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North Korea Today No. 449 April 04, 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.]
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South Hwanghae Province in State of Emergency Due to Food Crisis
The Whole Nation Devoting All Energy to Buying Food
The Bureau of Overseas Representatives Are Heavily Burdened with Fundraising for Three Biggest National Holidays
Central Party Retracted Assignment for “The Day of the Sun”
Mourning Period Ends, But Border Is Still War-like
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South Hwanghae Province in State of Emergency Due to Food Crisis
The number of people dying of starvation is currently mounting across South Hwanghae Province. Damaged by the heavy rain last summer, the Province faced a substantial decrease in crop harvest. In addition, the 100 day-mourning period for the sudden death of Chairman Kim Jong-il temporarily halted main economic activities. As a consequence, cases of deaths of starvation emerged. The Leading Secretary of the South Hwanghae Provincial Party requested emergency relief from the Central Party, stating that “The food situation has become extremely serious. We request urgent assistance.”

One trade officer from Haeju City said, “The food situation in South Hwanghae Province is the worst in the history of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Even compared to the Arduous March period, the situation was better then. The economy of Hwanghae Province is on the brink of collapse.”

Every party unit of the province, cities, and counties of South Hwanghae has been trying to collect anything edible, while continuing to request food support from the Central Party. They are purchasing food from across the country, but the quantity is small compared to the need due to the difficult domestic economy. One official from the South Hwanghae Provincial Party reported the urgency of the situation, stating “We are asking overseas representatives to bring in food for us, anything as long as it is edible, and preferably something that can be obtained in a large amount and at a cheap price.” Officers at the Bureau of Overseas Representatives expressed their sympathy but said they were already stretched between fundraising for the Party and other assignments to fulfill.


The Whole Nation Devoting All Energy to Buying Food
As soon as the 100-day mourning period ended last March 25, Party units at provincial, city, and county levels as well as departmental and sectional levels sent their delegates to China to find trade partners. The delegates put all their effort to buying food by selling mineral and primary resources. This is because even the general work places are in food emergency due to the disruption in the economic activities during the mourning period.

An official from Hamheung City, South Hamgyong Province, told the seriousness of the situation, saying, “In winter times there tend to be some food, but it was not like that this time. People died of starvation. Now, many factories, companies, and organizations are buying up any kind of food available.” He expressed his worries that new grass in spring would ease the situation, but as soon as the lean period of spring started, there would be more deaths of starvation. The Central Party is collecting food crisis data by regions and analyzing the problem.


The Bureau of Overseas Representatives Are Heavily Burdened with Fundraising for Three Biggest National Holidays
Officers at the Bureau of Overseas Representatives are heavily burdened with fundraising for the sudden death of Chairman Kim Jong-il followed by three biggest national holidays. Even after they submitted the patriotic funds to finance the funeral of the late Chairman Kim in last December, they still had to submit more for the birthdays of the Vice Chairman Kim Jung-un on January 8th and of Chairman Kim Jong-il on February 16th. It was right after they had an extremely hard time sending 500,000 tons of food to North Korea by the end of last October at the request of the Central Party. On top of that, each officer had to fulfill an individual assignment of food provisions which cost 50,000 euro.

At that time the achievement rate was only 10%. About 70% of the officers just showed their effort, and the rest could not submit anything. Even in this hard situation, however, when the unexpected death of the Chairman was announced, the officers could not argue against any requests from the Central Party and had to submit patriotic funds to the Party. An officer residing in Beijing, China observed, “For the last year, I had to squeeze every drop of money to submit the patriotic funds to the Party for the birthday of the Chairman while also paying to fulfill my assignment of food provisions. For the coming commemoration of the centennial of Kim Il-sung’s birthday on April 15th I have to collect more money, but I cannot focus on anything because requests for food provisions are coming from everywhere since there are many deaths from starvation in the nation. Not only me but all other officers are complaining about the situation now.


Central Party Retracted Assignment for “The Day of the Sun”
Officers at the Bureau of Overseas Representatives complain that they can hardly breathe due to the individual assignments as well as the food assignments imposed upon them during a time of low morale after they and the Trade Department faced a tough investigation last year. They say, “We wish to sincerely and loyally devote ourselves on the occasion of the Great Leader's 100th birthday. However, we are completely worn out from working so hard last year on all of our tasks, including the food assignment. We have nowhere to turn and no energy or money left to do any more assignments. We even dare to say the authorities want money instead of loyalty.”

Due to the repeated appeals from the Bureau of Overseas Representatives, the Central Party has withdrawn the latest assignment for the Day of the Sun. They are worried that the 100th birthday of Kim Il-sung could be ruined if the Overseas Representatives’ negative attitude to their tasks influences the public opinion. An official of the Central Party said, “It was seriously considered that this situation may help form negative opinions against the new supreme leader Kim Jong-un and his leadership.” He said the assignment was retracted 10 days after being issued. An officer at the Bureau of Overseas Representatives said, “The new leadership seemed to decide not to upset the Bureau of Overseas Representatives which is in charge of earning most of the foreign currency that is the artery of the system. This is why they left us alone for a while. However, no one knows when a new assignment will be imposed. We are able to breathe for a while now, but we are still nervous.”


Mourning Period Ends, But Border Is Still War-like
March 25th marked the end of the 100-day mourning period for the passing of North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong-il, which occurred on December 17th of last year. On March 25th an extravagant memorial took place in Kim Il-sung Square in Pyongyang. Expatriates from around the world placed wreaths at the funeral from 9am until noon, when a short mourning began. Although there was no special work to be done since it was Sunday, even minor government affairs were put on hold for the mourning. After the mourning period ended, all workplaces, public enterprises, and other organizations resumed their normal operations. However, extreme control has continued in the border areas, and it has drawn backlash from citizens. Jung Taek-rim (alias) from Hyesan City in Ryanggang Province said that even after the mourning period, citizens were still being lectured that the use of cell phones would result in severe punishment. “If you are caught using a cell phone, you will be punished for three years in the Re-education Center. If caught using a ‘133 cell phone’, you are automatically subject to laws regarding criminal espionage. I have heard this so much that my ears are ringing”, he said.

‘133 cell phones’ have an area code starting with the number 133, which is a Chinese area code. Most of these phones are made in South Korea, shipped to China, and sent to North Korea. These days 3G cell-phones have become available in China, and various area codes besides 133 now exist (China Unicom 130, 131, 132, 133). However, up until a while ago, North Koreans were only able to get cell-phones with a number starting with 133. In North Korea, the ‘133 cell phones’ are known to be made in South Korea, thus the target of the strict crackdown. Those secretly still using ‘133 cell phones’ have realized that the crackdown on these phones will restart and are trying to quickly dispose of them.

North Korean authorities are cracking down on cell phones to prevent defectors as well as to guard against national secrets being leaked out of the country through the defectors’ families. At every lecture, security officers make sure to emphasize the threat that no one will be forgiven for betraying their country.

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