GoodFriends: Research Institute For North Korean Society

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North Korea Today No. 408, June 22, 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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Strengthened Crackdown on Skipping Farming Mobilization Aggravates People’s Lives
Illegal Border Crossing in Hike Despite Tight Control Over Farming Mobilization
“I Crossed the Border to Survive.”
Border Patrols Earn Money by Overlooking Border-Crossing
“Dear My Wife in South Korea, Please Help us Out!”
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Editor’s Note: A Society that Drives People to Defect
It is time for farming mobilization and the spring lean season, when skipping meals are no more than an everyday routine. Police officers are waiting in the neighborhood to catch anybody they see and send them to farms. You need at least a pack of ‘cat cigarette’* to pass.

You can barely buy 1 kg of corn with a whole day of hard work at a market in North Korea. At the news that they are now supposed to do business only for 2-3 hours a day, people are upset. It seems so natural for them to cry out, “Do they really want us to die or live?”

People say that on the other side of the Tumen River (which means ‘in China’), even dogs eat steamed rice meal. Hoping to eat as much as they want once in their life, increasing number of people are ‘crossing the river’ (defecting). Who are pushing them to the other side of the river? North Korean authorities need to listen to the outcry of the residents, “I crossed the river since I wanted to live!” If they cannot feed the people, the North Korean government should at least let them make their own way to survive. We call for a generous treatment of the defectors who were forcefully repatriated.

*Note: The official name of ‘cat cigarette’ is ‘Craven A,’ which has a cat logo on the case and a British company sub-contracted North Korea to produce and export to Africa.

Strengthened Crackdown on Skipping Farming Mobilization Aggravates People’s Lives
Death from starvation is still ongoing in Heungnam City and Hamheung City, South Hamgyong Province. According to a party official at the Provincial Party of South Hamgyong Province, in addition to widespread food shortage, which is the primary reason, all-out farm mobilization is also responsible for the situation as farm work consumes much of people's time and energy, which, otherwise, they could have used to work elsewhere and make a better living. Furthermore, the stepped up crackdown on movement makes it more difficult for people to make a living for several reasons.

Ham Mi-Young (pseudonym), from Sapo District in Hamheung City, has increasing difficulty in feeding her five family members. She could not make a decent profit even when she spent entire day selling fish, which she transported from Rak-won Beach very early in the morning. To make matters worse, she can spend only a couple of hours selling fish due to the obligatory farm mobilization work. She must be very careful about making round trips between her town and Rak-won beach to avoid the crackdown. During early June 2011, she was caught by a police officer at the entrance to her town while transporting fish from Rak-won Beach. The ‘cat tobacco,’ which she had in her vehicle to use as a bribe in case of being caught, worked for the police officer and he gave her a pass in return for the bribe. Though she could avoid the worst, being arrested, it was still stressful, because the ‘cat tobacco’ cost her 12,000 won. It tops the list of the best bribing items, because it is more highly valued than other tobaccos, such as Poong-nyon, Go-hyang, and Pyongyang, which cost 5,000, 7,000, and 8,000 respectively. She laments that making a profit is almost impossible due to the high cost, notably bribing police officers. She said, “Purchasing cat tobacco for one bribe is not a real issue. What really troubles me is the police officers who are positioned at every checkpoint. Since I have to risk being caught every time I make a trip, I tend to reduce the number of trips to get fish.” Nonetheless, her business is considered in a better position, given the fact that she owns her own vehicle.

Lee Ok-hee (pseudonym), who operates a small grocery business, makes a profit of just 600 or 700 won a day. She said, “Those who can earn more than 2000 won a day are better off with paying fines for missing farm work, because a fine for absence is 2,000 won. However, I have to participate in farm mobilization, because attendance is thoroughly checked, and I cannot afford the fine of 2,000 won a day. If I am caught by a police officer while moving around for business, I have to offer a bribe, at least one box of tobacco, which amounts to the money which can feed my family three meals. Thus, by all accounts, poor people like us cannot get out of poverty. My husband and kids keep me from attempting to commit a suicide. I don’t know how to endure my life.”

Women who run market stall businesses like Lee complain that “We have only a couple of hours for our own business after being released from farm mobilization work. As soon as business starts to pick up, it begins to get dark. How can we live under this condition?” Because of this dire situation, many families can afford only one or two porridges a day. More than a few die out of hunger.

Illegal Border Crossing in Hike Despite Tight Control Over Farming Mobilization
Hardship of farming mobilization seems to be endless. Police officers are at every corner of the streets and people do not dare to go out—if you get caught, you are most likely sent to the farm. This tight control is especially weighing on resellers (brokers). Since they do not have any financial resources, they need to start their day at dawn, buy whatever they can afford to buy, and sell them in the market on the same day. If you are a well-off merchant, you can bribe the officers and get away from the farming mobilization. However, if you are a reseller (broker), you can do nothing but hiding from the officers. The period of farming mobilization in its full swing like right now is the hardest time of the year for the resellers to do their business. During this season, passing days without food becomes more frequent; some people do not make it through this ordeal and die of hunger. As the government control in the farming mobilization is getting tighter, the number of people who attempt to cross the border is on high rise. “Things are not going well in business and we are always in short of food. We cannot live like this anymore.” This is what you hear from most of the border crossers. When the spring hardship season comes, the condition gets worse. Out of despair and hunger, people decide to leave their beloved hometown and attempt to cross the Tumen River; some of them had already tried to cross the border before. The border patrols around Hyesan, Ryangang Province; Sinuiju, South Pyongan Province; Hoeryong, North Hamgyong Province, are beefing up their surveillance in the wake of this rise. Along with the tight border control, the authorities keep a close eye on the family of defectors. In Chungjin city, South Hamgyong Province, for instance, there were 70 households that got caught while communicating with their family overseas through cellular phones. They all got expelled to a remote area and 30 of them were sentenced to be re-educated.

“I Crossed the Border to Survive.”
Jungho Kim (alias), who lived in Pung-nyon li, Gimchaek city, North Hamkyong Province, was arrested when he was crossing the border to China. It was not his first trial. He had crossed the border in 2007 and was sent back to North Korea to serve in Jeongurrie Re-education Center for 3 years. He was released last year because of the amnesty. To celebrate the 65 year anniversary of the Community Party, nationwide amnesty was executed from September 21 to September 27 last year to pardon 150,000 people. In North Hamkyong Province, about 9600 people were pardoned. The political-ideological offenders, who tried to escape to South Korea or criticized the social system, and violent criminals were excluded from the amnesty. Kim was classified as a simple border-crosser and was able to receive the benefit of the amnesty. He felt relieved when he first got out of the Re-education Center but could not settle down in his home.

When he first crossed the border to China, he wanted to find his wife who had left home. Without his wife, the poor father and his son did not know how to lead their lives. He just crossed the border when he heard that somebody saw a woman who looked like his wife in Yanji, China. It was risky, but luckily he could easily cross the border with the help of his old colleague, who was trafficking used clothes. He did not find his wife from that trip, but he began to help his old colleague deliver used clothes. Fast and bold, he did not find it too difficult to cross the border.

In 2007, he was able to cross Tumen River with the help of border patrols but caught by the Chinese border patrol. Although he had a connection with some of them, the Chinese border was very tightly controlled on that day and he could not get any help. He was sent to Jeongurrie Re-education Center and his 10 year old son was sent to a welfare institution. After he was pardoned by the Amnesty, he first tried to locate his son, but could not find any trace. His son ran away from the welfare institution and nobody heard from him since. He does not know whether his son is alive or dead. In a cold shabby shack, he was not sure how to live with very little amount of food and without his son. It was also difficult to start a business without any seed money. Finally he decided to cross the border again. It was last February. He still had old connections in the Border Control and some merchants in China. He was able to bring used clothes from China to clothes sellers and earn some money. During the spring lean season, crossing border became increasingly difficult. Anyway, he crossed the border to earn his living only to get caught by Chinese border patrols and was sent to Musan Customs. He was badly beaten since he had a previous record of border crossing. He is currently suffering from the injury without any medical treatment.

When he was asked why he crossed the border again instead of living with the appreciation of the amnesty, he answered, “I crossed the border to survive. There was nothing to do after I got out from the Center. If the government had provided a means to live, I wouldn’t have planned the crossing. I needed money to find my son and to get some food.” It is said that he would be sentenced to 9 years in prison.

Border Patrols Earn Money by Overlooking Border-Crossing
The border patrols are still conducting illegal activities in secret as the time of instability continues due to food shortages. Unlike those in forefront areas who eat grass porridges, the border patrols can at least have some steamed corn meals; however, the food is not enough to eat in abundance, so they cannot stop taking money by helping the border-crossing. In many cases, high ranking military officers and sergeants (noncommissioned officers) form a group and participate systematically. They cannot avoid the judicial punishment in addition to the termination from party membership and workplace if the border-crossing problem is raised, but the prevailing mentality is to earn money first whenever there is an opportunity. The high ranking military officers who receive 4,000 NK won for living expenses and their share of distribution as well as those of their families are not any better. In fact, the greediness of the high ranking military officers is worse than that of the sergeants, since they think they should take a lot of money while they can so they can make a living one way or the other within the society when they are discharged from the military service someday. They think it is much more profitable to just overlook the matter and earn money than receiving one-time compliment by catching border-crossers and smugglers. If there are more border-crossers and smugglers, it is a better opportunity to regulate moderately and earn money moderately. That is why assisting the illegal border-crossing is not terminated no matter how much joint censorship or cross censorship is conducted by the National Security Agency or the Border Patrol Command.

