GoodFriends: Research Institute For North Korean Society

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North Korea Today No. 450 April 11, 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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Kwangmyongsung 3, Likely to Be Launched on the 13th
“Replace imported goods with domestic products”
5,000 Residential Homes to be Built in Hoeryong by 2017
The Revival of the Food Alley of Hoeryong
“Give us food and we won’t flee” Claim Residents of Eunduk County
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Kwangmyongsung 3, Likely to Be Launched on the 13th
It has been reported that Kwangmyongsung 3, claimed by North Korea to be a satellite and others to be a missile, will be launched during the morning of the 13th of April. An official with the Central Party said that Kwangmyongsung 3 will be launched with the support of the whole nation to commemorate the appointment of Kim Jong-un, Vice Chairman of National Defense Commission to the General Secretary of the Workers Party. The 4th Workers Party Conference will take place on the 11th, and the 5th Supreme People’s Assembly will be held on the 13th. As these are the first political events driven by Vice Chairman Kim Jong-un after the death of Chairman Kim Jong-Il, it was planned to launch Kwangmyongsung 3 to highlight his presence and leadership to both domestic and overseas audiences. However, the final launch schedule is subject to change per weather conditions. On the 15th, it is expected that Pyongyang will host a large-scale military parade on the occasion of the centennial of Eternal President Kim Il-sung’s birth to show off its might.


“Replace imported goods with domestic products” 
The Central Party issued an order to “replace imported goods with domestic products. An official of the Central Party noted that, “since bringing stability to people’s lives is the national priority, we’ve ordered the normalization of the operation of light industry factories to focus on producing people’s consumer goods.” On January 5th, there was an initiative to improve the ratio of domestic to imported products, in Pyongyang’s Gwangbok Department Store, to 40 to 60 by selling the domestic products below market price although the prices may be slightly higher than in state-run stores. Because the department store opened recently, most products are imported from China and so the prices tend to reflect those of Chinese local prices. This modern department store has attracted quite a bit of enthusiasm from Pyongyang residents but, because the prices are too high, the customers are limited to government officials and wealthy people. One member of the Central Party said that, because China’s share of investment amounts to 65%, the majority of goods in the store may continue to be Chinese goods. However, the Party insists that, by normalizing the operation of light industry factories, it plans to concentrate domestic products in state-run stores. The Party claims that if cheap domestic products are supplied on a mass scale, the market for imported goods will gradually decline. While it would be difficult for the time being, due to the limited production of domestic goods, it is expected that the number of imported items that could be traded in domestic markets will be dramatically reduced within two to three years. The leadership calculates that, when the national supply system is completed, the market for imported goods eventually can be shutdown.


5,000 Residential Homes to be Built in Hoeryong by 2017
Following the plan to construct 100,000 households in Pyongyang, a residential home building project has been launched in Hoeryong, North Hamgyong Province. The City Party of Hoeryong set up a plan to build 5,000 residential homes by 2017 in Hoeryong. On March 1st, members of Special Labor Brigade swore their allegiance to Kim Jong-un, the young leader of North Korea, and then started tearing down old houses. Although it would not be as large as the complex in Pyongyang where 100,000 households are to be built, constructing 5,000 households in the province would be still a large-scale project. A party official of Hoeryong said that acquiring of cement, lumber, and construction equipment would be the key to complete the project. Although there was substantial support from the Central Party, it was the lack of equipment and materials that delayed completion of food ally construction in Nammoondong, which was initially expected to be completed within 5 months from the beginning of the construction in May 2009. Even if the funding is obtained and the construction of 5,000 homes in Hoeryong can be fortunately completed, it remains to be seen how many of the new houses would be made available to people who actually need them as it is likely that party officials will take them first.


The Revival of the Food Alley of Hoeryong
The “food Alley” of Nammoondong, Hoeryong City is reviving from its doldrums. This alley features corn dishes, rabbit meat specialty restaurants, White apricot wine restaurants, bakeries, local specialty restaurants, and the likes. Each restaurant receives ingredients at the state assigned price and offers a portion of its profit from sales to the country. Most of the liquor sold here has been produced domestically with the rest coming from China. Sometimes domestic liquor is bottled in a Chinese-made bottle. For instance, the bottle is “Chung-do” beer bottle, but the label says “Daedonggang” or “Geumgang”. Operating a restaurant is still difficult after a year has passed since the alley opened due to deficiencies in the supply of ingredients. After the city party of North Hamgyong Province opened a restaurant at Liaoningsheng, China, the restaurants drew more business as food supply was improved since the end of last year. Confiscated game meats from illegal hunting activities are also sold at the food alley. One restaurant manager proudly said, “Heard everyone is occupied over the food crisis, yet we are provided with sufficient ingredients such as corn and flour from China. People [customers] are highly satisfied because the price is lower than at other general restaurants and the customer service is good as well”.


“Give us food and we won’t flee” Claim Residents of Eunduk County
Every resident in the near border area claimed in Unison that there would be no river-crossers if food becomes available. The residents of Eunduk County, North Hamgyong Province raised an outcry saying this year is the worst while they have always been lacking in sufficient nourishment. Even in North Hamgyong Province, Eunduk County shows a higher defector rate because land is not tillable, thus the food self-sufficiency ratio is very low.

If to exaggerate a little, one can claim that there is one defector or a missing person for every two homes. There have been many families that fled to China during the Arduous March, and the numbers of defectors have kept growing since then.

The Safety Bureau heightened people’s ideological lecture every year, and administered public punishments of defectors as a warning, however none worked effectively. Besides, the City Party and People’s Committee of North Hamgyong Province even tried providing some months’ worth of food for the residents of Eunduk County. From 2009, crops produced in Eunduk County were favorably allocated to the county residents after supplying the troops and three border patrol companies stationed there first.

The residents somehow avoided a food crisis that year [2009], but currency reform at the end of 2009 deeply affected businesses. At the time, more people have been engaged in businesses than in farming due to the unsuitable land condition, and as a result the markets almost collapsed because people did not have enough money to purchase goods for their businesses. On top of that, traffic regulation heightened when a missile brigade moved into the town in 2010. The residents, needless to say, have to sacrifice more of their provisions for the military. Coming and going to procure food has become extremely difficult; moreover, the harvest from patch-field farming was poor due to bad weather conditions. The farm workers were provided with only two months’ worth of food to satisfy a whole year’s need. Only the military-affiliated companies and factories are supplied with sufficient provisions. The residents say that they have no choice but to leave their homes for good as living conditions become harsher than the Arduous March. They claim that providing the people with food is the first step to reducing the number of defectors.
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