GoodFriends: Research Institute For North Korean Society

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North Korea Today No. 426 October 26, 2011

[“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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[Intro] North Korean Minerals Are Valuable Assets for South Korea
First Anniversary of Kim Jong-un’s Official Inception: Focus on Economics

Yes to Exporting Coals, but No to Exporting Management Right
Restricting Mining Is Easier Said Than Done
A Sudden Rise in Overseas Representative’s Tax Liability
Overseas Representative Frown on Arrogant Attitude of New Officials
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[Intro] North Korean Minerals Are Valuable Assets for South Korea
It has been reported that many new economic policies have been proposed at the meeting of the Organization and Guidance Department held a year after Kim Jong-un, the current Vice-Chairman of the National Defense Commission, revealed himself to the world. Although the triple alliance between North Korea, China, and Russia will remain largely untouched, less extensive changes are to be made.

Strengthening regulation on foreign investments in mineral resources and exploiting the resources with North Korean technology is one of the proposed changes. The proposal would likely have stemmed from a growing concern that China may be overexploiting their mineral wealth and depleting it. But restricting foreign ownership or mineral rights will not bring about an immediate decline in exports, since the Party officials will be reluctant to give up such a lucrative enterprise. It is likely that the Central Party officials will not be easy to control.

It is truly a shame that the inter-Korean Economic Cooperation Project has been stopped short when we look at how North Korea’s mineral resources are being sold off at giveaway prices to foreign businesses. Mineral production is a project that is sure to benefit both North and South Korea; it must be partaken regardless of large investments that are needed for the infrastructure. It is imperative that we begin to work toward a cooperative measure with North Korea.


First Anniversary of Kim Jong-un’s Official Inception : Focus on Economics
October 10th of this year, which was North Korea’s Party’s Foundation Day, had a special meaning, since it also happened to be the first anniversary of military commissioner Kim Jong-un’s official inception to the Party. Military commissioner Kim was elected Vice-Chairman of the Central Party Military Commission at the 3rd Party Representative’s Conference held on the 28th of September last year, and inspected the troops at the official Review during the 65th Anniversary of the Party’s Foundation on October 10. This year there were no special external festivities, but internally there was a concentrated discussion on economic policy that would best suit a new leadership program. One Central Party executive said, “Subjects under discussion included an evaluation of this past year and future strategies. Diplomatically, a strengthened political, military and economic cooperation with China and Russia, and especially the alliance with China were highly valued above all else. Even in the times of the Great Leader the North Korean – Chinese relationship was never this close – this is how much the Party’s perception and evaluation of China has transformed since then. In various areas of Commerce, as well as of Trade, Industry, Sport and Health etc., the administrative sectors of the Party are actively making progress, for example by dispatching ambassadors to China and Russia to execute market research,” and essentially confirmed the North Korea – China – Russia triadic alliance and peace negotiations will remain untainted into the future. Since things were not working out with the United States government, he claimed there was no choice but to concentrate on diplomatic priorities with China and Russia to achieve a stabilization of the system and economic recovery.

“For our Republic, the current situation where the whole country is suffering from poverty and economic hardship as well as the international financial crisis leaves only expansion into the Chinese market as the only solution for survival. However there is strong concern about a complete reliance on China. We think participating in a six-party summit to achieve international cooperation and seek economic coordination with the international community will best expedite our nation’s economic recovery. It is only because people who can make proposals to the supreme leadership are so limited that we cannot seek public opinions on this issue; those who are well acquainted with diplomatic affairs, while they do assert that a North Korea- China –Russia alliance is basically the only ‘solution’, warn we must not completely rely on it. They say that we must deviate from a Pyongyang-centered foreign trade, to allow each city, prefecture of each region to make foreign expansion freely, and thereby take steps to resolving this economic hardship.” Such opinions are understood to be at loggerheads with those of the party leadership.


Yes to Exporting Coals, but No to Exporting Management Right
During the economic policy meeting held on the one-year anniversary of the official debut of Kim Jung-un, concerns over the public’s increased dependence on trade with China were expressed. Although it was acknowledged that a strong trade alliance between North Korea and China was unavoidable reality, a voice was raised to discuss a cutback on China’s aggressive investment on North Korea’s natural mineral resources.

This year’s trade dependency on China was over 80 percent as it was a year before. Minerals – coal, iron ore, and zinc – were the highest exported items to China. Few members of North Korean Cabinet expressed their worries on the sweeping of natural mineral resources by China. Citing an economists’ statement, “all natural resources will be dried up within a few decades if North Korea continuously sells its natural resources as raw materials to China at cheap prices,” the Cabinet members stated that the China’s encroachment had to stop before too late.

A Central Party official who attended the meeting said, “For years, we have had no choices but selling our natural resources to China to overcome economic difficulties and severe food shortages. However, at this meeting, many of us shared an opinion that we cannot keep on selling the resources until there is nothing left to be sold. We must not ignore the scary potential that the whole nation can be besieged by China if we continue to sell our natural resources as we have been doing thus far. Fundamentally, without natural resources, how will our future generations survive? Regarding all these, we agreed that we should produce goods, instead of relying on imported Chinese goods, and sell them at cheaper prices than those of China.”

The aforementioned party official’s statement implied that the North Korean Government’s intention to select Chinese investments on mineral mines in the future. A senior party official at Pyongyang also alluded to the similar ambiance as above. In his statement, the official said, “Due to the limited economic capacity, we were not able to develop mineral mines by ourselves. Unfortunately, this led to sales of the management right of our mines to foreign countries. So far, a huge amount of natural resources have exited North Korea bound for China at cheap prices. Needless to say, a serious concern over the continuous depletion of North Korean natural resources by China was raised by party members.

Furthermore, a voice of criticism was heard. According to the dissenter, the economic relief by trading so much coal and other raw minerals with China was not delivered as it was expected. As a matter of fact, we even sold coal for government agencies’ power plants to China to purchase food. However, we have not been able to solve the food crisis even with this effort. Therefore, there were plenty of similar opinions saying that we should export mined coal and other minerals to China instead of mining rights. Also, we should invest in the development of domestic technologies and economic capabilities so that we could process the raw materials and sell them at higher prices.”


Restricting Mining Is Easier Said Than Done
The incentive to impose restrictions on foreign investments and mining concessions was spurred on by the futility of selling off resources to China, which has not resolved the economic situation nor has it offered a long term solution to the failing economy. However, being more selective about Chinese investments is easier said than done. With economic sanctions continuously imposed on North Korea, unchanging international affairs, and worsening inter- Korean relations, North Korea would have nowhere else to turn. What would fill the economic void created by the absence of Chinese investments? The military, the party, and the cabinet do not have a reason to give up their way of earning easy money. It is likely that the interests of higher ranking leaders will conflict with those of the officials in charge of the infrastructure.


A Sudden Rise in Overseas Representative’s Tax Liability
The Central Party decided in a cabinet meeting that the funding supplied by ore and coal should be paid by raising the Overseas Representative’s tax liability from now on. The decision intends to increase the tax from $20,000 to $30,000. Overseas Representative officers have been astonished by the news. The general understanding among the officers is that they are repeatedly challenged by the rise in tax even before the chaos caused by the recent harsh inspections calms down. They do not think that that the new $30,000 liability makes any sense at all given that the requirement to provide 500,000 tons of food to the government is moving at a snail’s pace, although its due date is delayed by one month from September to October. One official lamented the situation by saying that “I can only smirk at the situation because the government raised the tax liability by $10,000 when I couldn’t even pay for the original amount of $20,000.

On one hand, the government frequently put us under inspection to see how much we keep money set aside, and on the other hand, it keeps raising the amount of tax liability; I don’t see how I can handle this tax liability. Now, every department has been paralyzed by severe inspection, and given that, how can I make money? I barely paid 4,500 Yuan for loyalty funds for the Party Foundation Day, and this tax liability is getting more demanding. When asked whether there was any significant difference since Kim Jong-un’s introduction as the Vice-Chairman of the Central Military Commission’s official one year ago, he answered, “In the past, Overseas Representatives prioritized political assignments; even when they could not make enough money to pay the tax, they would still be rewarded for successes on political assignments. Nowadays, however, the government only cares about receiving money. The government will not recognize political accomplishments if the tax isn’t paid.” The government is putting emphasis on the economic success over political success. Many think, however, that even with the government’s shift in their priority in consideration, its raise on tax liability is unrealistic especially after the slowing down of international trades caused by the recent harsh inspection. Some officials even say that “this time it is not going to be a problem that can be solved by replacing just a few people.”


Overseas Representative Frown on Arrogant Attitude of New Officials
The officials at Overseas Representative have understandably thrown out complaints about the colleagues who were newly deployed to their offices, such as a deputy restaurant manager who was naturally sent by the Security department. An increasing number of people openly rebuke new colleagues, saying “I can’t stand the new deputy restaurant manager. He is such an arrogant and impudent person. It is obvious that his connection to the new administration brought him to the position despite his lack of skills and experience. He despises everybody else.” Another official said, “I can’t stand him, either. He seems to think he is the great patriot our country needs. I think our country would collapse if someone like him made it to a higher position.”