The border patrol military officers in Hyesan City of Ryanggang Province even take a direct part in smuggling goods such as coppers or herbs. The Defense Security Command conducted a censorship from January to March of this year, and 5 high ranking military officers and 7 sergeants were arrested for smuggling. They implored for generosity, saying that they did not just try to satisfy their own interests but they were compelled to do so in order to achieve the military tasks. It is also true that the various military tasks from the high command instigate the illegal activities of the high ranking military officers. This year as well, the high ranking military officers have been troubled with the task of managing guard posts. “It must be resolved using our own money only, but who among the soldiers would have money? In order to carry out the task, smuggling is imperative. Taking a bribe moderately and enforcing regulations moderately became how the border patrols should behave,” they say. On the other hand, the authorities are placing more emphasis on the regulation of cell phone and reporting by residents in the National Border Area as the spring hardship season came. They also make propaganda saying that a cell phone user will be forgiven if he surrenders himself to the responsible authority and turns in the phone. However, the residents who have heard the same propaganda all the time are letting it go in one ear and out the other this time as well.

“Dear my Wife in South Korea, Please Help us out!”
There are many households that have missing family members in National Border Area. Many of them are parted during Arduous March, and some of them moved to China, some of whom continued their way to South Korea. If a family gets to hear from the defected member from China or South Korea, they are exhilarated by this since they did not even know whether the defectors were alive. In the case of receiving money from those missing people, their families would feel extremely relieved and happy. Kim Geum-wha, who lives in Musan city, North Hamgyong Province, gets two million won a year from a daughter in Seoul. Even though the broker takes 20 to 30 percent off from the entire money, the family can live up to 1 year with the money. Considerable amount of money also goes to security agents and security department, but Kim’s family feels so fortunate to eat half corn and half rice meal under the current circumstance where lots of people die of hunger. As the number of people being supported by their families in China and South Korea grows, there is an increasing expectation on the support from overseas.

Cheol Kim, from Chungjin city, North Hamgyong Province, is desperately waiting for his wife’s contact, who has gone to South Korea. Since 2005, his wife has sent the money once or twice a year from China, for her two children and husband to survive. Then she told him that she planned to go to South Korea because of her security, and finally, about 2 years ago, Mr. Kim heard that she arrived at South Korea successfully. He was also told that she received resettlement fund from South Korean government, which afforded her the phone call and remittances. After a couple times of remittance, he was severed from his wife’s contact. He tried to call her through the messenger, and later he tried contacting the Chinese broker directly by traveling to Hoeryong city. However, he was told that his wife was not able to be reached probably due to the change of her phone number. After several months, Mr. Kim starts to be very anxious about it and laments, “My wife must be busy with her life. Maybe she has met another guy and changed her mind. I tried to contact her through many means in China, but there is no way to reach her. I cannot leave for China for the sake of my survival leaving my kids behind. Now I am just waiting to die. So far my kids could go to school and eat rice thanks to their mother. Without her support, we cannot survive afterwards. I can’t even cross Tumen River with two kids, so I don’t know what to do. I have nowhere to call for a help. I feel so much pity for my two kids.”

North Korea Today No. 407, June 15, 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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Editor’s Note: “Increasing Food Production - can Farm Mobilization be the Solution?”
All-out Mobilization for Farm Villages, the Arduous War at its Peak
“How can I Offer Help when I cannot even Feed Myself?”
Power and Wealth, a License to Flee the Reach of Farming Mobilization
Potatoes Stolen by Soldiers before they are Ripe
The Spring Hardship Season Hits the Soldiers in the Forefront Areas
Kkotjebis (Homeless Children) in Harsh Environment even in Collective Farms
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Editor’s Note: “Increasing Food Production - can Farm Mobilization be the Solution?”
“Farming is the lifeline in resolving people’s livelihood problems” - it sounds quite heavy. Farming, which is supposed to support the people, becomes the main frontline where they risk their lives. It’s time for the rice planting battle again and residents are dragging themselves to farms with a sigh of dismay. All family members, from little students to parents, become combatants in the farm mobilization combat. With more than 80% of the population assisting in farming, total crop yields still fall short of total rations. We hope that South and North Korea can cooperate and resolve the issues in the near future.

All-out Mobilization for Farm Villages, the Arduous War at its Peak
Due to the order of all-out mobilization of agricultural areas nationwide, almost all residents have been forced to go out in the fields and aid with farming efforts. This New Year’s Day Joint Editorial gave directions stating, “Agricultural frontlines are lifelines for solving people’s life problems. It is necessary to learn from the exemplary units that have been realizing great plans for the construction of agricultural industry, and to contest for securing and increasing grain harvest per jungbo (unit of land, equivalent to 2.45 acres).”

The Chosun Joongang TV broadcasted celebration programs by sending actors from the Pibada (“Sea of Blood”) Folk Music Group and the National Folk Art Troupe. The Samji River Collective Farm was celebrated for being the first to finish planting rice only taking 10 days, and the Okuk Collective Farm in Anak County for planting rice with high quality at a proper season. In the Mikok Collective Farm in Sariwon, North Hwanghae Province, distinguished actors and actress, including Kim Yunmi, performed. This collective farm produced more than 10 tons of rice per jungbo couple of years ago and was conferred the rare and honorable title “My Beloved Farm” by the Dear Kim Jongil, only reserved for special farms like the Mikok Collective Farm.

These celebrations are part of the rigorous efforts to support national agriculture. Kim Iljoo, one employee of a factory for daily necessities in Sariwon, watched the celebration program on TV and demonstrated mixed feelings. He said he was not happy watching the performance, stating, “Since we produced more than 10 ton per jungbo in 2009, they must be pushing us to produce more.” He added, “People boasted that they improved the seeds, they would be able to farm in techno-scientific ways, and that they could follow the juche farming methods. But nobody believes these announcements.”

In reality, most farms are lacking in seed and vinyl film. Workers in factories and public enterprises, members of the district offices of the Democratic Women’s Union, and middle school to university-age students are mobilized without any basic preparation. Consequently, these supporting hands only suffer under the blazing sun, and are not able to provide any substantial help. For them, the farm support efforts are regarded as “arduous wars” they would like to avoid.

“How can I Offer Help when I cannot even Feed Myself?”
The reason why people are reluctant to participate in farm mobilization activity is not only because of the physical hardship but also because of time constraints. If they participate, they need to sacrifice their own time at earning a living. Especially members of the Democratic Women’s Union (DWU) who make a living by selling in the market are strong opponents of this activity. If you are an office worker, factory worker or a student, you do not have to worry about making money for a living (since a ration is provided). However, if you are a housewife or a DWU member, besides working in the farm mobilization activity, you need to do additional work to make your own living. The farm mobilization work starts at 8 a.m. and lasts until 2 p.m. The activity is on a daily assignment basis. Therefore, if you have not completed your daily assignment on time, the ending time runs beyond 2 o’clock. Since they are allowed to sell in the market only from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., the women frequently skip their lunch times to get the jobs done on time and to be able to go to the market before 4 p.m.

If the women have children, the situation gets even worse. If there is no one at home to take care of the children, they need to put their children in a daycare center. Due to the prevailing negative image towards daycare centers that they do not provide any food for the children and the teachers are not very caring, the mothers do not like sending their children to daycare centers. With very few options to consider, mothers with infants end up taking their babies to the farm. During work hours, the babies are normally looked after by women who are too sick and cannot work in the fields. It is not rare to see some of the infants having heat strokes and carried to a hospital. They cannot endure strong sunlight for extended hours.

“How long should we live like this? We do not have the luxury of helping farms. Our own life itself is a constant struggle for survival. Our grownup children and husbands are all taken to the farms. Now we are also called for the farm mobilization activity. There is no one left at home to take care of the family. In such conditions, how can we sustain ourselves? Who is going to feed us? How can I offer help to others, when I am dying of hunger?” laments the poor laborers.

Power and Wealth, a License to Flee the Reach of Farming Mobilization
‘Haves,’ notably wives of lawyers, party officials and rich men, unjustly flee the reach of farming mobilization which is supposed to be universal. It is not a secret at all that those with power and wealth can take themselves out of farming mobilization with impunity. Rice planting season began in Hamjubeol, the breadbasket of South Hamgyong Province, and farmers have difficulty making progress. Due to the serious oil shortage, agricultural machinery is not much utilized and harrowing the ground with limited number of laboring cows becomes more difficult.

Lim, Soon-deok (pseudonym), a member of DWU (Democratic Women’s Union), was mobilized in Hamjubeol and grumbled that only those who are poor and starve end up in farm mobilization, where most work is done by manual labor due to the lack of farm machinery. She also said, “Only the poor like us are mobilized to plant rice in sun-scorched afternoons when the sun burns our faces. Just one day of our absence from work is a big deal, whereas an absence of a wealthy wife is not an issue. Party officials, including those working on propaganda at the City Party, exempt their wives from mobilization while they encourage the mobilized to work hard. Nobody listens to the over-practiced cliché pep talks from the party officials.”

Jeon, Yong-sook (pseudonym), from Dongheungsan dong, Dongheungsan District, Hamheung City, South Hamgyong Province, recently had an annoying experience with a wealthy wife while Jeon was selling children’s stationery after farm mobilization work. She is completely physically exhausted every single day from managing two jobs - farm mobilization work in the morning and selling stationery in the market in the afternoon. What really annoys her about farm work is the unfairness – the wealthy wives shamelessly relax at home while she is physically exhausted by the heat wave.

