju, and Pyongsung. For the past ten days, prices were still between 750 and 800 won, with the exception of Pyongyang and other areas where food distribution had taken place – rates have rested at 600 won/kilogram. In order to explain the skyrocketing prices of grain, some government officials have blamed delays in imports as well as the strength of the U.S. dollar and renminbi against the North Korean won (KPW).

The Grain Price in Pyongyang (KPW/kg)

U.S. Dollar Up 60% in Over One Month
The exchange rate for the U.S. dollar (USD) and renminbi (CNY) against the North Korean won (KPW) has made a sudden upswing. In Sinuiju, Pyongyong, Chungjin and Hamkyong, rates were between 2,600- 2,700 KPW/USD and 430-435 KPW/CNY from January 5th to the 7th, in comparison to 1,800 KPW/USD and 290 KPW/CNY at the end of last year. In the case of Chungjin, the rate was 3,510 KPW/USD on January 16th, dropped down to 3,300 KPW/USD on the following day and settled at 2,800 KPW/USD on January 18th. Overall, the respective values of the U.S. dollar and renminbi soared 160 and 150 percent respectively from last month.

The Grain Price and Exchange Rate in Chungjin

Gimchaek Steel Mill Only Distributes 10 Days’ Worth of Corn This Year
A monthly food distribution in Gimchaek Steel United Enterprise in Chungjin of North Hamgyong Province is still less than 10 days’ worth of food. It has been already several years that the form of the food distribution was changed from rice to corn; the amount was reduced continuously from 1 month to 15 days and to eventually 10 days, and now, 10 days’ worth of food is fixed as the maximum amount. Still, this is the situation of the workplaces such as steel factory or forging factory that ranks high enough to receive attention; the situation of weaker-positioned factories such as steel casting factory is even worse. Sometimes they are skipped over while others receive 15 days’ worth of distribution. In order to solve the food problem of the workers, the United Enterprise discussed the matter with the Ministry several times, but they could not come up with appropriate measures. The Central Party has instructed they resolve the food shortage by selling Juche Steel.

However, there is still no sign of relief in food problem even with the coming of the New Year. As the food distribution becomes problematic, an increasing number of laborers are setting out to find other sources of earning such as working on small land patch farming or squid fishing where they can receive a wage instead of going to work. For the state factories, every bit of help counts, so they look for the absentee workers. On December 10 of last year, they convened a joint emergency meeting with the local police because of the absenteeism problem and discussed the possible resolution. They came up with measures to compel the absentee workers to come to work; absentees without leave for more than a month must go through the forced labor in a discipline center for at least 3 months, and for the absentees without leave for more than 2 months, the period in a discipline center is doubled to 6 months. On the other hand, people keep stealing the equipments of the factory. On December 5 of last year, 3 welding machines were stolen and 5 culprits were arrested shortly after the incident. The arrested were the laborers of Gimchaek Steel Mill. “If you dismantle the welding machine, it reveals a transformer made of copper, and we sold it to the copper smugglers. We bought and ate food with this money,” they confessed.

Food Ration in Gimchaek Steel Mill in 2010


Police Officers Afraid of Psychic Fortune Teller in Hamheung City
At the beginning of every year, there is a tendency for people to visit fortune tellers. This year is no exception. However, due to the arrest of a reputed psychic at the end of last year, Hamheung City residents have been discouraged from taking part in this tradition. The individual in question is 43 year old Seonghee Kim, living in Sinheung 1-dong of the Seongcheon River District. After being arrested on November 29, 2010 for her superstitious practices, the police conducted a thorough search of Kim’s residence and confiscated books allegedly used for reading the future. Since a bible was among the items seized, the police have also been investigating whether her work was political in nature. Nevertheless, it is reported that the officers in charge of questioning Kim are impressed by her purported abilities and are thus very cautious in dealing with her.

Kim, a psychic practitioner since childhood, became famous during the peak of the Arduous March in 1999, when people visited her to inquire about lost family members. She would inform clients the status of their loved ones—whether they were still alive, and if so, where they could be located. As rumors of Kim’s ability spread, the number of clients increased. Question topics ranged from potential profitability of items to be sold in the market or prospective yields from land patch farming. A number of those following her advice achieved a level of success, making her more famous. Although the police eventually took notice of Kim and brought her in to force her to write a self-criticism as punishment, she continued her practice, partly because she did not have any other means of self-support, but also because her clientele included high-level officials. Even when she was detained in the police station, Kim impressed officers with facial readings and dream interpretations to the extent that they released her immediately. She then began to be known as the most powerful psychic in the city. Afterwards, Provincial Party officials and other officers from Police and Security Departments often visited Kim for consultations.

As Kim’s fame grew, so did her income. Established merchants paid her 50,000 North Korean won or with a few large sacks of rice (80kg per sack) for a fortune telling session. Less affluent people paid her whatever they could afford–1,000 or 5,000 North Korean won or a few kilograms of rice. The very destitute offered her a few eggs as a token of gratitude. Her popularity not only revolved around her perceived fortune telling ability but also her accommodation of her client’s financial status. At the end of last year, when the Central Party issued an order to “destroy superstition,” the City Party refused to comply. This spurred the Provincial Party to intervene and arrest her. According to a police official, Kim cannot avoid a minimum sentence involving seven years of re-education. On an interesting note, the judges in charge of Kim’s case are said to be reluctant in questioning her because of their fear that it would bring them bad luck.

“I’d rather Send my Son to Jail than to the Army”
Everyone in Wonsan City, Gang-won Province was angered by one soldier’s story told on his first vacation in seven years since being drafted into the army. After hearing his story, parents with sons all claimed they would never send their sons to the army. Suk Chool Kim (alias), who for seven years had been trapped in a ravine blocked off completely by mountains digging for coal without a single day of rest, recounts his experiences in his own words: “The only time I held a gun was at the boot camp. Since then, I worked with a hoe every day and night for the last 7 years. I couldn’t stop working because there was so much work; sometimes I even slept in the break room in the shaft. Once I get to the shaft in the morning, I normally stay there until evening because it is too far from the surface to exit it in the middle of the day. We are not able to rest even during our break. I usually have to relieve myself and eat my meals in the same room. The meals primarily consist of steamed rice with corn and pickled radish. People are always hungry given only balls of steamed corn-rice as nourishment. In the pit of the shaft, people wade in their excrements that immediately poison their skin (Mr. Kim’s feet, legs, and buttocks were so poisoned and have blackened and decayed; it no longer looks like human skin). The skin initially swells to a reddish color and continued exposure to this environment without proper treatment makes the skin crackle, then eventually the skin develops necrosis and turns black. We eagerly wait for the holidays because that is when we get at least a soup with a hint of pork and steamed rice.”

In 2007, due to so many tuberculosis patients, they were given half a bottle of vodka upon finishing their work. Among the 80 people in his company, around 10 people died as casualties of accidents or from malnutrition every year. Mr. Kim did not want to go back to that place because it was a living hell. He said “I felt like I would go crazy” because they were provided no support and were instead deluged with slogans like “the death-defying defense, the all bomb spirit”; “be a true warrior of revolution”; and “being a soldier of the General is an honor whether alive or dead”. He said that he was lucky to have survived like this and kept expressing his unwillingness to return. The neighbors were angered by the story and at Mr. Kim’s miserable appearance and said “I’d rather let my son commit a crime and send him to jail than to the army.”




















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