An official who briefly visited Pyongyang said, “Old colleagues, myself included, rebuke new colleagues (behind themselves,) naming them one by one. I try not to make them upset; however, for fear of retaliation by using their authority to inspect me. Whenever they shoot a suspicious eye at us and treat us like criminals, (presuming we are guilty of inappropriate behavior), I am close to confronting them out of anger.”

The official also talked about Pyongyang’s food situation that has worsened enough to shock him, saying “I came to see (realize) why my family in Pyongyang asked me to send rice instead of money during the last spring hardship season. The rice price in Pyongyang soared to 2,900 won per kg. My family was right to tell me they could not get rice with the money I could have sent to them.” He felt sorry for his family members, who were not fed enough and lost much of their weight. Though hardly pressed to complete food procurement task, he was fortunate to feed himself without difficulty while working overseas.

He added that “It is absurd to expect overseas workers to be loyal to our country while treating them as criminals. (Presuming that they are guilty of inappropriate behavior) We are not asking for recognition (appreciation) of our contribution to our country. My hope is that the newly deployed people lacking knowledge and experience do not despise predecessor or those who has thus far worked overseas without legitimate reason. They will realize how difficult it would be to save face of the higher level officials by completing tasks assigned to them and, at the same time, to feed their family as well.

North Korea Today No. 425 October 19, 2011

[“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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[Intro] Is Crackdown on North Korean Refugees the Best Way?
Refugees Expected This Winter
Fees for Border Crossing Skyrocket as Surveillance Increases
Border-crossing Families Increase due to Food Crisis
No Means of Asking for Support from Daughter Who Fled to South Korea
Some Increase in Crops in North Hamgyong Farms
Lack of Salt Poses Challenge for Making Next Six Months’ Supply of Kimchi

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[Intro] Is Crackdown on North Korean Refugees the Best Way?
The South Korean government made an offer of 200,000 food aid items such as Choco Pies, ramen noodles, snacks, and nutrition-dense foods to the North after the floods in North Korea. When the North did not respond, the South government withdrew its aid proposal. According to the World Food Program, a third of North Koreans are suffering from starvation, and immediate actions need to be taken. The South Korean government should give food aid as soon as possible to keep in line with the humanitarian principles. As for the North Korean government, it should accept any kind of aid to save people from death by malnutrition and then ask for more aid as needed. It should also allow its citizens to find their own means for survival. What ordinary North Koreans want is simple. They do not have any expectation for food distribution any more. They just want to be left alone by the government control. Suppressing economic activities to curb social disturbances is like burning down the whole house to kill a bedbug. The more control is imposed on the people, the more they want to escape. When people face a dead end, they take their family members and quietly cross the border. Being called traitors is not what they want, but it is the only choice left to them. Those defectors are fully aware of the fact that they will have stay hidden in foreign countries, and their human rights will not be honored. To prevent having more refugees, the regime should relax its control and let the people work on their own. The cold winter has arrived earlier than usual this year. North and South Korean governments need to cooperate to bring relief to the suffering people.


Refugees Expected This Winter
The Central Party has ordered strengthening border control for the possibility that people would try to cross the border over the frozen Tumen River. A Party official said that the Party was concerned about a massive exodus of refugees. These refugees will be different from those crossing the border to China simply to get some help from their relatives with some secondhand clothes or to buy things to sell in North Korea. The concern is that the Party will lose control over those who are risking their lives and leaving the country with thoughts of never coming back.

One Pyongyang security officer who made an inspection in the border area said, “The residents were barely surviving. Pyongyang officials need to witness the tragic lives of these people firsthand. Telling these people to stay and endure this pain is the same as telling them to die. If there is any chance for a survival, anyone would try to cross the border and never give up.”

An official from the Central Party said, “There is no question about the direness of the situation when even a security officer is concerned about the lives of the people. The potential sudden influx of refugees into China might not be as large as the one during the Arduous March, but a great number of people are likely to make a life or death decision this winter. China should protect them, or at least provide shelters for the refugee children. There number of refugees will increase in the near future, and I hope concerned people overseas will show some interest and support.” He also expressed his concern that even if they successfully crossed the border, they would need the help of the international community in order to survive in China.


Fees for Border Crossing Skyrocket as Surveillance Increases
As the surveillance on border crossing and cell-phone usages in the border area strengthens, border crossing fee is increasing as well. Professional brokers also say that it has gotten much harder to get a contact in North Korean and Chinese Border Security units. A soldier of the Chinese border security unit said that there was a sudden increase in requests by Korean-Chinese in China to help the border crossing of their relatives living in North Korea. Many requests are still coming from professional brokers to bring over young women from North Korea, but an increasing number of Korean-Chinese people, who can no longer stand aside and watch their relatives dying of hunger, are asking for help. An official who had inspected the border area returned to Pyongyang and said, "The purpose of punishing those who had crossed the border, the military personnel who helped them cross, and the cell phone users was to prevent a larger scale exodus by blocking the route. However, according to the officials in the border area, this policy only helps the brokers because the brokers now charge higher fees for the increased risk. Many local officials tent to be cautious in fear of the punishment when caught receiving bribes from the brokers. However, others seem to be bold enough to help border crossings in order to make a huge sum of money at once. Unless the current food shortage is addressed, there is no way we can prevent illegal border crossings, no matter how hard we try."

In the meantime, the search for cell phone users in the border area is continuing. In places like Hoeryung, Onsung, and Musan, cell phone users are getting arrested and sent to the Provincial Safety Bureau. Those who are arrested this time are said to be undergoing a thorough investigation for border crossing and smuggling charges, and their deeds in the last 10 years at the very least will be examined.

Border-crossing Families Increase due to Food Crisis
The phenomenon of family disintegration began to appear across the nation was at peak during last spring’s food shortage, and it has come again this fall. Food shortage is in the core reason for the disintegration, causing families to fight over food, parents to go separate ways with different children in order to keep the hungry children alive or sell everything including the house to pay for food and then get divorced as a result. Many families are disintegrating, and this phenomenon is most prevalent among the poorest. Scattered family members become kkotjebi, wandering around as beggars. When the local party workers find these wanderers, they arrest them and try to send them back to where they came from. As the majority of the kkotjebis come from other cities or villages, it is not an easy task to send them back. If the wanderers are from the area they are found in, the neighborhood unit is to take care of them. The chief of the neighborhood unit is responsible for a couple of these families, and there are usually two to three wandering families within a neighborhood unit.

Recently, the number of families fleeing from North Korea has been increasing. The rationale of such families is that they would rather die together than be broken up as Kkotjebi (Homeless). Since the border security measures in the area of Heoryong and Onsung in North Hamgyong Province are very strict, defectors try to find new escape routes. Kim Young-Cheol (Alias), interviewed in the border area before fleeing over to China, said, “I don’t see how we are going to survive. I am doing this for my children. Although we have a new leader, nothing has changed, except for the increase in government control and oppression. How am I going to live without food rations when even Chinese imports are banned? I have been forced to go to work every day for a despicable wage and no food ration. My small farming lot failed this year because I had no money to buy fertilizers. My corn harvest was only about 50 kilograms. Some of them were stolen, and some were spent for a loan payback. My family cannot survive this winter with the corn we have left. We will die from starvation if I don’t take any action. Either way we will die, so I decided to cross the border. I will ask my distant aunt in Heilongjiang Province in China for help. If I stay here, my children will die before me.” Whether he has safely made into China is unknown, but the evidence that an increased number of families are crossing the border can also be found in a neighborhood unit’s lecture. Choi Soon-Nam (Alias) said that she felt more urge to cross the border with her family after attending neighborhood unit meetings every day to hear repeated criticisms against disappeared families. “I don’t pay attention to the Party’s criticism and punishment on the defectors. The only things that gets my attention is those families who succeeded in border crossing and the family living well with the money sent by their daughter who fled from North Korea. Frankly, I envy defectors for their ability to take action. If I ever decide to cross the border, I need to take my whole family with me because family members left behind will be severely punished”, she said.

Security Agents and Police Officers are responsible for the security enforcement in the border areas. When more than three defectors are caught in their control area, the director of the security agency and the chief police officer get blamed and punished. When defectors flocked into Musan area due to the strict border control in Hoeryong and Onseong, the director of Musan security agency got blamed and fired by the Central Party. As a result, the security agents and police officers are strictly enforcing all the security measures, keeping tight surveillance and executing harsh punishment on defectors in order to avoid getting punished themselves by the Central Party.


No Means of Asking for Support from Daughter who Fled to South Korea
Jeongnim Kim (Alias) from Saebyul Gun, North Hamgyung Province, has managed to make ends meet thanks to her daughter, who fled to South Korea a couple of years ago. However, she recently lost everything as a result of the currency reform. She had saved most of the hard cash she received from her daughter, because she could not easily spend the money knowing what hardship her daughter had to go through in a foreign country to make the money. The savings were for her youngest daughter and son’s marriages in the future, so the loss was more painful to her. On top of this, the whole family recently got arrested and interrogated for 40 days about her defector daughter. They were able to get released only after offering some bribe, for which they had to sell all their household goods. Now she desperately needs her daughter’s help, but there is no way of contacting her. Due to the strict ban on cell phones since the end of last year, she was unable to find anyone with a cell phone. Therefore, she has not been able to keep in touch with her daughter for over a year. The broker who helped her daughter cross the border also fled to China, and there is no way of finding him either. Rumors suggest that he has gone to South Korea to avoid getting caught. Ms. Kim suffers knowing that with no help from her daughter soon, all three people in her family will die.