A couple of days ago Ms. Jeon as usual felt exhausted after planting rice in muddy water all day long on a sun scorched farm. In doing farm work which is a hands-on and physical job, she has to kneel or squat until the work is completed. Even a one second break is not practically possible. Whenever she looks like she is going to stretch her back, an official, who appears out of nowhere, yells at her to keep working, saying that “You may want to repay what you owe to our country. This is a good time to do so. Keep planting rice!”

It was a particularly tough day as she had cramps during her period and ate just a little bit of noodles for breakfast. Nevertheless, she almost skipped lunch to save time and continually collected herself to complete the assigned work. She could barely finish the work for the day at 4 pm with the help from her close friend, Young-nam’s mother. In the market, her energy was already depleted before she even started selling stationery. To her, even sitting in front of the market stall was physically challenging, let alone summoning her energy to shout to attract customers. Furthermore, not much business was going on since she was selling children’s stationery. After a couple of hours, a mother and her son came up to her. The young and well-dressed woman told her chubby-cheeked son to choose a notepad for himself. After flipping some pages, the kid grabbed his mother saying, “Let’s go to another shop.” After flipping some pages, the mother also complained that “These notepads are so rough. People can’t write on them with pencils. There are many Chinese products with high quality, but these are crap.”

Physically and mentally exhausted, Ms. Jeon would have let it pass without further complaint of the boy’s mother. The lady continued to complain that “nobody wants to use pens like these even if they were free.” After all, the constant disdainful attitude ticked off Ms. Jeon. She yelled, “Get out of here with your kid. I don’t want to sell anything to you!” The kid’s mom paused for a second, apparently surprised by the yelling. Then, she retorted, “You have no idea of who his father is. You should be careful about saying something to me!” The verbal fight escalated into a physical one and, finally, hair-pulling. The kid began to cry and people gathered at the scene. An enforcement officer arrived at the scene and put an end to the fight.

During the investigation at a nearby police station, the boy’s father turned out to be a prosecution official. Police officers were busy pleasing the boy’s mother, shifting all blame for the fighting on to Ms. Jeon. As a result, Ms. Jeon was fined the equivalent of more than several days’ income. She is distressed about her situation, saying that “While my life got worse due to farm mobilization, those who have husbands with power and money are immune from such obligations. The unfairness devastates me.”

Potatoes Stolen by Soldiers before they are Ripe
In Hwanghae Province potatoes come out after June 20th, but there are many incidents where people have already started to steal the potatoes that are not yet ripe. It is more disappointing that the potatoes being stolen are the works of soldiers from nearby military camps. The farmers are disappointed that even if they report the incident they have no way of getting compensation. They make reports numerous times a day to “Stop destroying the relationships between civilians and soldiers” but it is an unworthy attempt. From nearby towns people even have been crying out that “We can’t live next to the army because it is so nerve wrecking.” Hwanghae Province Baechun County’s Baechun-eup cooperative farm has already been the victim of the soldiers more than ten times this month. The farmers are letting out sighs of grief not knowing if they will have enough food left for themselves. Jang Myung-Gook (alias) says “These times are when the citizens have to keep an eye on the soldiers from stealing, not the time when the soldiers protect the citizens.” He even said that the soldiers who help out farming would probably just steal the crops colloquially, so they are even scared of the soldiers coming to help out. One farm in Baechun County actually returned soldiers that were coming out to help by saying “It’s ok.” The soldiers are not gaining trust from the people any longer.

The Spring Hardship Season Hits the Soldiers in the Forefront Areas
The famine is affecting the soldiers stationed in the forefronts of Kangwon and South Hwanghae Provinces. The food supply has been scarce since the last distribution of Chinese corn, which occurred in February this year. For some troops meals are given only twice a day. This has led to soldiers roaming around nearby villages to steal food. Howitzer Unit under the 4th Corps located in Baechun County is even having trouble conducting proper drills due to the failing health of the soldiers. The high ranking officers expressed their grievances as well, saying “No one would be able to fight if a war broke out when soldiers in the forefront are weak like this and the food is in acute shortage. It would be difficult to mobilize the troops immediately even if we are ordered to start action.” The number of soldiers raiding the villages has peaked this year, so the army provision issue is ever more imminent in the military.

Kkotjebis (Homeless Children) in Harsh Environment even in Collective Farms
Orphaned kkotjebis (homeless children) of middle school age from kkotjebi welfare institutions have been chosen and placed in farm youth groups at collective farms. Homeless children ages 15 and older have been sent to collective farms in Pyongyang and Kumgang County by the kkotjebi welfare institution in Wonsan City, Kangwon Province. An employee from the institution commented, “It’s hard to place them in regular work places since they are not educated at all, growing up without parents. It is the best to send them to the farm, seeing as the institution doesn’t have enough food to feed them.” Now, more homeless children have been removed from the public eye, who are in terrible condition from years of harsh street life without proper care. In reality, life at the farm youth group is much worse for homeless children than at the welfare institutions.

The North Korean government has upheld young people and put them in difficult jobs under the national slogan, “Young workers are the core of the Strong and Prosperous Nation and the strongest troop for achieving the goals of the party.” At the time when teens just out of middle school in Kangwon Province were placed in the Pyonggang County Collective Farm, there were many farm youth groups and youth work units allied. The initial purpose of this deployment was to “place young workers in the right places”, but young workers evaded being sent to the collective farms. As a result, collective farms started to establish a farm youth group of the kkotjebi youth.

The Pyonggang County collective farm has a farm youth group that consists of fifty orphaned kkotjebis, whose parents were either dead or lost. At least when the kkotjebis were on the street, they were free to go anywhere they wanted, but now they are at the one place with no freedom at all. They must get up at 6:30 AM and work until 7:30 PM with almost no breaks. Farming on such a tight daily schedule is much too hard for these malnourished homeless children.

Not only do supervisors of the kkotjebi youth group deprive the children of freedom, they also “tighten up strict supervision on them in order to control their bad behaviors like stealing and irregular lifestyle.” Children are not allowed to go out to buy clothing and shoes in need. They just have to wait until the farm provides for them as a group. Chae, Geom-Sil (alias) who was placed in the farm youth group last year described the situation: “We’re called farmers, but we’re really locked-up prisoners. We have no control, not even over our own food. If the farm didn’t give us food, we would die from starvation. I think about running away from the group many times throughout a day. ” There are twenty members of youth women like Ms. Chae in the group. They look worn out by harsh farming. Ms. Chae swears to get out of the farm youth group, saying, “I’m twenty, but I look like I’m in my thirties. I feel like that I’ll wither to death if I stay here any longer. I survived through bagging since I was a kid. I am sure I will survive no matter where I go.” In fact, a couple of kkotjebi group members have run away from the farm and returned to the life on the street.

North Korea Today No. 406 June 8, 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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Editor’s Note: “Women are not ‘flowers.’”
Women Forced into Prostitution to Make a Living
Illegal Prostitution Widespread in a Number of Pyongyang Restaurants
Unconcealed Prostitution Rises in Wake of Currency Reform
What if You are the Only Breadwinner?
Husband’s Extramarital Affair not Legitimate Grounds for Divorce
Fathers Suggest to Daughters: "Flee North (Korea)."
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Editor’s Note: “Women are not ‘flowers.’”
It has been a growing phenomenon that young women in North Korea have become involved in prostitution to survive. When they reach the point where they must decide “whether to do nothing and starve to death or to find a way to survive at any cost,” they do not have many options from which to choose.

While they struggle to carry on with their own life, North Korean women have been burdened with the role of looking after their families. They do whatever it takes to feed their family, from toiling in a patch of field, to trading, or to becoming a maid. However, there are still days that pass without food. If a woman in such a situation winds up “selling her flower,” a euphemism for selling sex, no one can blame the woman for her immorality.

There is a North Korean song about women as flowers: “Women are flowers. Flowers for life. Flowers that take care of the family.” If one knows the underlying meaning of the ‘flower’ and the current situations in North Korea, it will not sound cheerful; it is rather degrading. What is actually needed for North Korean women is not the praise with such a song but better means to survive without having to sell their “flower.”


Women Forced into Prostitution to Make a Living
Some say that if women are more advantageous than men to survive in times of famine, war and disaster, it is probably due to the reason pertaining to sexuality. When a person is driven into a corner as to the point that there is no breakthrough, a woman’s body often becomes a means of survival. The poorer the society, the more unequal is the status of women, and women’s body easily ends up falling into an instrument to provide sex in return for payment. North Korea is not an exception. There is a condonation of society and a voluntary or forced agreement by women who try to find a way to survive, along with a power of men who are ‘equipped with resources’ to purchase sexual services. Whether it is about selling ‘flower (sex)’ on the street, or serving customers within the Convenient Service Networks such as a restaurant in a more stable and settled manner, or living a life as a concubine by having an affair with a wealthy and powerful married man, these are all ‘ways to make a living’. If people do not have to worry about food, the number of women who would choose to be a concubine will be substantially smaller.

