GoodFriends: Research Institute For North Korean Society

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North Korea Today No. 454 May 09, 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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Gwangmyungsung 3 will be Launched for the Second Time Soon
Serious Food Crisis at Hwanghae Steelworks
A Ban on Exporting Marine Products in Effect from April
“The Food Export Ban Won’t Be Lifted Easily” 
Food Purchasing Emergency, Even Soybean Oil Byproduct Is Precious 
Many Automobile Accidents in Pyongyang’s Downtown
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Gwangmyungsung 3 will be Launched for the Second Time Soon
     It has been reported that North Korea is preparing for a second launch of its failed long-range rocket “Unha-3” (“Galaxy-3”), which was intended to launch the Gwangmyongsong-3, satellite into orbit on April 13. One Central Party official said that the same team of technicians from the first launch is currently working on it and they will launch again at the Tongchang-ri launch pad in Chulsan County, North Pyongan Province. “Outside of North Korea there has been widespread speculation that there will be a third nuclear test, but this is a tactic to attract their attention to Punggye-ri in Kilju County. There will be no such nuclear test prior to the second launch. Even if it fails again and that we are forced to the brink of war, that still might be better than doing nothing due to our desperate domestic situation. We currently have several long-range rockets in the Tongchang-ri area and a nuclear test is being prepared in Punggye-ri, Kilju County. The nuclear test can be aborted if we are able to resume talks with the United States after the rocket launch is successful, and the relationship will improve if we receive economic aid. Once we have received economic aid, we won't have to conduct the nuclear tests and taking the risk of worsening relationships with the United States and China” he explained. 


Serious Food Crisis at Hwanghae Steelworks 
     Starvation continues to claim victims throughout South Hwanghae Province. Since food situation at such large enterprise is in such difficult condition, it is needless to say how serious the situation in rural areas can be. Hwanghae Steelworks, located in Songlim City, North Hwanghae Province, is the second largest in North Korea after the Kimchek Steelworks in Chongjin. Along with the other large enterprise Nampo steelworks, it is one of the three premium enterprises in the nation. Employees have been dying since January this year because food rations stopped last year. An official working at Hwanghae Steelworks pleaded for help saying, “About 60,000 employees are in a dire situation because all provisions have been completely cut off since January this year. Since March, there have been 50-60 people collapsing everyday and not recovering from it, and 5-6 out of them are dying. We desperately need an emergency food aid.” One official of Central Party bemoaned, “It is not only a problem at Hwanghae steelworks. The food crisis in the entire country is extremely alarming and it is difficult to find a place without people starving to death. The situation in North Hamgyong Province is least serious followed by Ryanggang province. However, it doesn’t mean that those people eat enough, but they are able to eat at least a few potatoes per day. More people are dying from starvation in other areas. In the current situation, no one can predict how many more people will die if an urgent aid isn't received”. There is a pessimistic outlook which says, mass starvation cannot be avoided without a large-scale government food supply.


A Ban on Exporting Marine Products in Effect from April
     Marine products are not passing through customs in North Korea due to a ban which became effective on April 15. An official of the Central Party said that, due to an exacerbated food shortage, marine products were to be consumed within the country only. As exporting was banned, aquatic-based food companies across the country, such as in Raseon, Chungjin, Sinuiju, Wonsan and Nampo, told their Chinese trading partners to wait for a bit. They explained that, due to the government’s recent order to systemize the management of marine product exports, new arrangements were being made with individual companies nationwide. Chinese companies are suspicious of these words, asking North Korean companies to send the products or return their money. Workers, dealing with marine product exports, are also asking Chinese companies to be patient as the products are being held up at customs. However, they are not sure about how much longer it will take. Foreigners, who invested in marine product infrastructure, could be compensated with other products. However, North Korean agencies are now worried because there are no alternatives to replace the marine products. The money holders who invested in marine product infrastructure are frustrated at the financial loss.


“The Food Export Ban Won’t Be Lifted Easily”
     It has been reported that the recent ban on the export ban on marine products was implemented at the internal meetings of the Central Party that were held on January 8 and February 16. One Central Party official said that, “The ban on exports of marine products, fruits, and other food items has been implemented so that people of the country are supplied first.” He also mentioned that this was the decision of the First Chairman, Kim Jung-un. Some heads of marine products enterprises are hopeful that the ban will be lifted soon as many previous such orders lasted only for a short period of time. The officials of the Central Party as well as other officials participating in this decision, gloomily predict that it could take “at least 2-3 years, at the very least, to lift the ban.” They believe that the official reopening of trade will take some time. Their explanation is that the ban will not be easily lifted until the new leadership settles, finds some stability, and the food crisis is attenuated. On the other hand, many people welcome the ban saying “Why is the food to be sent overseas even when we have nothing to eat right now. This ban is the best action ever.” According to a recent comprehensive report on people’s opinion, one Central Party official said that, “after listening to Kim Jung-un’s address on the 100th Day of Sun, people thought his voice sounded much the same as Kim Il-sung which left them with a good impression. Lately, people are showing strong interest and attention since an amnesty was granted, people-favored policies, such as supplying marine products and mineral resources, like coal, to people, are being implemented. There is an expectation, growing amongst the people, that good times will come if they endure just a little while longer.” 


Food Purchasing Emergency, Even Soybean Oil Byproduct Is Precious
     While deaths from starvation continue to increase across the entire country, the only exceptions being North Hamgyong Province and Ryanggang Province, all agencies and institutions are finding themselves in a state of emergency over food procurement. Many purchase cornmeal, soybean byproducts, and instant noodles because of the unavailability of rice and flour. The real need is grains such as dried corn, but in reality they have to import junk food because of monetary constraints. Agencies with more power are able to procure snacks and bread, but struggling agencies are importing things that hardly deserve to be called food, such as “bean doobak”. “Bean doobak” is the dregs left over after squeezing oil from soybeans. It had been imported during the Arduous March and is now being used again as a food substitute because there is nothing else to eat. One Chinese trader chuckled, “I didn’t know what ‘doobak’ was the first time they wanted to buy it from me. In China, it is called ‘doobyung’, and these days it is not used even as feed for cows or pigs. Do people really eat such a thing? Things must be very bad for people to be willing to consider this food.” The North Korean trade officers explain the desperate food situation this way: “If you need something to eat, but have no money, you need to find something available in large quantities at a low price. You will have no regrets about eating anything that is available in unlimited quantity, even if it is doobak.”


Many Automobile Accidents in Pyongyang’s Downtown
     In Pyongyang these days many cars are driven with headlights turned on even during daylight hours. Because there are so many traffic accidents happening in the city, the North Korean government has ordered drivers to turn on their headlights at all times to help avoid accidents. A Central Party official observed, “In Pyongyang alone there are more than 200 car accidents every year, and many people are injured or die in these accidents. Europeans drive with their headlights on during the day to decrease the risk of accidents, and so we are adopting the same strategy as well. We will crack down on those who violate the headlight law.” Reasons for the increasing number of car accidents are a greater number of new cars on the streets in Pyongyang and the fact that luxury cars especially tend to ignore regulations and speed excessively. Although traffic accidents have been decreasing with the new law in effect, drivers are complaining of eye strain, shorter car battery life and headlights burning out more rapidly.
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