Some Increase in Crops in North Hamgyong Farms
In some farms in North Hamgyong, there are smiles on farmers’ faces with the increase in crops this year. An official from the North Hamgyong provincial party said that the farms that had enough fertilizer imported from China this year seem to have benefitted. The farms that had a sufficient supply of the fertilizer in fact had more crops than privately owned small plots. A worker at a farm in Hoeryong, North Hamgyong said, “This region with its mountainous terrain does not have much cultivatable land, but it still makes me incredibly happy, even in the middle of my sleep, to think about this year’s crops which we had waited for so long.” Farmers are also elated to see the result of their hard work on an empty stomach this year. However, Kim Pansok (alias), the manager at a cooperative farm in Hoeryong was worried despite the successful harvest of this year: “It is not entirely a good thing that we had a good year while the harvest in other major rice producing areas suffered from the flood this year. We haven’t even started threshing the crop, and there already are people coming in from everywhere to get their hands on it. I don’t know with all these people we’d have half a year’s supply of food left to us.” On the other hand, even in the same province, the farms that did not have enough supply of fertilizer did not have good yields. In Kyongsong county, there are a lot of farms that had a bad year with disease and insects as well as the drought, and farmers are dismayed by the lack of crops to be harvest. Still, North Hamgyong farms are having better harvests in comparison to those in other regions.


Lack of Salt Poses Challenge for Making Next Six Months’ Supply of Kimchi
In North and South Hamgyong Provinces, the lack of salt throughout the region imposes an emergency on making kimchi for the upcoming winter months. An official at South Hamgyong provincial party says, “We tried to import it through the North Hamgyong trade office, but it didn’t work out. Because of the food shortage, we are not permitted to import nothing but food, and it’s hard to get the approval for importing salt. We could only import about 200 tons so far.” The head and the deputy head of the provincial trade office went to China and made several attempts to import salt, but they have had a hard time with finding companies that accept deferred payment. On top of the salt shortage, the vegetable crops this year are bad, which means that it will be hard to have enough supplies to make kimchi for the upcoming winter months. Garlics and pepper powder by kilogram are more expensive than five kilograms of rice or eight kilograms of corn. The party officials are likely to have vegetables and supplies needed for making kimchi distributed to them in any case, but for most others, it will be hard to make kimchi for this winter.

North Korea Today No. 424 October 12, 2011

[“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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Sorrows of the Nation Ascend High Above Where Merry Songs Fill the Air
Shortage of Daily Necessities Nationwide
Daily Necessity Crisis Caused by Trade Department Investigation
New cars for Newly Appointed Officials, While People Survive on Grass Porridge
North Hamgyong Province Opens the First Restaurant Abroad
North Hamgyong’s First Restaurant Abroad: A Historic Innovation
The Popularity of Debit Card in Pyongyang Leaves Other Regions Disgruntled
Only Pyongyang in a Celebratory Mood for the Party Foundation Day

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Sorrows of the Nation Ascend High Above Where Merry Songs Fill the Air
“A fragrant wine pouring out into a golden jar pours down the blood of a thousand people;
Side dishes enveloping a jade tray evoke the flesh of a thousand people.
Tears welling up from a burning candlelight swell with tears the very eyes of a thousand people;
High above, where songs are heard, one sings the ascending sorrow of an entire generation."

This is a poem from Chunhyang-jeon; in the story, it was recited by undercover inspector Lee Mongryong at the birthday banquet of Magistrate Pyon, who was a greedy and corrupted official. It is also a criticism which came from the local government officials in North Korea aimed at the upper-class people in Pyongyang. It alludes to the circumstance where wailings of people suffering from hunger and cold in other regions fill the air while Pyongyang is filled with delicious smells and people who live in modern, high-rise apartments as they squander foreign money using debit cards. By mobilizing the Guard Command, these people impose rigorous censorships on the subordinates, but they live a good life; so this poem also reflects other people’s arguments that the upper-class people must set an example to the others. Even in the midst of food crisis and shortage of daily necessities, the party seems to provide various goods in abundance to the newly assigned officials in order to boost morale. Feeding and clothing the ragged people should definitely come first. It would be embarrassing to see the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea devolving into just the Republic of Pyongyang.


Shortage of Daily Necessities Nationwide
Daily necessities are in short supply. The National Border Area where foreigners are supplying goods or directly doing business is better off than other regions, which are experiencing a shortage of daily necessities in addition to food. Even sizable provincial cities such as Pyongsung, Wonsan, and Hamheung have difficulty obtaining goods to display in their Convenient Service Networks, many of which are actually unable to operate. The supplies sometimes run out even in stores in Pyongyang that transact in foreign currencies. More people are looking for winter clothes including underclothes as it suddenly became cold, but not many people can obtain them. Even smugglers or merchants who are skilled black-market dealers complain that it is difficult to bring in goods these days. Kang Hyung-jung (alias), who visited Pyongsung Market in South Pyongan Province, said that she manages to substitute underwear by utilizing discarded shirts since it was difficult to obtain even a piece of underwear. Kim Young-ho, who lives in Hamheung of North Hamgyong Province, said the following: “People in Pyongyang may be able to live somehow, but the problem is too serious in other regions. Everyone’s clothing is worn and shabby, making them look like Kkotjebi children. It is because people cannot pay attention to clothing since the food is a more pressing issue, and also because it is more difficult to find clothes these days. Since goods are rarely put into circulation these days, it is difficult to buy a piece of second-hand clothing with the money that would buy a few kilograms of corns. So people barely manage to cover their flesh.”


Daily Necessity Crisis Caused by Trade Department Investigation
The Central Party finds overseas trading as the cause of the nationwide crisis in daily necessities. According to its analysis, the import priority has been put on food, military supplies and agricultural equipment, and therefore importing daily necessities has been relatively neglected. However, trade department officials think differently. They say, “The Party prohibited importing anything else.” According to them, daily necessities were not just put low in priority but actually forbidden by the Party. Others say, “the severe investigation on the trade department and major staff replacements caused a great hindrance in trading with big Chinese mechants.” Chinese merchants would not make deals with new trade officials unless they can pay in cash up front.

It is obvious that the trade with China will be greatly affected until the new trade officials establish themselves in China. A trade department official said, “The generational changeover resulted in a blockage of Chinese import, affecting the service network badly. The service network in Pyongyang has been dependent on Chinese imports on everything from cooking oil and chili pepper powder to meat, and now the supply is suppressed.” Overseas trade officers in China explain the current situation: “Due to the extremely strict investigation, we cannot send in even ordinary stuff (to North Korea).” Apart from food (grain), even chips and noodles are not permitted. Sending in medicine and clothes was not a difficult task in the past, but now it is not easy anymore because the payment from North Korea has been delayed for so long. A trade officer said, “If I send in a lot of merchandise, it will be a problem later. The investigators would say, ‘You sent in lots of stuff. You must have made lots of revenue while dealing them. How much did you take for yourself?’ and they would press harder on me. You get more thoroughly investigated and have to bribe them more. I got a real hard blow this time as well. I will never go through such thing again. Observing many people who were concerned about domestic situation and tried to help only to be fired taught me to ignore the difficulties that the country faces.” The state is not concerned with supplying daily necessities; a great number of front line trade officers have been replaced; and capable officers tend to avoid importing what is needed – these three phenomena culminate in the nationwide crisis of daily necessities, he explained.


New cars for Newly Appointed Officials While People Survive on Grass Porridge
While the supply of necessities for the replaced officials has been improved, the life for ordinary citizens is getting tougher. As the officials at the Central Party, local parties, and law enforcement institutions are being replaced en masse, there is so-called Gwangpok Jungchi (or “generous politics) in abundance. Food and necessities are the least of it, and much more has been given. For example, new cars for officials have been recently provided. At the Central Party, six cars have been given to each county, each to the county-level leading secretary, the president and the vice president of the local People’s Council, the heads of the public prosecutor’s office, Safety Bureau, and the security department. To law enforcement institutions such as the public prosecutor’s office, Safety Bureau, and the Security Department, a large number of jeeps and motorcycles were provided as vehicles for the task force. An official at the Central Party said that it cost $16 million so far just to provide vehicles for government officials.

On the other hand, the public transportation system remains backward. There are only ten buses or so in total connecting Pyongyang and Sariwon, Hwanghae province. With the flooding and landslides of the last summer, bridges, roads, and railroads have been severely damaged, disabling what limited means of transportation there had been. In places where there was a landslide, roads have been cleared in a makeshift manner with rocks moved and dents on the road filled. As the road situation worsens, and travel restrictions and market restrictions become more severe, it has become difficult to encounter traveling salesmen who transport food and goods. The lack of domestic circulation of goods on top of the lack of inflow of good from overseas has severely damaged the quality of life for ordinary citizens. A Central Party official sent monitors to countryside villages, and he said these places are in severe despair. There are many farmers who survive on grass porridge. Since they have nothing to wear, they wear torn clothes that reveal their bare arms and legs like those of street beggars. In particular, those who lost their home from the flood still live in mud huts. Those who escaped the damage from flood also have a hard time, because many people, pressed with difficulties in everyday life, rarely come out of their house, making the circulation of food and goods difficult. Although they are told to pay attention to the sentiment of the public, the officials are disinterested in the difficulties of everyday living for ordinary citizens. All they do is strengthen ideological education and restrict mobility, making the prospect of sustaining livelihood for ordinary citizens worrisome, with bleak prospect for the harvest and a bad economy.