Ha Young-Mi (alias) met her ah-jeo-ssi (Korean word referring to a gentleman, usually middle-aged) when she was twenty and has continued a relationship for six years. The wife of the ah-jeo-ssi has been ill, so he is living with Ms. Ha behind his wife’s back. Ms. Ha cooks and washes laundries for him. Of course, her friends and workplace does not know this secret. Although her family does not explicitly mention the matter, they have noticed it a long time ago. They have already guessed it when she purchased a gunnysack filled with rice which was way too expensive for her to afford with her salary. Ms. Ha says she is indeed a lucky one. Although there are more than 20 years of age gap between them, this huge age gap enables him to cherish woman and to be gentle like a father at times. She says that the greatest gift was that she does not have to worry about eating as he belongs to a powerful institution and that she has never thought she was prostituting herself. Still, she is extremely careful to make sure that others would not say about her having an affair with a married man. It is embarrassing that the adultery be discovered but most importantly, it is because the disclosure may terminate his financial support. Ms. Ha says it is difficult for her to take care of her younger sister who suffers from pyelitis and to support her aged parents at the same time all by herself and therefore has no intention at all to end this relationship.


Illegal Prostitution Widespread in a Number of Pyongyang Restaurants
Pyongyang has become home to restaurants that serve food normally during the day and change to houses of prostitution at night. Officially, the restaurants belong to government establishments, but the real owners of these restaurants are commonly powerful party cadres or wealthy foreign trade officials. Restaurants commonly have separate rooms available for prostitution to take place secretly. Appearance is considered top priority when restaurants hire new employees. Pretty female waitresses serve food and drinks to guests before moving to the bedroom. These establishments are generally frequented by wealthy or powerful men, but judiciary officials are by far the most numerous. Illegal activity would not be possible if not for these officials, and women are instructed to serve them almost on a daily basis. Women who catch the eye of one of these officials begin meeting on a regular basis, and some even decide to live together. Many of unmarried restaurant waitresses have been very successful in meeting men this way. According to one manager of a restaurant in Pyongyang’s Daedong River District, “Most of the young women working at our restaurant are poor and they all want relationships with those who come by the most frequently, the party cadres, businessmen or wealthy men. They all prefer men who they can carry out a long-term stable relationship with, not the men who are just looking for a one-night stand. It would be more strange, actually, if the young women from poor households were not tempted to do so.”


Unconcealed Prostitution Rises in Wake of Currency Reform
“With life becoming harder because of the currency reform, it seems to me that the wealthy, party cadres and judiciary officials are buying women for sex more conspicuously than before.” These are words of a Pyongyang security official. Attempts by the Central Party to crackdown on rising prostitution have been consistently ineffective in the face of corruption among justice officials. These officials instead pretend to conduct crackdowns while making sure none of their own are in harm’s way. The Central Party at one time established a special unit to crackdown on anti-socialist elements that produced tension among the lower ranks. However, corrupt officials were able to find out about the operation beforehand and restricted their illegal activities accordingly. A man’s ability is now measured by how many women he has around him. The Central Party has made cracking down on this behavior a priority; however, there is a deep relationship between this atmosphere and the silent recognition of cadre’s relationships out of wedlock.

A Pyongyang City Party official interviewed does not pay much attention to government crackdowns. “Once or twice each year, the government conducts crackdowns on prostitution saying it will punish the capitalist elements agitating and polluting society. However, just surviving these crackdowns is all you need to do to walk away scot-free.” An employee working at feeding and clothing care center in Chungjin City, North Hamgyong Province shared more about this situation in more detail. “I am currently in charge of managing the restaurants in the city. When I conduct surveys to see how the restaurants are operating, I find that not only have the lives of residents becoming harder after the currency reform, but also that cadres and businessmen are the only ones that frequent restaurants. In the past, everyone was hush-hush on the subject, but now they form together in groups and go around buying women. When high ranking cadres from the Central Party or provincial party come down to manage city or military projects, they generally stay for several days and expect to be provided with women. This kind of thing happens in restaurants and in underground bars as well. High-ranking cadres prefer to sleep with girls than to be given bribes. This has all become much more blatant recently.”


What if You are the Only Breadwinner?
Suh, Hyangsuk (pseudonym), working as a waitress at a restaurant in Daedong River sector in Pyongyang, supports her family of five on her income alone. Her mother used to work as a merchant at a market only to lose all the money through currency reform, thus with little money left, she ends up gardening in some backyard. With no other options, her retired father helps her with the gardening. Her two younger brothers are still in middle school, so they need much more financial support until they go to college. Ms. Suh was exhilarated when she got a job at a restaurant after middle school, but soon she discovered that she was not able to buy even 1kg of rice a month with the money she earned. She said, “My family is totally dependent on me since my elderly parents cannot manage a business. We needed to survive with my wage, so I was so scared when we ran out of corn rice. I was determined to work when I thought about the desperate situation my family was in and that their livelihood was in my hands; they could even starve to death without my sacrifice. I met the manager and I told him to give me the same work as the other women. I haven’t really told this to anyone, but it may be beyond one’s imagination how much I suffered. Even my mother and father are not aware of it. I thought I was dead at that time.” She continued to say that her family’s lives are up to her, and that is the only reason she is involved with the work. She is not working because she likes her job, but because she needs to work for her family. She also expressed her hope to live as a good housewife with a decent husband in the future.


Husband’s Extramarital Affair not Legitimate Grounds for Divorce
Lee Kyounghwa (pseudonym) in Joong District in Pyongyang recently has her mind occupied with worry about an affair her husband is having. The affable and outgoing husband has always had some women interested in him, but most of the relationships were for a short-term. However, he started living with a woman last year and fathered her baby.

Lee was raised in affluence as her father was a trade official. She also had quite a number of offers for arranged marriage because she was good-looking. Nevertheless, she chose her husband when he was still in college. He was from a decent class background but poor. Without the financial support for him from Ms. Lee’s family, he could not have graduated from Pyongyang University of Foreign Studies. Since college students in North Korea are not allowed to date, let alone get married, they lived together while in college, and registered and had their wedding after graduation.

Ms. Lee’s husband was popular with women since he was handsome and had a great sense of humor. He could even attract more women as he became a trade official with the help from Ms. Lee’s father, made overseas business trips, and had some money in foreign currency. Though she was seriously distressed to learn about her husband’s affairs, Ms. Lee managed to get over them because each relationship was transient.

However, a whole different story began last year. Ms. Lee’s husband started seeing a woman who worked at a famous hotel in Pyongyang. Good looking and proficient in English, the woman could not get married by the time she turned 26 only because she was from a non-privileged class background. Then she met Ms. Lee’s husband. She has since quit her job and moved into the apartment that the man bought her. The relationship lasted more than a year and she became pregnant.

When Ms. Lee visited them, she faced terrible humiliation and had a severe head injury from getting hit by an ash tray that her husband threw at her. She was devastated especially because this incident happened in the presence of the lady who was 12 years younger than her. Ms. Lee was also frustrated because she failed to yell back at her husband. Nonetheless, divorce is not a feasible option available for her because it’s very difficult to get divorced in North Korea.

“A marriage can be dissolved only by a court decision” (Article 20 of the Family Law). In most cases, a husband’s adultery is not sufficient grounds for dissolution. According to Article 21 of the same law, which was amended in 1993, marriage may be dissolved if marriage cannot be sustained for reasons such as when a spouse severely betrays the other’s love and trust. However, the court does not apply the law strictly and it tends to interpret the article in a way that favors the male spouse.

Seo Jeonghee (pseudonym), who was in the same situation as Lee, petitioned for a divorce and had to give up halfway through. Ms. Seo said, “They asked me why I’m getting divorced, so I told them that my husband had an affair with a waitress. (The law official) said, ‘cheating is a transient thing. Reflect on yourself to see if you are to blame and find a way to please your husband. All officials in Pyongyang are having affairs. It is just a trend. You’d better not be picky.’ I was so angry that I walked out of the room. Men are all same. They are on the same side. Getting divorce won’t bring any benefits to me, so I quit.”


Fathers Suggest to Daughters: "Flee North (Korea)."

Kim, Young-nam (alias), a worker at a mine in the Obong Labor District, Eunduck County, North Hamgyong Province, suggests to his two daughters who had graduated from a high school about 1 -2 years ago: "As long as we stay here, we won't see any better days. All our lives, we would be stuck in the situation where even the corn is difficult to get. So even though it may be belated, both of you go and find a way to live." It's because for the past several months they had to skip meals too frequently. He'd rather let their daughters leave him than have them die of hunger. "Nowadays you seldom see even corns. Today it is more difficult than the time of Arduous March and it doesn't look like going to end while my wife and I are alive. Those households that have daughters who had fled to China during the Arduous March are now living well. It's not that (we) want to benefit from our daughters who have to risk their lives while attempting to cross the Tumen River. We hear that in China even dogs eat steamed rice. All we want is for our children to eat as much as they want and live well, and that's why we suggested them to flee the North." A father's mind works in this way.

Kim had not reported to work for several months because there was no ration. His wife had no money to pay for a stall in the market so she had some sunflower seeds, chewing gums, cookies, and sundry items spread out on the ground to sell. Many days the total sale did not reach 500 Won. Some days there was no sale at all. Since mid-January this year they had porridge or noodle made of powdered hull of corn kernel once or twice a day. He cannot send his son, an elementary school student, to school. His two daughters who had been dispatched to a food processing plant have not received any full wages or rations. Kim asked his old colleague who has some connection in China to transport his two daughters to China but he's waiting for a good opportunity because of the tight security along the borders. There is no guarantee that his daughters will safely be transported, but that's his only hope.

