GoodFriends: Research Institute For North Korean Society

.

North Korea Today No. 446 March 14, 2012

[“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.]
___________________________________________________________________________
[Intro] Food Sufficiency Can Come from “My Own Plot of Land”
Pig Farm Building Movement in the Entire Country
People’s Growing Distrust of Mid-level Government Officials
Organizational Life Intensified
Vegetable Field in the Mountain is My Real Cropland
A Story of Marriage between a Step-brother and a Step-sister
___________________________________________________________________________

[Intro] Food Sufficiency Can Come from “My Own Plot of Land”
The North Korean state’s ambition to provide “rice and meat soup” for its people and put an end to the food shortage is visible everywhere. The state’s effort in pushing for building pig farms, giving them priority in corn and electric supply, seems to be its attempt to create an alternative food source. However, there is a strong public backlash about feeding pigs when there is no food for people. Instead, the public claims that they will be self-sufficient if they are allowed to farm a plot of land anywhere, even in the mountains. They are trying to say that if they are given a piece of land that is truly their own, even if it is barren, they would at least manage to have potato and corn rice for themselves if not rice and meat soup. Building pig farm also poses challenges to local parties which lack funds. It is more realistic to focus the resource on highly productive farms which could be converted into plots for private farming. For agricultural development, investments in farm machinery, energy procurement, and irrigation expansion are necessary, but this infrastructure cannot be built in the short term. However, there is a way to improve agricultural productivity in a short term: letting people take home the crops that they produce themselves. It is now the time for starting agricultural revolution for the new era and this revolution must start with giving farmers their own plot of land to cultivate as they choose and letting them to trade the crops freely in the market.


Pig Farm Building Movement in the Entire Country
There is a movement throughout the county for building pig farms as an effort to solve food crisis this year. This effort comes from the policy to provide people with rice and meat soup, and cities and counties are immersed in the task of acquiring the material and the facility for building pig farms. It is easier in the case where already existing pig farms are being renovated but, on the other hand, areas that need to build an entirely new farm are having a hard time finding the funds. Even if they succeed in making a pig farm, they still face a mountain of other challenges, including the facility to dispose pig excretions, quarantine protocols, and installing water supply and sewage. Some pig farms that were finished last year are trying their best to provide corn feed for pigs and ensure that there is a constant supply of electricity. However, the plan for building additional farms is causing public backlash, eliciting complaints about pigs getting food and electricity when human beings are receiving neither. The Central Party, after a long contemplation, issued the order on February 18th to “provide electricity to people between the hours of 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. no matter what.” The Central Party seems to have judged that they cannot give up pig farming, a potential source of protein and alternative food, so they decided to appease the public by making the currently irregular supply of electricity into a more regular one. Some party officials express the opinion that building pig farms may be premature and it would be better instead to focus on raising herbivore animals such as rabbits, goats, and mountain goats.


People’s Growing Distrust of Mid-level Government Officials
The Central Party has reviewed secret reports on residents which were collected nation-wide, and concluded that people’s discontent with mid-level government officials is high. Reportedly, there is little dissatisfaction with Central Party or high-ranking officials, whereas mid-level officials are accused of writing false reports and oppressing residents. According to these reports collected by the Police and Security Department, people think that deceptive reports made by mid-level government officials has resulted in General Kim Jong-un being poorly informed about people’s difficult lives. The officials are thus responsible for their hard living conditions, which have not improved. The secret reports indicate that people regard the mid-level officials as only being interested in keeping their jobs and pursuing private interests rather than working for the welfare of the country and the General, and thus they should be removed. People further contend that, whoever takes such positions, it would not make much difference.

The secret reports also pointed out that the phrase, “Let there be war!” is becoming popular among residents. Furthermore it was reported that across the country there is a high level of discontent with police officers and the Security Department. People even view an outbreak of war as an opportunity to get revenge on security-related agents. An official of the Central Party reported that one elderly person haggling with a merchant over prices at a market in Hamhung said that he could not live like this and he would rather a war broke out. According to the official, the elderly person, seeing a police officer standing behind him, managed to save the situation by saying that his country would definitely be victorious if a war did break out. The Central Party official added that, without the presence of the police agent, the person might have gone on to say more about the high level of discontent among the people. No one around the elderly man at the crowded market made any attempt to stop him. In addition, the official explained that the reason why people often say that it would be desirable for something to happen soon is that they feel impatient with the hardship of their lives and the increasing level of control and regulation. According to him, security agents who regulate and crack down on people’s daily lives become first-hand targets toward which people’s discontent and dissatisfaction are directed.


Organizational Life Intensified
Since the beginning of this year the organizational structure of workers’ and farmers’ lives has been intensified. The rush hour schedule has been tightened and attendance at lectures is being strictly enforced. Chul-oung Kim (alias), a laborer living in South Pyongan Province, Pyungsung City, says, “Even if I go to work there is no work to do, but the orders to come in and go to work and to attend seminars have increased. There is no time for a laborer to get any rest. We used to be able to just turn in our time card at work and go back home and give helping hands to our wives earning money through trade, but this year there is no time for that. Since the General died it seems as if things have gotten harder. They haven’t given us even a little leisure time, so living has become more difficult.”