North Hamgyong Province Opens the First Restaurant Abroad
North Hamgyong province opened the first overseas restaurant in Liaoning, Ansan City, China. It is the first restaurant on a regional level to expand overseas. With this as an example, we can predict that many more regional businesses will venture overseas. Regional executives are taking this overseas expansion from Hamgyong province as a cue to start their own. One executive of one of Hamgyong province’s factions said, “We opened the restaurant in China because all of our service networks have become unable to operate due to the lack of raw materials. We opened the restaurant in China with the goal of harvesting raw materials from other countries.” To the question of how opening a restaurant relates to the importing of raw materials, he answered, “We will purchase supplies with the profits earned from the restaurant. Our goal is to supply all goods such as meats, spices, oil, sugar, and rice.” The Central Party declared that all restaurants overseas (regardless of their profits or number of workers) must supply 100,000 dollars per year to the government. In the past the central party told each person how much to pay but now they have decided to charge the restaurant instead. The amount of money they pay is different for wealthier regions; in Beijing, Shanghai, etc. the amount they pay is 100,000 euros and larger restaurants pay additional fees.


North Hamgyong’s First Restaurant Abroad: A Historic Innovation
North Hamkyung Province opened its first overseas restaurant in Anshan, Liaoning, inspiring other regions. One public official in the North Hamkyung Province said, “This may not be considered a big issue in other countries. However, this is a historic innovation in our country with its potential to rescue regional economies. If we succeed, other cities may also attempt the same. Other local governments are showing great interest in our overseas restaurants. It has started a ripple effect throughout the country.” Until the opening of North Hamkyung Province’s overseas restaurant, Pyongyang City dominated the overseas business scene. Local governments, faced with lack of funding and people with experience, did foreign trade via Chinese businesses or companies from Pyongyang, and it did not help local economies much. Local governments determined to open overseas businesses despite the challenges demonstrates their strong will to make profit for their own sake. An obstacle in this business model is the fee that local governments have to pay to the central government in case they open a business overseas. With the fee amounting to of $100,000 US dollars per business, it is difficult to make overseas ventures profitable. “With Chinese companies reluctant to invest in North Korea, the central government has increased the fee levied on companies, stores, and restaurants that earn foreign currency. This fee has made people afraid of venturing overseas. It would be better to lower the fee in order to motivate the local companies and individuals to go abroad so that they will earn the foreign currency to provide funds for local budget and to invest in local economies,” said the previously mentioned official from North Hamgyong. Pyongyang operates foreign currency based stores, restaurants and entertainment facilities in the city as well as running overseas businesses. People who have experience working abroad often collaborate with investors to open new businesses, or work with relatives abroad who can invest in factories and businesses in Pyongyang. In contrast to the dire lack of necessities in other regions, the stores targeting high officials in Pyongyang are thriving.


The Popularity of Debit Card in Pyongyang Leaves Other Regions Disgruntled
North Korea’s first debit card was launched early this year in Pyongyang. It is gaining popularity among people who frequent foreign currency stores and hotel restaurants. Before the debit card was introduced, they were inconvenienced by the lack of foreign currency change in stores. Regarding people’s positive response to the debit card, Ms. Misook Shim (pseudonym), clerk at a foreign currency store in Pyongyang’s Junggu station said, “It was difficult not having enough change for customers after transactions. For example, when a customer tried to pay ten dollars using a hundred dollar bill, I had no choice but to issue the customer a check and keep a record of it. The check could be used for the customer’s next purchase, and even then, another check would have to be written for the change. Consequently, customers were reluctant to buy things, and it hurt our business. With the convenience of the debit card payment now, everyone is happy.” Central Party officials also seem to be proud of the new debit card. An official said, “Although debit cards aren’t not a special thing in other countries where it has been used for a long time, in our Republic it is a revolutionary innovation. Foreigners who visit our country are pleasantly surprised, and they enjoy the convenience” He expects more foreign visitors to the country.


On the other hand, other regions are not too pleased with this news. An official at Hamheung, South Hamgyong Province said, “In other regions, people are dying from malnutrition. Does it make any sense that Pyongyang officials are using foreign currency and not just domestic currency to visit restaurants and shops? People in other regions suffer, and meanwhile in Pyongyang the smell of food and the sound of laughter fills the air. It’s just like the poem Lee Mongryong wrote upon Byun Hakdo’s birthday party.” Another official worries about the growing economic gap between Pyongyang and other regions. “Pyongyang is developing rapidly every day, with things like debit card and the 100,000 new house plan, while people in other regions lack food and clothes.” A tradesperson at Hamheung said, “Some officials, in their vain attempt to catch up with the lifestyle of people in Pyongyang, are busy extorting money and goods from innocent people. What happened to the “mother state” that takes care of its people? I can’t do this any more, with the amount of money I have to pay the officials to get a travel pass.” He also claimed that despite the thorough inspection of the government officials by the Guard Command, corruption among regional officials is still rampant. He suggested that the exploitation of people by regional officials is a behavior learned from those in Pyongyang, and that the officials in Pyongyang will need to set an example if corruption were to be eradicated.


Only Pyongyang in a Celebratory Mood for the Party Foundation Day
Pyongyang was in a festive mood on October 10th, the Party Foundation Day; however, other provinces only reluctantly organized customary ceremonies. The people participated in the ceremony without enthusiasm. “The sound of trumpet to celebrate the Party Foundation Day blasts in the streets every day, but for example, in my neighborhood Sungchun District, people are starving because they can’t afford mere corn gruel. How could we possibly celebrate? The rich people in Pyongyang may wear nice clothes and eat out in foreign restaurants to celebrate, but for us, it is just another difficult and grueling day,” said Jung Eunsil (alias), a resident of Hamheung, South Hamgyong Province. “It is getting colder and I’ve run out of fuel, so I have started working from dawn, thinking that I might as well be making money instead of sitting at home and freezing to death. I crave for hot, steamy soup in the cold, but I have to make do with cold gruel. I don’t have the fuel to heat up my food, so I just deal with coldness filling my stomach” said Kim Chunhwa (alias). She added, “I am so worried about my future. The Party Foundation Day? What does that have to do with me? It’s not like they hand out even a kilogram of corn, and I couldn’t care less about it.” An official from the Central Party explained, “Many households are falling apart in the provinces due to the food crisis. Because of natural disasters and the lack of fertilizer, small plots of land could not be farmed at all. Those who lost everything they had from last year’s currency revaluation are yet to recover, and they will have a hard time surviving this winter. People have been voicing complaints increasingly.” The economic gap between Pyongyang and other provinces seems to be widening day by day.

North Korea Today No. 423 October 5, 2011

[“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] Two Pieces of Corn Cake Wet with Tears
Pyongyang in Jeopardy Due to Low Crop Yield
Overseas Representative Officials in the Mood for Giving up
Starving Army-Thieves Are Running Rampant
Aftershock of “Storm Corps” Inspection around National Border Area Continues
Mere Two Corn Cakes at Farewell Party for Discharged Soldier
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[Intro] Two Pieces of Corn Cake Wet with Tears
A large number of people regardless of their position high or low lost their jobs following the clampdown by the so-called “Storm Corps.” In Hoeryong, one young soldier was caught because he was in possession of a cell phone. After his early discharge, the soldier’s colleagues had wanted to buy him some food before he left, but they had no money to do so. All they could come up with were two pieces of corn cake, obtained after explaining their situation to a local seller. Only a couple years ago, these border-area soldiers would have been able to head to a bulgogi joint and eat whatever they desired, but now they have trouble even obtaining two pieces of corn cake.

With the onset of the autumn harvest season, farming villages are suffering from the high rate of stealing committed by soldiers. The government continues to order that rice for the military must be secured before all else, but soldiers find themselves always with too little to eat. In the past, this autumn harvest season would provide an opportunity for soldiers to steal food, but low-ranking soldiers have already begun a cold and hungry winter. More starving soldiers mean more difficulties for regular people. The vicious cycle is playing out again this year.


Pyongyang in Jeopardy Due to Low Crop Yield
This year’s estimated crop yield is very low to the extent that people won’t be able to get through this winter. Although importing of food has been active in Pyongyang, the food inflow to rural areas has reduced compared to the past years. One of Pyongyang city party officials said, “Due to the low crop yield this year and the priority food distribution given to the military, little food is being supplied in Pyongyang. Since imported food is not reaching the civilians, the food prices are expected to rise in the future.” At the end of September, rice and corn prices went up from 2,300 to 2,600 and from 1,400 to 1,700 NKW per Kilogram, respectively. With the sudden drop in rice harvest after the flood rice merchants predict that the rice price will go up beyond 3,000 NKW/Kg by December.