In Eunduck County there are many households (whose members) had gone to China from the time of the Arduous March to present. The number is steadily increasing this year. "If a woman from a house escapes the North, that household would somehow survive," is seemingly the orthodox view, and most escapees are women. A law official who works in the Obong mining area says, "When you analyze the residents' livelihood, those who don’t have to depend on farming or trading are the households that have 'lost person.' Lost person is just rhetoric; in reality it means the one that crossed the river (border). If a woman goes to China, she sends money once or twice a year. If the amount is 1,000 Won, it can solve the problem of food; some sends 1,500 - 2,000 Won. These households don't have to work desperately hard to make a living. When they farm a small patch plot or trade at a market additionally, they can easily buy side-dishes and show up at work. They can afford to submit any non-tax obligations that their children’s school requires. Therefore there are many households that indirectly suggest their daughters to escape the North." There are women who, without being nudged, are seeking a connection to go to China. (These women) go there to get married in name but in fact they well know that they are being sold. And yet, they figure that it's better than doing nothing and dying of hunger. Kim, Sung-Hee (alias) who is 23 years old says, "No matter how hard I work, there would be no wages, and it's not easy for an unmarried woman to do trading business. If I go over to China, the number of mouths to feed in my family would decrease by one, and if I work in a restaurant, I would be able to send money to my mother. Even if it means that I am sold to the men there, there's nothing I can do. To live, we have to do anything, don't we? I can sell myself here or be sold to the men in China. If I have a choice, it would be better to be sold to the men who’re going to feed me all the rice I want to eat."

North Korea Today No. 405, June 1, 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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[Editor's Note] “A Korean Table without Kimchi?”
People Eat Meals with Boiled Salt Water Soup as Kimchi Runs Out
“How can We Live without Kimchi?”
Reasons for Abundant Kimchi in Party Officials’ Homes
Hoeryong City Construction Brigade Ran out of Kimchi
At Least 1,000 pyong of Land is Required for an Affordable Living
Fighting for Survival after 12 Years of Hard Work as a Pushcart Man
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[Editor's Note] “A Korean Table Without Kimchi?”
It is difficult to imagine a Korean meal without kimchi. Koreans would even say that a bowl of steamed rice and well-fermented kimchi would make a good meal without any additional side dishes. Although kimchi is regarded as side dish while the rice is thought as the staple food, kimchi is almost like a main dish to Koreans who eat it every time. North Koreans call kimchi ‘a half-year food,’ reflecting that they consider it as a main dish.
The present edition delivers news on many North Korean people suffering from running out of kimchi that they made and stored last year. Those who barely eat rice sip salt-added water instead of kimchi, while somewhat better off families occasionally eat kimchi just as they eat steamed corn meals. Meanwhile, those who are much better off or official’s families eat four to five kinds of kimchi at every meal. In the food culture with more than 200 kinds of kimchi, whether you can afford kimchi or not now defines your social class and wealth.

People Eat Meals with Boiled Salt Water Soup as Kimchi Runs Out
Many households ran out of Kimchi, which is considered a half year long food. Families who can have Kimchi until June are considered very affluent. Those who are able to have 4-5 kinds of Kimchi such as Napa Kimchi, Chae-Kimchi, or Kakdugi are families of high ranking officers, judges, and money holders. Most families ran out of Kimchi last February. Even though fresh vegetables are beginning to come to market, many families can only afford salted radish. Poor families cannot even afford a piece of Kimchi. The only side dish they can have is soybean soup or salt-added water soup. Ko, Sunduk (alias) who sells household goods in Chaeha market, Sinuiiju, North Pyungan Province said, “It is not that I cannot afford Kimchi at all. It depends on how much I sell for the day. If the sale of the day is good, I can buy a small amount of cucumbers, Napa, or radish and make kimchi. Those who have salt-added water soup are really poor people, and for those who can have 1- 2 meals a day, like us it is not that bad.” She meant her situation is somewhat better than those who eat salt-added water soup, but that does not mean that she eats sufficiently nutritious food.

Last summer, the vegetable harvest was completely ruined by a severe flood in Sinuiju. Each farm was not sure whether they could have enough vegetables for their own consumption.
Those who have a small patch farm also had difficulties with growing vegetables. So, they made far less amount of Kimchi than needed. Kimchi ran out since last February in Rakwon-dong, an area where poor people live. As such, eating Kimchi is a wish of the residents. An official in Rakwon-dong said that about 70-80% of the residents there are not able to eat Kimchi. Residents in Haebang-dong, Chaeha-dong, or Pyunghwa-dong, where relatively well off people live, can eat salted radish at least, regardless of how poor they could be. However, the residents in his neighborhood eat meals with salt-added water soup or soybean soup, or barely live on corn porridge.

“How can We Live without Kimchi?”
Choonhwa Ham (alias) who lives in Jungjoo village, Jungjoo city in North Pyungan Province never had to worry about any shortage of Kimchi in her life thanks to her husband’s job as a police officer. With the money or other types of bribe that her husband brings home, they can enjoy a comfortable life. They can have rice for regular meals and occasionally mix corns with rice. They also eat pork, various vegetables, and fish or eggs once a week. They have stored enough Kimchi that will last until August. The Ham family alternates cabbage Kimchi with Mooche (radish cut in stripes) Kimchi for every other meal. They add Kakdugi (diced radish Kimchi) and cucumber pickle to their meal for a change or variety. The family received one ton of kimchi and 500 kilogram of radish last year. They have preserved six huge Kimchi jars under the ground. In ordinary households, the preserved Kimchi for winter lasts until March. However, the Ham family still has plenty left and they are starting to get worried that it may go sour. “How can a Korean live without Kimchi? If you do not have Kimchi with your meal, you cannot say that you are living a good life. Kimchi is a must dish for Koreans,” said Ham, revealing her affluent life unlike the ones the majority of North Koreans have.

Reasons for Abundant Kimchi in Party Officials’ Homes
What are the reasons for abundant kimchi in Party officials’ homes? Family sub-units allocated to officials’ families are the reason. Collective farms generally consist of 4 to 20 work units, and one work unit is made up of 4-5 sub-units. However, the size of the sub-units allocated to Party officials’ families is equivalent to the size of a work unit. Typically, the wives of officials are in charge of farming, and they get high yields from their large farming lots without much difficulty because they mobilize members of Democratic Women’s Union, students, and factory workers during farming mobilization period. Even when there is a critical shortage of fertilizer, the priority always goes to the family sub-units. No matter how bad the harvest is the farms of officials’ family sub-units generally do much better than the average.

The Hoeryong City Party officials in North Hamgyung Province do farming with family sub-units in the Osanduck collective farm. Last year, they received allocation of 800-1,000 kg of Napa cabbage and 400-500 kg of radish per household. Now, it has been a while since ordinary families ran out of kimchi, but the families of officials still have enough to go until June or July. For them, worrying about kimchi running out is not an issue. A wife of a City Party official said, “When kimchi gets sour in April, we give it to pigs or other animals. Some people with conscience give some away to poor neighbors. As for us, we receive the whole portion of vegetables allocated to us, so we can live well without having to sell things in the market. Since we get all the food and vegetables we need, we don’t have to worry much when it comes to food.”

The City Party and the Committee of City Farming Management run a propaganda campaign saying, “Work as Hard as City Party Family Sub-units”. However, this kind of propaganda only provokes negative sentiments among residents because the wives of City Party officials are farm members only in name who don’t really work in the farm, and the officials themselves only show up during ‘Friday labor’ time. Perhaps being conscious of this fact, an official in Jungjoo City explained; “We are aware of the controversies over City Party family sub-units. However, that is a special arrangement we made for the officials so that they can perform their work well without worrying about problems in their families.” Nevertheless, he did not respond when confronted with these questions: “Speaking of special consideration, don’t you think it is nonsensical to tell residents to work hard just like the City Party family sub-units when the residents are not given any such consideration? Don’t you think they should be given fertilizer and labor as much as the family subunits to get that much yield? The City Party officials eat white rice and a variety of kimchi; they can afford to eat meat once a week. Average households all ran out of kimchi and now they are left with some salt soup.”

Hoeryong City Construction Brigade Ran out of Kimchi
The laborers and the families of Hoeryong City Construction Brigade are eating corn meal and soybean soup because they ran out rice and kimchi. Jung Chul-ryong (alias) said, “Last year we managed to fill one jar of cabbage kimchi. It lasted until last February because we tried to consume as little kimchi as possible, but we have none left now. We sometimes buy cabbage and make kimchi because my wife earns some money from her business, but we have no kimchi when her business is slow.” He said his family is better off compared to others. Those who are worse off live on corn noodle or porridge made of ground corncob. Some of them eat grass porridge. It is hard to afford kimchi unless they grow vegetables in their small patch farm. Often times they are mobilized to road constructions and railroad maintenance work while they have not eaten much. They take about 2-3 days worth of food when they become mobilized to work, but poor people go empty hand. The officials contribute some food in their effort to mobilize as many people as possible. The excuse of not being able to mobilize people due of lack of food is not accepted. It is not an exaggeration when they say, “It is not easy being an official” because even party secretaries and directive officers can be summoned and criticized or even fired. The number of absentees is increasing despite the efforts of the officials. The threat of “sending people to city reeducation center” is no long perceived as a threat. Even those who came to work plead for food saying, “Please give us some food. We can’t do the work because we have no energy” but it falls on deaf ears.

