GoodFriends: Research Institute For North Korean Society

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North Korea Today No. 464 July 18, 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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Changjun Street, “Pyongyang above Pyongyang”
Discharged Soldiers, Relieved from the Construction of Apartment Buildings in Pyongyang, Eagerly Return Home, but…
The Corn Production in North Hamgyong Province Is Likely to be Sharply Decreased due to Drought
Sungbook Farm in Heoryong: Half of the Rice Crop Has Dried-up
Inner Provinces Farmers Die of Starvation
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Changjun Street, “Pyongyang above Pyongyang”
     Pyongyang officials are calling Changjun Street in the Mansoodae District of Pyongyang, where the luxurious super high-rise apartment complex is located, the “Pyongyang above Pyongyang.” Grievances have been circulating among key officials who were not allotted the new housing. One official of the Central Party said that, “The Changjun Street houses are furnished with imported refrigerators and washing machines; furthermore, there is a tight security system as well. The 2nd and 3rd generations of revolutionaries were first selected as the residents for the new complex. Most of the newly selected residents used to live in Gwangbok Street in Mangyongdae District. However, many officials were not selected for the new place. As far as I know, especially among the officials, those who didn’t receive these benefits even though they are from the Mangyongdae group, have quite strong grievances.”

As athletes, artists, scientists, and the key officials in politics and in the Party move their residences from Gwangbok Street in Mangyongdae District to Changjun Street in Mansoodae District, a new social stratum has been created based on the areas of living. “Think about it; if you are left alone in the old street after all of your neighbors moved simultaneously to Changjun Street from the street where they had lived with you for more than ten years, then who would be happy with that? Isn’t it blatant evidence showing just how you and your family are treated by the Party? Any family, no matter how powerful they used to be, would feel bitter for appearing to lose power and connections.” He also said that the new apartment complex in Changjun Street generates a sense of incongruity even among the existing elite core classes as well.  


Discharged Soldiers, Relieved from the Construction of Apartment Buildings in Pyongyang, Eagerly Return Home, but…
     A group of soldiers, who from year 2009 had been committed to the construction of apartment buildings in Pyongyang, was discharged and returned home. Kim Pyeong-hak (alias), who came home to Shinuiju in North Pyongan Province, says that it is a homecoming in 4 years. Even though the date of discharge had already passed, in line with the Military First Policy, they had to stay regardless of personal preferences to finish the task bestowed by the Fatherland. For Kim the work ended early; many co-workers are still at the job-site. He states that when returning to his so dearly-missed home, his eyes became red with anger and he shed what felt like bloody tears. Sharing his mixed feelings, Mr. Kim says: “The gap between Pyongyang and the province had widened more -- it's comparable to ‘this life and the afterlife.’ How many people and soldiers were mobilized to construct apartment buildings? We worked without proper food, sleep or clothing to build the residences, and now we’ve finished, we’ve become useless. They sent us home without any compensation. That part may be all right as I didn't do the work expecting some rewards from the Fatherland.  However, upon returning home, I found that my mother has become crippled after hurting her leg while working as a small land patch farmer, while my sister-in-law has left the house. Even a rubbish dump would be better than this house that is collapsing. My two young nephews can’t even balance their heads and are starving to death. Since my older brother has passed away, I have to become the head of the household, but I don’t know how I will be able to survive and I’m scared. I don’t get food rations even though I’m a discharged soldier. Life has become unimaginably miserable.”

He says that people mobilized to work in the construction of apartment buildings in Pyongyang have been pushed to the limit. Having seen the high-rise apartment buildings (even though the interior work has not even finished) and now returned to their homes, they are full of doubt, saying “What have I been doing?” Especially the discharged soldiers, who could not find even a shabby mud-hut and have to live off of their parents or brothers and sisters, are thus become even more alienated.


The Corn Production in North Hamgyong Province Is Likely to be Sharply Decreased due to Drought
     The North Hamgyong Provincial Party investigated the drought damage on the farms in their jurisdiction. The corn production is a great portion of the farming work in the mountainous North Hamgyong Province, but it is predicted that the production will drop sharply because the corn plants are all dried up due to the spring drought. North Hamgyong Province farm workers assume 2-3 tons of corn production per one jungbo (1 jungbo is 2.45 acres); however, some farming villages within the mountains might produce less than 1 ton. An official from the Provincial Party said that, “We probably should wait until September to get a better production estimate because the rainy season is not over yet. Anyhow, so far it is a dismal situation. But, we are at least in a bit of a better situation than the Provinces of North and South Hwanghae and South Pyongan,” he added sadly. 


Sungbook Farm in Heoryong: Half of the Rice Crop Has Dried-up
     At the Sungbook Community Farm of Yusun Labor District in Heoryong City, North Hamgyong Province, rice seed-beds were seriously damaged by drought. More than half of the seedlings died because farmers had no water. Despite the Central Party's repeated orders to boost food output, farm workers are deeply worried that little rice will be produced. In addition, as the drought continues, not only there are damages to rice production but also due to delayed planting other crops from the field would be seriously damaged. Insect infestations have also increased. Farmers have no pesticides and try to kill insects by hand. Hoeryong City Party officials, although the city does not have any measures to improve the situation, are warning, "If the crops are not good, all managers can expect to be interrogated," and draw criticism from the farmers.


Inner Provinces Farmers Die of Starvation
     Farmers are dying of starvation in the inner provices such as Hwanghae, South Phyongan and Kangwon. Rather than working in the fields during busy farming season, many farmers and their families have to roam the mountains to gather wild plants. Some barely survive on grass soup mixed with a spoonful of corn meal. The number of starvation deaths rises in the counties of Anak, Jaeryong, and Bongchun in Southern Hwanghae Province.

A family is lucky if it has two meals a day, even if the meals are just porridge. There are reports that more than half of the population may not get even one meal per day. On the west coast, the potato harvest should start on June 20th. Farmers are in despair: because of drought, potatoes are the size of beans. A government official in South Hwanghae Province said, "We have to get through this difficult time, no matter what. But I am deeply worried: the potatoes are so small and I don't think the corn crop is going to turn out right either. I am so worried that more farmers will starve to death."
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