Pyongyang has planned to make more efforts for securing foods this fall. One of the city officials stated that “A large number of people started to die since January last winter due to an extreme cold weather on top of food shortage. As they were unable to secure food, distribution of food to civilians had to be suspended completely and in March the food assigned to lower-ranked officials ran out. Later, in June even the party officials’ families did not receive food distribution. It will be a serious disaster if there is no food ration next year. Moreover, next year is the grand opening year for the Strong and Prosperous Nation. The food ration to all must be resumed by the Day of the Sun (which refers to April 15th, the birthday of Kim Il Sung). Whatever it takes we urgently need food for this winter.”

Some people in the rural area near Pyongyang worry saying, “Since this is harvest season nobody is dying of hunger, but the situation is as hard as spring lean season. The condition in the city would be harder because there is no food in the rural farming area. There would be another food crisis this winter.” People are very pessimistic when it comes to getting through this winter as they have not much harvest from farming fields.

Pyongyang has no choice but to rely on the Ministry of Foreign Trade, which is completely dedicated itself to importing of food. The Ministry of Foreign Trade has secured 50,000 tons of foods until the end September which is not even close to their goal of 500,000 tons. The closing date for the food import goal has been pushed back until the end of October, but it is unclear what percentage of the goal can be achieved by then.


Overseas Representative Officials in the Mood for Giving up
The plan of securing 50,000 tons of food by the end of October is not going as planned. The Ministry of Foreign Trade has run out of funds to import food. The officials of Overseas Representative Offices who are at the forefront of the business are struggling with a series of food procurement task assigned to them. The deadline to submit the food task to government, which traditionally fell on February 16, a North Korean holiday, was moved up several months forward this year. By coincidence they were also facing the Ministry–wide inspection, and every official at the Offices did their best to procure assigned amount of food in an atmosphere of terror. Nevertheless, the vast majority of them failed. Although the government continuously threatened to summon the officials back home if they fail to meet the requirements of the food procurement task, an increasing number of officials are giving up on the assignment. A Central Party official said, “Less than half of the officials would be able to complete the food procurement task, even with a death threat. So far, 100,000 tons of food has been secured from abroad – 50,000 tons of the food procured until last September and another 50,000 tons pledged by Russia.” The official added that a part of the 100,000 tons was already distributed. He seemed unsure as to whether the rest of 400,000 tons of food can be secured.

Ironically, the officials at the Offices feel at ease about the hopeless prospect of the food task. They say that they would be worried if they are the only few who could not achieve the goal. The failure is pervasive virtually across all offices. Moreover, the realignments already took place following an inspection of the Ministry of Foreign Trade. One official said that “Those who were supposed to be fired have been fired already. Since a vast majority failed in the food task, government can’t punish all of us. I expect the consequence of the failure will be no more than admonishment or reprimand. I am still running around to fulfill the food task despite having no prospect of progress. I can defend myself against any possible accusation of a lack of loyalty. November can’t come soon enough.” As of last September, (the progress in the food task includes: ) 10% of the officials at the Offices exceeded their assigned goal for the food task; 20% of them achieved nothing; and about 70% of them had either secured one or two tones of food or paid money equivalent to that amount of food.


Starving Army-Thieves Are Running Rampant
“Procure food that can last until next summer.” This is the instruction that the People’s Defense Ministry has handed down the affiliated trading companies. According to the projection that this year’s domestic production is not sufficient for securing of military provision, the overseas representatives and trading companies are being pressed to act urgently. That seems like preparing for the future, but the food shortage is the real, bigger problem right now. Needless to say, from the Gangwon Province, which is the soldiers’ last choice to go, to the border areas, the soldiers’ first preference for deployment, the situation for the troops is not good. Since it is harvest season, three meals are somehow provided daily; however the quantity is barely sufficient to avoid hunger.

On September 25th, soldiers raided citizens’ residences right after their military inspection was over. If it was [the pattern of] a couple of soldiers robbing in the past, now, groups of 5-6 soldiers get together and swoop down. They take everything away including beans, potatoes, corn, and even grain, cattle, chickens, and ducks by raiding each house. Anticipating a clamor by citizens and a destruction of the civil-military relationship, soldiers hide their identity by wearing the uniform inside-out or wearing [civilian] clothes while they’re stealing.

In September, Yoosun-dong in Hoeryong City, North Hamgyong Province had approximately 50 reports of theft by soldiers over a period of 3 weeks. The Choi, Geum-chul (alias) couple had a frightful incident in the early morning of September 24th. Mr. Choi’s wife who has sensitive hearing first woke up because of a noise coming from the kitchen. First, she heard clinking sound of bowl followed by the loud noise of a chicken that has been bred in the kitchen flapping its wings. Instantly she got out of bed with her husband after waking him up and saw a group of thieves rapidly running away with a chicken and a bag of corn. At the very moment of trying to follow them yelling, the couple were fallen by blows to their heads. A neighbor, startled by the noise in middle of the night, came to check and immediately took them to the hospital. The husband is still unconscious due to a concussion, and the wife woke up a day after the incident. The wife did not know exactly how many there were because it was very dark; however, she said they were several well-built males. She assumed that the thieves were soldiers. People just believe that any groups of thieves are soldiers now because the soldier thieves are running rampant.

An army private Kim Byungok (alias), who actually has stolen from civilian homes, says that, since it is corn harvest time, during the day he spots bags of corn or loose corn being dried on the floor and steals them with other soldiers at night. These days, people can not leave their houses even during the day because of this problem, and they take turns sleeping or can not have sleep well at night. Some households keep candles


Aftershock of “Storm Corps” Inspection around National Border Area Continues
A “Storm Corps” inspection team particularly cracked down on illegal activities like border-crossing, smuggling, human trafficking, drug exchanges against the military and officials around this region. In North Hamgyong Province, Ryanggang Province, and North Pyongan Province, thousands of people had to suffer because they were on the inspection list. The number of people who were put on public trial reached hundreds in each province. It was a widespread crackdown following the order of “people who are crossing the border, guiding the border crossing, and smuggling should be eradicated.” On August 20th, Central Party inspection team was additionally dispatched to the national border areas. Through this process, border patrols, high-rank officials and security guards were imprisoned in large numbers. Most of them were sentenced heavily as they were charged with cell phone use, border-crossing, brokering of defecting, and having a connection in South Korea. This could include doing errands and leniency over crossing connected with defection brokering. If there is any contact information of Chinese merchants found in the inspection, they ask for collaboration of Chinese security department. In turn, Chinese inspection also collaborates with North Korea in case their nationals are related with brokering, drug smuggling and other illegal activities. Border area inspection is getting tighter. Some residents who have done some illegal activities ran away into inner cities such as Pyongsung in South Pyongan Province and Hamheung in South Hamgyong Province. There are also a sizable number of people who defected to China. Law officers watched out for them and even recommended escaping strongly as they worried about being implicated with illegal activities once the perpetrators are arrested.


Mere Two Corn Cakes at Farewell Party for Discharged Soldier
After the crackdown by the so called “Storm corps” the atmosphere at the border area, where every soldier wanted to be placed, seems like a faded glory. Ahn, Ghi-nam (alias) who used to serve in the military at Hoeryong, North Hamgyong Province, recently had a dishonorable discharge. He was caught with a mobile phone during the crackdown. Although the charge was not brought on political ground he was given the punishment of dishonorable discharge. Feeling sorry for a comrade who was given early discharge his friends in the military base tried to hold a farewell party for him at a restaurant in Yoosun.

It was a restaurant that sells corn cakes, but the owner refused to serve unless they paid in cash first because they owed him more than 100,000 NKW for the food they have eaten on credit. Ahn’s friends promised that they would take over the debt and begged the owner for the food saying they simply cannot let their friend go without feeding him for the last time. Finally, they were able to get two pieces of corn cake. At the sight of emaciated young people who should be at the peak of their time the owner could not refuse all the way. Uttering, “I am burning the cash again” to himself with a deep sigh, the owner gave away a bottle of liquor in addition to the cakes. Two pieces of corn cake was not much for 5-6 soldiers, but he was persuaded by the pleading of the soldiers who wanted to feed their friend who was leaving.

The owner, Ms. Suh, Hyang-soon (alias) said, “I was determined not to serve food on credit, but I couldn’t be too callous when I saw tears in their eyes. I have my own children too. I would feel the pains as well if my children were not getting food somewhere. I would like to give more food, but I am in a bad situation myself. No matter how many corn cakes I sell the sales are mostly on credit and it doesn’t help much. I am doing this business on borrowed money, but the soldiers get food on credit and they run away when they are discharged. In the old days discharged solders had a farewell party at a bulgogi restaurant or bought boxes of liquor from a store for that. They used to have a lot of money when discharged through illegal practices such as taking bribery for river-crossing. Soldiers must be having a very difficult time these days since they are even begging for corn cakes.” There are numerous people like Ms. Suh, who found themselves unable to recover the money from the soldiers who ate on credit.