A City Party official boasted that “The laborers at our city construction brigade eat at least corn meal and soybean soup, and they never starve.” He said that is because their city is the historic site of Mother Kim Jung-sook and receives special treatment from the Provincial Party and City Party for that. People in their city have the strongest resolution “to make contribution to the construction of historical site with the goal of dedicating themselves to the great leader” than any other cities. It is quite true that people in Hoeryong are the best fed than any other cities. They have reason to be proud of their city since there are numerous other cities starving in much worse conditions. Nevertheless, the laborers are complaining, “We have to be fed in order to work on the construction of the honorable revolutionary site. The officials will receive credit of making contribution of building the historic revolutionary site during the difficult times, but we can’t even afford to eat a piece of kimchi. The officials should at least spare us some of their leftover kimchi. It is not fair when they can eat anything they want and we are being exploited like a working bull.”

At Least 1,000 pyong of Land is Required for an Affordable Living
Almost everyone in Hoeryong in North Hamgyung Province is engrossed in small patch farming. However, it is not easy for the farmers yield sufficiently to the extent they do not have to worry about food. Most of all, finding a land is difficult for an ordinary person. One has to look for people who have connections to authorities, offering bribes such as tobacco, liquor, and money. Most people create patch farms by excavating a heap of stones, or make vegetable gardens using a shovel and pickax. Even after cultivating the land into a patch farm, they face the problems of obtaining seeds and fertilizer. Typically, those who can yield crops through small land patch farming are the ones who farm more than 1,000 pyong (1 pyong is 3.954 sq. yards)

Kim, Chun-il (Alias), a 65 year old resident in Osan-dong, Hoeryong city, North Hamgyung Province, is doing small land patch farming while working as a forest patrol officer. He has not enough grains, but he does not worry about Kimchi. Last year, he harvested 400 kg of corns, 200 kg of soy beans, and 800 kg of vegetables such as red pepper, Napa cabbage, and radish from a 1000 pyong of land. After sending some of the crops to sons and daughters who are struggling in a town away from home, he sells those crops in the market and barely manages to make living. Nonetheless, Mr. Kim says he is lucky because he is not starving. He added, “Even though I farm all year round working my finger to the bone, my life is far from being a life of abundance. We have to buy fertilizer, and employ one or two farmhands. Then, there isn’t much left for profit. There are many houses which cannot afford Kimchi. I should not be too greedy.” He said he could survive this year’s spring lean season if he manages to save the food until new potatoes are produced. He is concerned that he could not have obtained as much fertilizer as he did last year. Mr. Kim told that he could do small land patch farming thanks to his position as a ‘forest patrol officer,’ but farming is not that easy. Those who did not have a small patch farm because they somehow were able to manage to make living through small business are also beginning to do small land patch farming this year as they feel that this year will be a though year.

According to Lee Sun-ok (Alias), “The domestic food production has been insufficient for almost 20 years in a row. Furthermore, sale revenue has been decreasing since the currency reform. As such, people view small land patch farming as the only solution for the food problem.” Ms. Lee added, “An increasing number of money holders and merchants are trying to obtain lands for small land patch farm as it can be a food source for half a year. All that has to be done is obtaining a good farm field through bribing, and manage the farm well using hired hands.” The number of officials families in Municipal Party or Municipal People’s Assembly obtaining the land for patch farming are also increasing as well as in terms of the land area. Using their authority, government officials can easily obtain a rich soiled farm of 1,000 pyong for themselves. They use workers from public enterprises and they provide only grain seeds and fertilizer. They can do farming even without showing up in the farm. One government official in a municipal party stated, “All I have to do for the farm workers is providing two good meals a day. Then, I can utilize all them in all the works needed for seeding, weeding, fertilizing, and harvesting. We are gaining food from the patch farm field for free. As far as I know, officials in Municipal Party and People’s Council earned 600-800 kg of corns last year. We are putting more energy into small patch farming this year because of decreased yields from last year due to flooding.”

Fighting for Survival after 12 Years of Hard Work as a Pushcart Man
Seok-Ho Kim, a 57-years-old man in Eunduk County, Pyongsung City, South Pyongan Province, has been working as a street pushcart man for 12 years in a market area since his mid forties. He has been working hard regardless of good or bad weather and without any day off. The most money he earned in a day was 12,000 NKW when he was busy, but his average earning per day was about 4,000-5,000 NKW. Knowing that it would be difficult to operate a pushcart once he gets elder, he worked hard and saved some good money for his retirement. However, his saving became worthless because of the currency reform in 2009. He is still furious about the currency reform. Although he could never have known about currency reform, he utters the words, “Why didn’t I think of exchanging the money with Chinese Renminbi. I still regret it till this day.” Furthermore, his business has been impacted by widespread market contraction. As a result, he gets 1-2 customers a day if he is lucky. “I barely get customers these days because there are not many travelling merchants around, and somehow if I get a customer, they usually dismiss me because I look too old to carry a heavy luggage. So I have to offer cheaper fees to attract them. There are many days I don’t even earn 1,000 NPW a day.” he said with a sigh. When he was asked what he eats as a meal in these days, “I am lucky if I could eat corn meal. Mostly, I fill my stomach with either noodle or soup. I need to have proper meal in order to do physical work. Operating the pushcart is becoming more difficult everyday. Think about it! Why would someone hire me to transport a light stuff? They hire me for carrying heavy things they are unable to carry by themselves. I think one delivery load of cart is about 300-400 kilograms. I can’t operate the pushcart without eating some corn meal at least. We don’t even have Kimchi at home any more, so we eat wild herbs and vegetables my wife collected in the field along with salt. I wish we had some bean paste, cooking oil, and salt, but we get to see them very rarely.” he uttered the difficulties he has to face with day-to-day living.

North Korea Today No. 404, May 25, 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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Editor’s Note: “You Survive by Breaking the Law”
Pigs Raised in Apartment Buildings in Pyongyang
Pyongyang High Rise Apartments Used as Livestock Farms
Off to the Re-education Center for Repairing Stolen Bicycles
Protection from Judges Provide Drug Dealers with Stable Income
Even Judicial Officers in Moonduk County are Corrupted due to the Food Shortage
Not Easy to Find Criminals with Money

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Editor’s note: “You Survive by Breaking the Law”
Like the previous edition, the current edition looks into the lives of city residents. Either better-off or worse-off, North Korean people in the cities are living breaking the law. Poor people tend to commit a crime to survive, such as stealing and robbery; people with money are secretly engaged in unlawful activities under the protection of law officials or general officials. The officials make living by receiving money and bribery from watching the wealthy offenders’ back. After all, the officials, who execute and implement the law, and the residents, who need to observe the law, are in the same boat. However, the authorities are regarding the phenomenon as the matter of individuals’ conscience and intensifying the level of punishment and political education. The problem originates less from the individual factors than from the social structural problem. Since people cannot make a living within the boundary of the law, they cannot help becoming an offender. Unless the authorities can solve the food problem, they should not at least stop the residents’ efforts to find their ways to survive.


Pigs Raised in Apartment Buildings in Pyongyang
The noise, nasty smell, filth and clogged drain caused by secretly raising pigs in an apartment have been provoking a stream of complaints from neighbors to dong (the lowest administrative unit) office in Subok-dong, Soonchun City, South Pyongan Province. Repeated warnings not to raise pigs in apartments were to no avail. For the pig raisers, suffering from nasty smell from pig waste is better than being damaged in theft. They also brew alcohols at home, because they can use the residues from brewing to feed the pigs. Home-brewing can be done secretly but raising pigs inevitably affects the neighbors. The pig raisers usually put their pigs in balconies or bathrooms, and they leave pig waste in the drain pipe. The clogged drain exacerbates the already destitute water supply condition.

Jung Soon-young (alias) living in a fifth-floor building complained, “People persistently raise pigs at home. I hate the filth and smell. I made several complaints to the dong office and the head of the dong office came out to give warnings, but they were to no avail. People start raising pigs again two or three months after such warnings.”
Kim Ok-hwa (alias) who has two baby pigs at home said, “I feel sorry about the nuisance to neighborhood. We don’t want to live together with pigs, either. We do it because that’s the only option we have to survive. There is no business out there. Raising pigs is our life line. If you want us to quit, give us ration.”

Kim, Young-mi (alias), a resident of Soonchun dong, raises pigs in her apartment bathroom. Her household has relied on her husband’s income from repairing electronics, such as color televisions and refrigerators. He could make as much as 4,000-5,000 won a day, but the business is going very slow these days. Ms. Kim started home brewing using corn. Before the currency reform, she could make decent amount of money by home brewing. Now, the corn price soared to 700-800 won per kilogram and home brewing is not quite profitable any more. However, Ms. Kim still continues it to feed the pigs hoping to make some money from selling them. Ms. Kim said, “We cannot make enough money by home brewing and repair business. Getting food is our priority, so we decided to continue to raise pig secretly although I’m aware of the complaints from the neighbors.”

Pyongyang High Rise Apartments Used as Livestock Farms
Livestock are being raised in the 40-story skyscrapers in Pyongyang’s Joong (Central) District as well. Chickens are preferred over pigs because they are smaller and easier to look after. Apartment residents in the peripheral districts tend to raise pigs more. In some cases, several households collaborate. Usually one household raises the pigs and the other households deliver their food wastes to them.
“The stench is unbelievable. I can’t open the windows because of the smell, even in the hottest days in the summer. The place is infested with flies and maggots. But even one pig makes a lot of money, so we have no choice. The household that raises the pig receives half of the share, and the other households divide up the rest,” said Chung, Myung-hwa, a resident of the Sonkyo District.