So-young Lee (alias) also said that she had in the past never made a pledge before starting her day’s labor. But now she begins her work day with a loyalty oath to Kim Jong-un. Previously pledges honoring Kim Jong-il and Kim Il-sung were said on the first day back to work after national holidays. But now whenever we start something we have to pledge that we will achieve the revolutionary goals of Kim Jong-un. Even when special labor brigade begin their combat drills (various labor projects) and other activities, they make such a pledge.


Vegetable Field in the Mountain is My Real Cropland
Ji-seok Choi (alias), a farmer living near Hyesan, Ryanggang Province, is thankful for having a small piece of slash and burn farm land for cultivation thanks to his brother-in-law, who is the secretary of Primary Party. He was barely able to secure a spot on the burned off land when his brother-in-law was promoted to secretary five years ago. The first land he cultivated was not far from his current one and was located in the mountains on a near-70 degree slope. Standing up was hard enough on that slope, but cultivating the land was much harder. However, his family of three could survive on the potatoes and radishes he harvested from that land. He reluctantly returned the land to the government after using it for three years because the land was registered with the Forest Department. However, he was able to acquire use of another small piece of land in the same area thanks to his brother-in-law.

It might sound easy to turn rocky land into tillable land. However, that is the last thing anyone wants to do who has ever done it before. Yet, they understand the land is the source of food supply for their family once the land is prepared. So Ji-seok worked his fingers to the bone, cutting down big trees, bundling them and selling them as firewood. He removed shrubs, tree roots, and rocks. He worked every single day on the field until he felt as if his back was broken, to turn the wild land into a field where he could plant vegetables.

Not long ago, a person was severely burned by a forest fire which started when the person began clearing land for a vegetable field. He barely saved his own life, but his face and hands were so severely burned that he could not work anymore. Ji-seok was tempted to burn the shrubs and brush he cleared, but with the danger of a forest fire, he threw the brush into the valley instead. A person must know how to practice slash and burn farming to do it safely, but apparently the burned person lacked the knowledge and patience to do so.

Ji-seok has become irritated lately because his boss has been checking his work attendance closely. Until last year, with a small bribe to his boss, he could come home from his job early to work on his small cultivated land, but this year he has to stay until the end of business hours. During the winter it didn’t matter so much, but since spring is coming, he is now in a hurry to prepare the land for planting. So, he recently used a falsified medical note to get three days of medical leave. His land still needs a lot of work because it is located on a mountain with many rocks. He and his wife work diligently removing rocks and tree roots. Due to the high altitude, the land will do well to produce 300kg of potatoes and 500kg of radishes by the fall. The total harvest will depend on the loss to wild animals and to thieves, since there are many people who try to steal food. Ji-seok estimates 100kg of each of the vegetable crops will be lost; he would be happy to have 200kg of potatoes and 400kg of radishes this year. That amount would be sufficient to get his family through the winter and have some left over to sell in the market. Ji-seok emphasized that, “The vegetable field in the community farm is said to be mine, however, the vegetable field in the rocky mountain is truly mine. Thanks to it, I have no worry about feeding my family.”


A Story of Marriage between a Step-brother and a Step-sister
Keum-sook is a 33-year-old housewife. She lives in Yeonsan-Gun, North Hamgyong Province with her husband, son, and daughter. In addition, she lives with and supports for her father and step-mother. Her home originally was in Musan-Gun. She lived in a 5-story apartment, which, although not very well equipped, had enough sunlight and good ventilation. One day, when the Great Leader passed away in 1994, her mother finally died. One year later, her younger brother died even before starting the school. In her family of four members, only two remained. After a while, her father brought home a kind woman, who is her step-mother now. Her step-mother had a son, who is one year older than Ms. Keum-sook. The family therefore has four members again. However, livelihood for the family became harder, so they sold the apartment and moved to Yeonsan-Gun, where they currently live.

Keum-sook was 28 years old, but her family was pinched in poverty, and she was not even 145 centimeters tall. In addition she was skinny, undersized, and did not look good. Due to these she had thought that it would be difficult to meet a good spouse. Her brother, although close to age thirty, was also unable to find a good marriage partner. Her father and step-mother could not leave their son and daughter unmarried; they subsequently decided to have their son and daughter get married to each other. They decided that this could be the best for them, in that they did not need unnecessary formality for a wedding and their married son and daughter could live in the same home. Keum-sook’s parents thought their son and daughter married to each other would be better than leaving them staying single forever, although their relatives and neighbors might laugh at them. As expected, the relatives felt ashamed and did not attend the wedding ceremony. There were only the head of the Neighborhood Unit and a few acquaintances at the ceremony. They had a wedding ceremony without any formal dress. The food consisted with one bowl of rice, a chicken, and some liquor. That night, her father and mother slept over at the house of the head of the Neighborhood Units, insisting that the newlyweds need privacy for the first night. Keum-sook was dazed at having a husband who used to be like a real brother, even though he is not related with her a drop of blood. Her husband held her hand and promised to live well with their parents. In the first year after the marriage, a boy was born. Another boy was born in the next year. Keum-sook thinks that, although it is heartbroken not to feed her three-year-old and four-year-old children enough, it is just as good that all family members live together.
There was an error in this gadget