North Korea Today No. 422 September 28, 2011

[“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] End of Officials’ Inspection? Loosen Control over Citizens First.
Inspection of Central Party’s Guard Command in the Final Stage
Young Generation Officials Charged with Loyalty Put Social Stability as Top Priority
Residents’ Tepid Reactions to New Officials
Overseas Representative Officials Agitated by the Generational Replacement
Hwanghae Province Residents in Desperate Need of Food
__________________________________________________________
[Intro] End of Officials’ Inspection? Loosen Control over Citizens First.
It seems that the much talked-about Central Party inspection has reached its final stages. With up to 70-80% replacement rates in some party divisions, that an extensive generational replacement had occurred would hardly be an understatement. These new figures will take the lead until a stable party leadership is inducted and will be feeling the heavy burden of responsibility upon them. One must realize, however, that the problem lies in the present system. Without a drastic change in the current system, a personnel change will not mitigate the severity of food shortages and economic hardship. It is already expected that crop production rates will be lower than that of last year. Since global warming is expediting the food crisis all over the world, importing food items will become more difficult. Only liberalization of agriculture, whereby the citizens can farm privately, sell and distribute excess food crops for profit, will allow North Korea to become agriculturally self-subsistent and to stimulate its foreign trade. The current food shortage cannot be overcome by selling coal and mineral ores in order to buy food from overseas. First things first, land must be distributed to the citizens so they can farm individually and freely sell excess crop on the market. Now that Central Party inspection is over, the priority should be to ease the control over the citizens and allow them at least the opportunity to make a living on a small scale like peddling. This is the only realistic path to salvation to avoid nationwide starvation this coming winter.


Inspection of Central Party’s Guard Command in the Final Stage
The nationwide inspection of Central Party’s Guard Command reached a final stage, with the Party Foundation Day on October 10th fast approaching. The inspection team evaluates that the process went smoothly since the subjects and purpose of the inspection were clear. Up until September 25th, the team reported corruption cases of local party officials and records of major incidents, as well as the information of all people involved. Individual profiles of the incoming party cadres were also reported. The profile includes the information of the person in question, his family members and relatives. Officials in Central Party and province parties have been replaced in between April and June. A majority of officials in the city and county parties will be replaced before and after the Party Foundation Day. One central party cadre stated that among the officials who disappeared (were replaced) were those who expressed their concerns about the food crisis. The cadre stated that some officials filed a report that at least three million people would be put on the verge of death from starvation between late December and the first half of 2012, which seems to have made the leadership feel it at ease. The cadre criticized the higher authorities saying, “I heard that the leadership only criticized officials that they keep saying the seriousness of the food problem without suggesting any solutions. The leadership will not bat an eye even if the half the population would die.” He continued, “The leadership pronounces that they will tackle the domestic issues jointly with China and they are shifting the responsibility to solve food problems to the Ministry of Foreign Trade officials. The leadership instead is putting their priority on strengthening the military power,” and commented that the Central Party leadership holds a lukewarm attitude about the food issue.


Young Generation Officials Charged with Loyalty Put Social Stability as Top Priority
An official expressed his impression of the newly appointed officials as follows; “Full of young spirits, they work very passionately and believe they will play a key role in opening a new era with the new leader. Although we are having the worst situation since the establishment of the Republic, they are working harder to be heroes of the new nation, firmly believing that a new era is opening before their eyes.”

Another official reported as follows; “The newly appointed can be classified into two groups. One is those who have been always affluent since the establishment of the Republic. They are the third or fourth generation of the revolution and therefore strongly identifying themselves with the current regime. They know their fate is with the regime and are naturally its fervent supporters. They don’t even blink their eyes when they hear that there is no fertilizer or no seeds and on top of all that natural disasters disrupt everything and people are dying. They do not know the reality because they have never been hungry. It may be different in provincial parties, but most of the newly appointed officials in Pyongyang are from rich families. They did not experience hunger even during the Arduous March. They do not understand what poverty is because their houses have been full of foreign currencies even when the state coffers were empty. No matter how loudly people scream about food and economic crises, they don’t empathize with the people. They only focus on how to control the people and keep the regime stable rather than how to help them."

“The other group is those picked up from lower classes, who couldn’t even imagine sitting as an official in the past. Most of them are low rank officials, and they are extremely grateful for the opportunity. They think their fate is with the regime’s success and show stronger loyalty to the regime than anyone else. Originally left without any hope, the low rank officials seem to be selected by the authorities for the principle of “broad politics” (referring to the so-called “bold and broad-minded rule” of Kim Jong-il).”

When asked “Do [you] feel more hopeful, now that much of the party leadership has been replaced?,” officials seldom replied positively. One expressed his grievance saying, “The only reason we are holding out despite many hardships is our general’s undiminishing leadership and the strife of the revolutionaries. I can’t say the new line of leadership without experiences will accomplish much when even our General (Kim Jong-il) has not been able to find a solution to the problem of food shortage and the economic situation,” but added, “For now, they are concentrating on stabilizing the society and tightening control and have been fairly successful. Never have so many officials been displeased with the leadership, but the fact that they can’t voice their complaints is a proof that the new leaders are controlling them effectively. But this of course does not solve the food and economic crisis. The control would have to be loosened eventually if they want to resolve the problem with the economy. Goods need to circulate, people have to mobilize: like how blood needs to circulate in order for a human body to persist. In that sense, the new leadership hasn’t done much.”


Residents’ Tepid Reactions to New Officials
Young generation in power now puts their best efforts to solidify the new power structure and the society seems to maintain its orders accordingly. Police officers and security agents who are in regular contacts with residents describe the situation by saying, “People are living in the worse conditions than before, but nobody speaks about their difficulties openly.” Ostensibly, the society seems to have no problems. However, that does not mean that people’s attitude toward the new officials are positive. Chang, Jeong-cheol (alias), who lives in Hyesan City of Ryanggang Province where hundreds of officials lost their positions during the recent “storm” inspection, spoke of the new officials; “They were just appointed recently, so I cannot really say whether they are good or not. However, there is a reason that we cannot evocie our complaints. Social surveillance is getting tighter and inspection and crackdown of anti-socialism is becoming stricter than ever. Only a fool can grumble about their situations. You should keep quite to survive these days.” Silence is not gold here, but it only portrays the oppressed dissatisfaction of the people.

Officials in Pyongyang also remain skeptical by saying, “Although the young people in power are doing their work energetically, they are not on track yet due to the lack of experience and expertise. They are pushing their ways aggressively, and it will cause many problems. If only they can receive a massive amount of aid or investment from China and other foreign countries, they will manage to handle the economic crisis. However, there are not enough qualified officials left to devise useful policies. After the inspection, most of the experienced ones with expertise were fired across the board. This is a huge problem.” A Central Party official also commented, “The most critical issue is the food shortage. When the General took over the power, he focused on maintaining the regime and millions of North Koreans starved to death in the mid-1990s. I see the same story happening now. Those seeking power in the new structure are only interested in controlling the society, and they don’t care about people’s lives. Neglecting their people, they are sending recourses and food to munitions plants and the military first in each province. Since the new officials want to prove their loyalty to the new leadership, they are immersed in cracking down people to maintain social orders. They will not be surprised at all even if hundreds of thousands would starve to death.”


Overseas Representative Officials Agitated by the Generational Replacement
Overseas Representative officials are disturbed by the massive replacement of the positions with younger generation. A mid-rank official said, “People who have worked with pure patriotism and loyalty are now anxious as they witness their superiors are getting fired. Although they do not speak up, the officials seem to have lost their motivation. They have worked day and night to complete all those tasks and non-tax assignments only to lose major positions to the kids (incoming young officials). They can only sustain their current positions at best.” A Chinese trader also mentioned that attitudes of North Korean trade officials have changed. Kim Myoung-cheol (alias), a Korean Chinese trader in Shenyang commented, “The officials used to defend their government aggressively when people said one bad thing about North Korea. However, now most officials don’t make response to more negative comments. Some are still offended by those criticisms, but they just ignore them. They are only concerned about making their own money. Now that they lost their chance of promotion, they think that money can only keep their current status. An official close to me said, ‘All the elders (higher-ups) have been fired. Small fry (lower rank officials) like me can be let go any time. Only money will save me and my family.’”

It seems that the recent inspection on the Ministry of Foreign Trade only resulted in a backfire. Although many officials were fired being accused of secreting money in their own pocket, those who remain still think that money can only protect their family. Apparently, the inspection brought about resistance instead of purification. An Overseas Representative official in China lamented, “Everyone knows that non-tax assignment has increased so much over the past three years. Newly appointed officials are visiting overseas offices for observation and they will soon learn why their predecessors had to keep their private funds. Central Party gives overfull amount of tasks, and if each department competes with each other, the whole Ministry would be thrown into turmoil. Incoming officials will share the same fate as the old ones. Replacing dozens or even hundreds of people will not solve any problem.”