Off to the Re-education Center for Repairing Stolen Bicycles
Park, Sung-ha (alias), who lives on Baeksa Street of Sinuiju, North Pyongan Province, makes a living by repairing bicycles. Park’s handiworks are famous for their quality, even among veteran bicycle merchants. People in Pyongsung, Nampo, and Sariwon even mistake Park’s bicycles for second hand ones newly brought over from China. Park’s works became increasingly well known, and Park sometimes got requests to remodel stolen bicycles so that the original owner could not recognize it as his own.
Although Park turned down the requests at first, he eventually gave in since the clients were mainly soldiers. Park didn’t want to provoke the soldiers and he himself had immediate needs and a family to feed; there was a decline in the number of bicycle merchants last year due to the currency reform that devastated their businesses. The soldiers sold the bicycles to Park for a cheap price, and then Park renovated them and resold for a higher price. The business wasn’t great but it helped put bread on the table.
But the soldiers got caught by law enforcement, and Park got involved as well. The soldiers were sent to the military security department and Park was handed over to the police. During the interrogation, it was found that the number of stolen bicycles Park had repaired was approximately thirty, which resulted in Park being handed over to a re-education center. The seven bicycles that were in the middle of the repairman’s home were confiscated. The merchants who made transactions with him were disappointed by the news, for Park was considered the best repairman of all.

Protection from Judges Provide Drug Dealers with Stable Income
For the last several years, Ryu, Gonryong of Hamheung City, Hamgyong Province, has been earning a living dealing drugs. Ryu buys drugs concocted by university medical students in Hamheung City, and his wife sells them. They have been working as drug dealers since 2005 and have had a few brushes with the law; however, their days of ducking from the law are now over. The couple's long friendship with local judges and cadres, who make up the bulk of their buyers, has helped them avoid punishment when the central government inspectors crackdown on domestic drug trade. Ryu says that many of the judges coming to him are buyers, but some sell drugs to him as well. Officials coming to sell drugs are typically trying to get rid of their own stash of drugs from a crackdown on the drug trade. The drugs they bring, however, tend to bring Ryu a scant profit. As a rule, Ryu tells the judges that he will sell the drugs for them, but in reality he ends up buying the drugs himself. There are many times when Ryu must provide drugs with his own money, even if he doesn't make any profit. In order to keep in good terms with the judges, he buys the drugs the judges bring at higher than normal prices. Normally, this would not be in the interest of someone trying to earn a profit; however, Ryu believes that it is a small price to pay for the protection that the judges provide him and his wife.

Nevertheless, Ryu does not involve himself directly in the day to day selling of the drugs. He knows that preventing himself from becoming the talk of the town is the key to his own survival, and he leaves the work of selling drugs to his wife. Whenever his wife is caught in a roundup of drug dealers, however, Ryu seeks out judges he knows and greases the wheels to secure her release. When Ryu was asked how much he earns from his work, he hesitates and makes an effort to say as little as possible. He reveals, however, that his income depends on the amount of drugs he deals, but when he sells a large amount it has to be calculated in dollars. He then changes the subject. "In addition to big drug dealers, we also get people wanting to buy a couple grams," he says. "We tend to sell about 10 grams worth of drugs a day. Thirty grams on good days. That alone leaves about 25,000 to 30,000 won in our pockets. Selling more than 30 grams earns us more than 40,000 won." He refuses to talk about how much he earns for larger amounts. "It's true that we earn considerably more than most other people in other business," he concedes. "This business, you know, is watched closely by the state so the amount of money and drugs going into the hands of the judges is no joke. The fact is that most of the money I earn is spent buying protection."

It is clear that judges and cadres buy drugs because they have money, but when Ryu is asked why poor people come to buy drugs, he plainly considers it a silly question. "That's simple. They are buying drugs to ease the pain they are enduring. Drugs here are considered a cure-all for all kinds of ailments like colds, headaches and diarrhea. People say we are selling opium, but we are really selling drugs," he says, providing a glimpse into a society where many people buy small amounts of illicit drugs as they would household medicine at a pharmacy.

Even Judicial Officers in Moonduk County Are Corrupted Due to the Food Shortage Moonduk County in South Pyongan Province is a famous granary area even within South Pyongan Province, and is known as a ‘rice region’. Moonduk County is also known as ‘100,000 tons County’ because it produces at least more than 100,000 tons by receiving urea fertilizers produced from Anju Chemical Factory. When Moonduk County Residents complain of hardship, residents from other counties consider it as an exaggeration.

However, such a reputation gradually began to falter since 2006. It suffered consecutive flood damages in 2006 and 2007 and in addition, the flood also hit the County last year and resulted in decreased yields. The situation is such that even the party officials and judicial officers who never worried about the food so far began to worry about the food shortage this year. Of course, the ordinary residents will laugh at the fact that the party officials and the judicial officers would worry about the food. The residents say that since these officials are prioritized in distributing the food, there is a world difference between their worries and the worries of the officials. “For them, it will be like from having a bowl of white rice three times a day to mixing some crushed corn for just one meal. They do not worry like us, who worry over whether to make the crushed corn into a bowl of meal, noodles, or porridges,” says Kim Dong-Ho (alias), who works at the factory which produces basic commodities. The officials agree at this to some extent, but they still say the problem is serious.

One official who works at the People’s Assembly in the County Party describes the situation: “The supply of food began to decrease since last fall. It was like only 10 days’ worth of food was distributed in lieu of 15 days’ worth of food in the beginning of the month, or the distribution for the end of the month came rather late. Currently, however, the rice is not distributed anymore and the crushed corn is usually distributed instead. Something like this did not occur in the past. There is a rumor that in no time, the distribution for the officials will also be terminated.” Another police officer also says that the food situation of the judicial officers is not smooth, “Although this region is called the granary area, we too, can hardly eat the bowl of rice these days. There are more instances of siphoning off using their authorities.” It means that the corruption of the judicial officers is worse. “It is simple. The officers enforce regulation more frequently and thoroughly interrogate people who may have some money. They forgive these people after receiving money or other bribery,” he says.

Kang, Myung-Sung (alias), who became wealthy by engaging in the wholesale rice trading, conveys the condition of the judicial officers: “I have always been close with the judicial officers. I frequently offer them goods because I need their help if I want to engage in illegal activities. They have visited me particularly often this year. Since they have been visiting me to ask for money so many times, I said with a smile, ‘Chang-Suk (alias), give me a break. This is too much. Should I even take off my briefs and sell them so I can pay you? Should I even take off my belt?’ When I said that, he said, ’By Jove, dear brother, I am suffering to death, too. Again, there was no distribution this month, so we are about to starve. We walk on eggshells around our superiors, and we do not even have a travel expense when they direct us to transfer a criminal from Sinuiju. Please help us.’ I told him it did not make sense that even the judicial officers did not receive the distribution, no matter how difficult the situation was, but he said he could not figure it out either.”

Not Easy to Find Criminals with Money
Judges, though ready to receive bribes, have difficulty finding a case where defendants can afford pay-offs since most crimes are motivated by the immediate need to survive.
One police officer said, “Despite the sharp increase in crime this year, offenses are, for the most part, thefts or market activities prohibited by regulations, committed by those who fail to manage livings. Offenders are normally released after paying nominal fines because they are too poor to be expected to offer bribes and did nothing deserving long imprisonment.” Since law enforcement officers arrest too many to be detained, the arrestees are released after several days of detention. “We release detainees for very small sums of money, in part, due to our lack of resources. Only those who do not at all show willingness whatsoever to offer bribes are sent to re-education centers to make an example.”

Judges acknowledge that they arbitrarily exercise their power and manipulate the interpretation of the law. One judge said, “The government does not support me any longer. To feed my family, I have no other option than to receive bribes while in office.”
Kim Soon-Hee (alias) has ventured into many sorts of businesses to feed her four family members. She even went into the metal business last year, involving the black market trade of discarded copper and aluminum, an offense which carries a maximum penalty of death. To reduce the risk of being caught, she limited her participation in the trade to connecting a supply chain in Hyesan, Ryanggang Province. She has also been careful to avoid large-scale transactions. The business brought crushed corn to her family until she was caught last month. In response, her husband attempted to bribe the judge with a large sum, but was told, “I know it would be worth it for everyone for me to release her for a sum of money. She would be freed and I would earn some money. But, my hands are tied, as this case has been reported.”

North Korea Today No. 403, May 18, 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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Trading Used Japanese Bicycles for 12 Years, Living Conditions Worsened

Tofu Rice Seller for 10 Years Earns less than 2,000 Won Daily


Fishmonger for 10 Years Can’t Afford 1 Kg of Corn a Day


General Merchandiser, Earning less than 1,800 Won a Day


Clothing Vendor Makes 1,500 Won Per Day


A Handy Tailor, Maximum 20,000 Won per Day Earned if Business is good

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“What’s the life of city residents like in North Korea?”

The current edition looks into the lives of city residents in North Korea during the time of food shortage. Interviews with a number of city residents indicate that many of them are still suffering from the aftermath of the currency reform. The interviewees do not represent the whole city population in North Korea, but they can provide the cases that show the consequences of a wrong policy decision. Following is selected interviews based on the means of living of the interviewees. The editors hope that the present edition helps the readers understand the lives of North Korean people.

Trading Used Japanese Bicycles for 12 Years, Living Conditions Worsened
Mr. Choi, Myung-il (alias), who lives in Galma-dong, Wonsan, Kangwon Province, has traded used Japanese bicycles for 12 years. When he started his operation, his products were very clean and well-maintained. All parts of the bicycles were lubricated with brakes that were fixed like new. His colleagues and friends agreed that Mr. Choi has gifted hands and can fix extremely old and rusty machines. When Japanese ships arrived at the Wonsan Port, he was busy and worked hard without rest. Trading bicycles at the market was his wife’s duty because she had a more friendly personality. Since this couple worked hard, their family could eat steamed rice and their three children received their educations without any economic difficulties.

However, his situation changed due to the North Korean political crisis with Japan which was exasperated with the 2002 kidnapping and the 2006 nuclear experiment. After North Korean ships were banned to enter any Japanese ports in October 2006, the Wonsan Port, which was the main channel for the international trade between North Korea and Japan, was critically damaged. Since his brother-in-law has worked for cargo ships running between North Korea and Japan, Mr. Choi previously had easy access to Japanese bicycles. Currently, times are getting worse and he can hardly get used Japanese bicycles from Russian or Cambodian ships. He lost his savings during the currency reform, but has restarted his business since spring in 2010 with a small amount of savings he had in Chinese currency.

A lot of money is needed to fix a used bike. When he sells a bike for the usual price of about 20,000 won, he cannot make reasonable profit after fixing or replacing damaged parts. When he receives Japanese bicycles, he parts them out these days. Japanese parts are two to three times more expensive than their Chinese counterparts and he keeps the former to resell at the market and uses the latter to fix his bikes. The bicycles that Mr. Choi currently sells look as if they are of Japanese origin, although they are actually made of Chinese parts. Consequently, his bicycles do not work well which has incited the complaints of his customers. Mr. Choi explained his situation by saying, “I did not initially want to follow this immoral way. But I have to feed my family. If I live with good conscience, I will be hungry and no one will take care of my family. Most people act like this these days.”

Tofu Rice Seller for 10 Years Earns less than 2,000 Won Daily
In front of Wonsan Station in Wonsan City, Kangwon Province, there are full of women trying to sell food. Choi Sun-hee (alias) has been selling tofu rice for ten years at Wonsan Station. Sometimes she also takes out to sell dumpling rice, bread, and rice cakes, but she mostly sells tofu rice. Putting rice into tofu that is mashed up into smaller pieces and fried into a sort of pancake, and adding a little bit of spice on top is called tofu rice. Just ten years ago so many people wanted it and Ms. Choi had a quite amount of income. Customers are largely travelers who did not have the time to prepare a meal on the train. Now the number of women selling tofu rice has increased so there is a lot of competition between them. She prepares about a hundred to a hundred fifty pieces of tofu rice a day and she barely makes 2,000 won with them. Due to the decrease of income the tofu pancake is becoming thinner, the amount of rice inside is decreasing, and even the spice that goes on top has lessened. As the quality of the food dropped, it was natural for the number of customers to decrease as well. In the winter it was pretty easy to store the foods that had not been sold, but as the days get warmer Ms. Choi is worried that the foods might get spoiled. Ms. Choi made a complaint saying, “Right now it is so hard to survive because the business isn’t going well. If I was young I could have at least gotten sold to China, but I can not even do that either. Living is very hard.”

Fishmonger for 10 Years Can’t Afford 1 Kg of Corn a Day
Kim Mi-hwa (alias) has been working as a fishmonger for the last ten years in Myeongseok-dong, Wonsan City, Kangwon Province. Ms. Kim began selling fish in 2000 and before the recent currency reform she was able to buy and consume rice, eggs and tofu with her daily earnings. When asked how things are now, however, she replied in annoyance, "Isn't it obvious?" Her tone underlay her annoyance at receiving such a question. It was only after the interviewer explained that they were asking for a friend who was interested in going into the fishmonger business that she explained her current situation. "I am not able to earn enough to buy even one kilogram of corn a day. My husband is forced to work without meals at least three or four times a week. His mindset is still quite old-fashioned, and when they demand that he come to work he works all day without any meals. This doesn't help our family at all. I don't send either of my two daughters to school. Instead they help move fish and look after them at the market when I am away. They haven’t turned 12 yet, but they must live this way or they won't be able to survive. I am constantly harassed by school teachers coming to the house and telling me to send my children to school, but I don't have any choice in the matter. It’s not that I don’t want to educate them. I can spend an entire day at the market without any earnings, so I ask you how is it possible to both feed and clothe my children and also submit the requirements that the school collects? I do take some fish home with me when there is no money, but I can't eat any of the fish I sell unless there is some special event like a holiday or birthday party." She also related the difficulties of having worked as a fishmonger for ten years and then suddenly having her livelihood cut out from under her. "I really don't know if the government is out to save us or kill us," she said, adding that the aftereffects of the currency reform are still continuing to this day.

General Merchandiser, Earning less than 1,800 Won a Day
Lee Young-ok (alias), resident of Buryung County in North Hamkyong Province, retails China-made products obtained from trades with ethnic Chinese living in North Korea. Ms. Lee stated that she earns less than 1,800 won all day in many cases. Although her husband works at Mt. Komoo Cement Factory, it has already been long time that wage and ration stopped to be distributed. It is useless that she outcries to the pain of her throat. Despite all her efforts, she make no more than 1,800 won. Ms. Lee voiced her complaints, saying “There are too many things to bear including assignments from the school of my children and social burdens from Neighborhood Unit, workplace, and Democratic Women’s Union. No matter how hard I work, the sales revenue does not exceed 2,000 won a day, and I cannot satisfy all those assignments. I am almost running out of the seed money for business. If this situation continues, business funds will be used up before May. I don’t know how I can make living if I close up my business.”

Clothing Vendor Makes 1,500 Won Per Day
Ms. Jeong Soon-ok (alias), who lives in Namhyang 1-dong of the Pohang District in North Hamgyong Province, makes a living out of selling clothing at Sunam Market. Though most of the clothes on the market are second-hand imports from China, Ms. Jeong is a retailer of handmade clothing she receives from individuals. Some of the wealthier sellers import textiles from China en masse, employing 30 to 40 professionals to take care of the sewing, and these are the clothes that are passed on to Ms. Jeong. “Sales started to decrease from last year, and nowadays, it is reaching a record low,” she said, “I’d make 1,500 won on a good day, and there are days when I can’t even make 1,000 won. After I pay the market fee, it barely comes down to 600 won. On these days, I can’t even afford 1kg of corn. I have two school-aged children, and on average I think I pay around 2,000 won per month to the school. It seems like I won’ t be able to send them to school anymore from next month. I am very concerned about how to earn money in the future to sustain my family…”

A Handy Tailor, Maximum 20,000 Won per Day Earned if Business is good
There are many merchants that sell secondhand clothing at the Sunam Market in Pohang District, Chungjin City. Their products are predominately Chinese, but sometimes South Korean garments are also available. The most popular sellers are the stylish ones that are made-in-Korea. The reason is that Chinese clothes, which are cut to fit Chinese body shapes, do not precisely fit the general North Korean physique. Moreover, most of them are worn out or falling apart. Thus, North Korean women, who are good with their hands, now support their families with clothing alteration businesses at home using their own sewing machines. Some of them are paid for doing simple alterations for sellers, but like Ms. Bongja Chang (alias), some are well-skilled to do advanced alterations and can transform pieces into completely different styles. Their tailoring skills are almost professional. In the beginning, they sold altered clothes at the market, but recently have been getting more customers at home through word of mouth.

At first, Ms. Chang did simple sewing, but one of the main reasons that she turned into a tailor was the tightened enforcement of the Board Security. “Secondhand clothes were coming in mainly through Hoeryong and Musan. Two years ago, the secondhand clothing business was pretty good, with a high volume of trading. I didn’t make a lot of money at that time because I was doing simple work, but it was a relatively good pay since I could buy 1 Kilogram of rice with my daily wages. The Board Security’s decision to forbid used clothing imports later opened up opportunities to me. Of course used clothes are still smuggled in, but people who didn’t have a network to get supplies started to collect used clothes personally. The condition of those clothes was pretty bad. I mended those as I used to, but so many were not reparable with simple sewing. So I used a little of my own creativity, like cutting out designs and patching new patterns in styles that people liked, etc. I was then encouraged to run my own business by my female customers who were fully satisfied with my work,” she said. She paused for a moment and continued, “This is not even secret. To be honest, I copy South Korean styles. Although the materials are from China, I get more customers when my products are made in South Korean styles.”

She added that there are other people who are doing the same business as well. She is just well-known by word of mouth and has more fixed customers because of her excellent skills. She hesitated to answer the question concerning her daily earnings, but said, “The highest was 20,000 won. I wish it was like that every day. Lately, there are many days where I sell nothing.”

One of Ms. Chang’s customers, who came in for alterations during the interview, confirmed Ms. Chang’s popularity. She said, “(Ms. Chang) knows how to re-make clothes in the latest styles using the sewing machine with her extraordinary tailoring skills. I don’t ask for specific styles since I buy in large quantity, but stylish women in the town ask for very specific jobs. It’s too expensive to buy new Chinese clothes and not easy to get stylish South Korean ones, so they bring secondhand clothes in better shapes to Ms. Chang to alter. She is a famous tailor among most of the stylish women in town.”
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