Hwanghae Province Residents in Desperate Need of Food
The victims who have been bombarded by water are being troubled by hunger and earlier than expected cold. The number of people who cannot even afford to eat a bowl of rice porridge a day is increasing. In Hwanghae Provice, One Chung-Dan County official urgently pleaded for food supplies, saying, “We can only last this year if food comes in large amounts.” He also spoke of the urgency of the situation, saying, “The crops were bad last year as well due to the abnormally low temperatures. The farmers who received less supplies of food lasted through the spring by eating wild shoots but, they were heavily affected by rain in the summer. The damage from this year’s rain is not even comparable to last year’s damages. I don’t know the exact statistics for the entire province, but even looking at what our district farmers eat it is hard to distinguish whether it is pig slop or human food. Last week I had business and Sim-Pyung-ri, and there I saw a family of 5 eating a soup of barely a fistful of corn powder and a few vegetables in water. That miserableness was too awful to describe. The family still said it was something and that they would be happy to eat at least that much every day. I couldn’t say anything in response because I felt like I was going to cry. I don’t know how much I cried after coming back. I have done things that I am not proud of to live and have ignored my people but officials are people, too. Do you think there is anybody who wouldn’t be sad after seeing something like that? At this rate everyone is going to die. Our ties with South Korea are so bad that we cannot ask for their help getting supplies in, I would beg until my hands fell off for supplies to be sent in.”

North Korea Today No. 421 September 21, 2011

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[Intro]
Intensive Inspection Nationwide at Full Force
Complaints Galore With Severity in Inspections
People Vanish After Charges of Espionage
Officials Shaken Up by the Political Purge
South Korean items found in customs Mean Handcuffs
“All families are now Isan Gajok” in North Korea
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[Intro]
The North Korean government is in midst of its effort for generational change of its officials. The reason behind it is to form a set of officials loyal to the head of the state, but the harshness of the process brings the worry that even those officials who are already loyal may turn their back from the current government. When it comes to building “a strong and prosperous nation,” support from its people is a must. The recent reshuffling of officials in a manner such hurried worries many people since it may lower the loyalty among the official instead of boosting it. The North Korean leadership needs to be more careful with its agenda, and it should put an end to making more scapegoats.


Intensive Inspection Nationwide at Full Force
An intensive inspection on the government officials has started nationwide since August 20. Although some departments such as the Ministry of Foreign trade were already under inspection beforehand, full-scale inspection began in the end of August for most places. Whereas previous inspections were focused on setting examples to others by punishing a few corrupt officials, a substantial number of current officials are dismissed or discharged and new officers are taking the place this time. As officials from the Central Party say, it seems that the purpose of the inspection is to pave a way toward a generational change among government officials. At least half, or perhaps all of the existing officials, are expected to be replaced. The Security Department, police stations, and the public prosecutors’ offices are no exceptions, and they are inspected by the Security Headquarters. Almost all high-ranking officers in the provinces are also on the inspection list. Officers who are not found to have any corruption charges upon scrutiny are either suspended from performing their duties or transferred to a higher government body. Once they are summoned to a higher government body, they are unable to do anything until the investigation is over, regardless of whether it would last a month or two. The officials are also sometimes instructed to stop from working their duties and stay in the designated area to the same effect. Any illegal activities and the alleged corruption of the individual are thoroughly investigated once they stop performing their duties. Officials who are suspended from work wait for the result of the investigation anxiously. “The inspection is in progress with determination to complete every inspection before the Party Foundation Day (on October 10), and to transform the group into one that is entirely and completely loyal to the Party and the leader,” says an official from the Central Party.


Complaints Galore With Severity in Inspections
Currently ongoing inspections of various kind has left the atmosphere among government officials tense. Many officials have been arrested unexpectedly, and those who have not been arrested fear that they will be. The government has seen an increasing number of complaints from family members regarding the harsh interrogation techniques used during prejudication procedures, which inflict severe pain or injury on the officials. For example, an official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was arrested upon returning from his overseas work. After undergoing ten days of heavy interrogation, he lost so much weight that his family could hardly recognize him. The ten day detention left him completely exhausted. Upon arriving home, he fell into a deep, long sleep. His family was very concerned about him, because severe interrogation methods including torture reportedly killed some officials. The arbitrary prejudication procedure involving heavy interrogation faces backlash even from ordinary citizens who ordinarily have not been sympathetic to public officials. The citizens say, “Government does not only fail to feed its people, but also torture them to death. Given the way it treats public officials, it will treat ordinary citizens even worse.” In response to the backlash, the Central Party instructed security forces to refrain from harsh interrogation techniques including physical violence and torture.. This order reflection an attitude much more lenient than the prior order that encouraged security forces to root out any activities inconsistent with socialism.


People Vanish After Charges of Espionage
Border towns such as Shinuiju (North Pyongan province), Hyesan (Ryanggang province), and Musan, Hoeryong, Onsung (North Hamgyong province) have started cracking down cellular phone users, brokers who facilitate illicit border crossing, people who run errands from South Korea, and drug dealers. The crackdown on cellular phone users starting in Shinuiju scared many officials at the overseas reprentatives. They normally communicate with the headquarters and their family through the residents in Shinuiju about matters that were mostly personal. If people who facilitated the communication in the middle are interrogated, there is a risk that all personal matters related to the official may be revealed. According to a Central Party official, this ongoing investigation is mainly targeted to detect acts of espionage and no one will easily get away from this exercise. Those who had been interrogated and punished in last two years are also re-investigated. “This crackdown mainly targets government officials, politicians, and military officials, but civilians are also under scrutiny. Since the investigation is targeted toward almost anyone, the number of people found to have engaged in illegal activities is high. Since the government aims to identify people who have communicated with defectors and overseas espionage network through this exercise, if someone is caught with an unregistered phone, that person is doomed to be arrested for further investigation regardless of political background or status. The investigators initially scrutinize phone conversation record for the past ten days, and if doubts still remain, they go through several months of the record additionally,” he explained.

There is not much room for excuse for those overseas representative officials whose phone records are scrutinized. As a Central Party official says, “If the people above want to end their career, then it will be done.” Those who have protected overseas representatives so far such as public prosecutors and public safety officers are helpless while they are under inspection themselves by the General Guard Command. The bloodthirsty scrutiny is in progress, giving the impression that no matter how high the political status of the accused may be, he will vanish with charges of treason and no one will know whether he would be dead or alive. An official from Hyesan says, “With the current insepction, no one, whether officials or others, can’t even budge. Any phone users are charged with treason, and headquarters people who communicated with overseas staff for matters regarding trade are not exceptions. People from the Ministry of Foreign Trade are suspended or dismissed from their work at minimum even without serious questions about their loyalty, and more problematic cases are transferred to the General Guard Command by the inspections team. The General Guard Command is the most fearsome place. Once anyone goes in, no one comes out. Those who go in are thought to be executed or taken elsewhere with no trace.”


Officials Shaken Up by the Political Purge
Government officials, undergoing the current political purge, are totally speechless. So long as the Party decided to remove undesirable officials, nobody can possibly avoid this. Officials in Pyongyang describe this investigation by saying “The whole nation is like a bunch of thin, dry firewood. People are so fragile and thin that a only little bit of pressure breaks them. On the other hand, the entire nation would be on fire with if ignited somewhere.” Although it is uncertain what the fuse would be, things may head to an unexpected direction with the possibility of an uprising among those who are suppressed under the current political brutality.

One Pyongyang official said, “It reminds me of a purge during the Great Leader’s time. There was a time that so many people were either executed or simply disappeared in the effort to eliminate political enemies. I heard officials saying that they are scared and afraid of the future. If this is the way officials feel, can you image how horrifying it must be to civilians then? Although we are told this will go on only until October, we’ll never know how many people will be killed and tortured until the succession process is completely finished. I am terrified just thinking about it,” and he shook his head hopelessly. Even though the unrest and discontent among officials are growing, the Party believes that there is little possibility the disturbance among officials would cause an actual uprising, since no one wants to be on the front line. Therefore, the group uprising is not a possibility. Who would stand up for an uprising when they see people disappearing without trace? Party officials replaced into new positions are taking advantage of the fear in the air to maintain public stability.


South Korean Items Found in Customs Mean Handcuffs
Border customs have become busier than ever. The number of people who are summoned back into the country from overseas and those who are coming back voluntarily has increased sharply, crowding the customs. In the customs, 24 hour surveillance teams have been formed due to the concern that people will try to escape with their families. Many were arrested because South Korea drama and music CDs. Since a lot of them had been traveling overseas in a relatively unrestricted manner, they tend not to pay much attention to what they put into their bags. If the inspectors find CDs containing South Korean music or movies from their lugguage, the person is immediately handcuffed and arrested. Unlike the way it way in the past, the officials do not take bribes, and they confiscate even the smallest items such as nail clippers and pens in case they are from South Korea. Also, as censorship is getting stricter, the value of South Korean products is increasing. The merchants in China who deal with North Korean smugglers used to take off South Korean tags from the product they sell. However, now that items with South Korean tags sell for more, the merchants in North Korea now ask the smugglers to keep the tags on. The high profit promised in the case that smugglers are not caught with the items with South Korean tags make people to take risk.


“All families are now Isan Gajok*” in North Korea
(*Note from the translator: The Korean term Isan Gajok refers to families whose members were dispersed in North and South Korea after the Korean War, left without means of communication.)

With a variety of inspections and travel restrictions are in place in the entire country, there is a new saying that goes “All families are now Isan Gajok” in North Korea. Travelling to other places is now completely unimaginable to the most, and many do not even know what goes on in the county right next to theirs. The only available news are those circulated informally by officials who can travel. Unless they live within the same area, even parents and children, or sibling cannot see each other. One official working for the provincial party in North Hamgyong Province said, “The delayed restoration in the area where there is no transportation and communication services due to flood disaster is one reason for families having a difficult time seeing each other, but the main reason is the harsh travel restriction imposed as all kinds of national inspections were put in effect. People lived without seeing their family members each other during the Arduous March in the 1990s, and now the same thing is repeating itself.”

Another official of Central Party said, “With the rigor of the current inspection, even the Security Department officers or police officers cannot travel freely. Even in the instances of business trips, the destination and the identification of the traveller must be registered and approved multiple times. The vehicles or officials with a special pass are not harshly inspected, but the other officials are subject to a thorough inspection. When the inspection to law enforcement officials are this harsh, not much needs to be said about the situation for powerless civilians. Unless they have a special reason, it is not possible for people see each other. The more fortunate can telephone to their family to say hi, but it is still difficult to see them in person. The entire nation of North Korea indeed became one big Isan Gajok."

North Korea Today No. 420 September 14, 2011

[“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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Punishment and Replacement Cannot Solve Everything
Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving) to be Observed Frugally
Rice Price in Pyongyang Fluctuates Greatly with the News of Futile Visit to Russia
Ministry of Foreign Trade, Vice Minister and Councilor Arrested
Strict Inspection of Ministry of Foreign Trade
Disparity among Overseas Representative Offices
Officials of the Ministry of Foreign Trade Are All Being Replaced?

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Punishment and Replacement Cannot Solve Everything
The severe inspection on the Ministry of Foreign Trade seems to be climaxing towards the end. It is reported that the Vice Minister and Councilor of the Ministry were arrested for their poor handling of the food shortage issue, and most main cadres were dismissed from their positions.

Although the official reason for this change was the food shortage, everyone knows that the real motivation is to make way for the next generation elites who are coming into the position of power. As the saying “Put new wine into new bottles” suggests, it is natural that new people should be in charge of the work for the new era. However, a new age does not come just by appointing members of a new power group for influential positions.

A leader needs to have insight and wisdom to benefit from appointment of those with experience and knowledge in their field. There is an old saying that says that it is the appreciation the king has for his men that makes the men impressive or merely common. A bell cannot ring by itself – someone must strike it. Jeongjo, one of the greatest kings of Chosun Dynasty, selected people based on their merit and the need of the country rather than giving weight to their personal and political background, even to those who had ideas different from his own. His example demonstrates the importance of the role of leadership.


Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving) to be Observed Frugally
The authorities in North Korea ordered in response to the unresolved food crisis that its citizens are to observe Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving) frugally this year. A neighborhood unit lecture announced: “Chuseok has to be observed as simply as possible, because food production has decreased due to the natural disasters. Also, civilians shall not brew alcoholic beverages. We must overcome this year’s food crisis so that we would be able to welcome the New Year as a Strong and Prosperous Nation.” Many expressed their apathy toward this order, seeing how there was no choice but to have a frugal Chuseok. In Pyongsung Market, people complained that they could hardly afford food for their ancestors. “How can we buy food for the ancestral rites when one kilogram of rice costs more than my husband’s salary? As much as I feel bad for my parents who have passed away, I have a family to feed; we are probably going to skip Chuseok this year,” said Park Aekyong (alias). Choi Youngran (alias), a clothing merchant, described the current economic hardship in North Korea: “Where would we get money to buy food for our ancestors when we can’t even pay contributions for the funeral of a neighbor? Nowadays, putting up a picture of the ancestors and drinking to them should suffice.”

For people whose family graves are located in other regions, restricted mobility is a source of discontent. After the national restrictions on travelers were strengthened, it has gotten more difficult to visit the graves because the travel certificates are difficulty to come by. Many people come to district offices and express sentiments such as: “We may be poor, but we still have obligation toward our parents to visit their graves and mow the grass. I never served them a nice, warm meal while they were alive; I can’t neglect them even in their death. Please issue me a traveler’s certificate.” Some residents however, show indifference, cynically saying “Restrict all you want. We can simply put up a picture and pray to it in our own home.”


Rice Price in Pyongyang Fluctuates Greatly with the News of Futile Visit to Russia
On August 15th, the city of Pyongyang resumed food rations that stopped since January in celebration of the Independence Day. Rations were provided to all citizens as well as party and political officials. However, officials were given all rations including the ones that were overdue, but other citizens only had a partial supply which caused the burst of compliant -- "The party officials are the only ones that count, and we aren't?" -- from the general citizenry. In any case, with the circulation of rationed food, the price of food stabilized to a certain degree, but with uncertainty for the prospect of future supplies, it is nevertheless still unstable.

On August 27, Kim Jong Il, Chairman of the National Defense Commission, came back from Russia. The news that he did not accomplish much from his visit added instability to the price of rice. Initially, North Korea asked much from Russia including 50,000 tons of flours, but rather than having its demands met, it was instead asked to pay off its loans from Russia soon, which is in billions of dollars, the rumor said. With this rumor, the price of rice started to fluctuate greatly. The price of rice, which came down to 2,500 won per kilogram, reached 3,000 won at a point. After the initial circulation of the rumor in September, this time with the increase of people who sold the rice rationed for Chuseok to get corn instead, the price of rice dropped again to the 2,200 won range. One retail merchant from Pyongyang said: "The fluctuation between 2,200 won to 3,000 won in one or two weeks time means that there is a difficulty with food procurement. It is likely that the food crisis will not be resolved in the second half of the year either, seeing the way how the price jumps up and down with the slightest rumor of inflow of food from abroad, or the lack thereof."

The import of more than 50,000 tons of corn by the 54th division of the Kangsung Trading Company, which is a military procurement company, greatly aided the food rations for the military and civilians of the greater Pyongyang are. However, in other regions, there is no available source of food. The regions try to rely on the harvest of corn and potato, but it does not help resolving the problem of food crisis much with the damages from this year's severe flood. The flood worsened the food crises by also damaging small plots. There are many people who say that they are worried about the lack of food in wintertime even after the harvest, as well as the problem getting enough food now. In the first week of September, in major cities nationwide, rice is sold in the range of 2,700 - 2,800 won range per kilogram.


Ministry of Foreign Trade, Vice Minister and Councilor Arrested
Vice Minister and Councilor of the Ministry of Foreign Trade who had visited China in order to solve food problem were immediately arrested. They tried to get food supply for two months but nowhere in China accepted their deferred payment contract, the rumor said. As they hardly made any accomplishment, the Central Party called them in to arrest and investigate them for negligence of duty and incomplete task. Regarding these two officials’ fate, one Central Party official said, “About 90% of the officials in the Ministry of Foreign Trade are currently being replaced. It is possible that these two will be discharged earlier than Ri Ryongnam, the Minister of Foreign Trade, to set an example to others.”


Strict Inspection of Ministry of Foreign Trade
The deadline for completing food supply task assigned to the overseas representatives has been extended to the end of September. Some officials said that ten months of extension would still not be enough to complete the task. If the assignment is not met, repatriation will be forced starting from people who did not fulfill the task for the last two years. Some officials already have headed back to the country.

In response to the strict inspection of the Ministry, overseas trade officials have put much effort to complete the assignment. However, trade officials say in chorus that the assignment was almost impossible to finish from the start. By the end of August, most officials barely achieved one to two tons except some outliers who obtained one to two hundred tons. In August, Ministry of Foreign Trade Ri Ryongnam visited Beijing along with Vice Minister and Councilor but returned without any success, and the latter two are now in prison. The Central Party warned Minister Ri of a similar consequence. However, as foreign media reported that the inspection was aimed at the Minister, no specific action is being taken yet. Some in the Central Party expect that the massive replacement of the officials in the Ministry of Foreign Trade would end around October with the dismissal of the minister.


Disparity among Overseas Representative Offices
There is a significant disparity among overseas representatives under Ministry of Foreign Trade when it comes to fulfilling the food supply assignments. The Minister urged all the officials in the Ministry to give their best effort, with slogans such as “Complete the assignment or die.” The Ministry reiterated the demand with an official order saying, “Offer money or return to North Korea.” The atmosphere is highly tense in the Ministry. Once the all-out effort was made, there was an obvious disparity in performances according to the nation and region where the representatives are based. Officials in wealthier countries were able to accomplish more, while those in developing countries made only a meager amount. Representatives based in Germany, the UK, and China sent two or three times to four or five times more amount than those based in East European countries. Within China, there was a significant difference between Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou and Northeastern tri-states. Among the three states, Shenyang and Darien are in a better position than Yanbian. Officials who cannot offer money begin to pack and return to North Korea voluntarily before being repatriated. Less well-off countries in Eastern Europe first saw some North Korean officials repatriating themselves and China has a good number of North Korean officials who have returned or expressed their intention to return.


Officials of the Ministry of Foreign Trade Are All Being Replaced?
The Ministry of Foreign Trade has been strictly monitored by the joint inspection team between the Cabinet Political Bureau’s Escort Command and the National Defense Committee. For example, overseas trade officials are called upon the tracing of trade expenditure and revenue investigations for missing items. These measures are intended to find out the amount of recently embezzled money, and bribes offered to the upper party members or cadres. Ministry of Foreign Trade officials assume that this investigation is ultimately targeted at the high level officials in the ministry, including the Minister Ri Ryongnam, and that it is not limited exclusively to detecting corruption on an individual level. The officials therefore are concerned that the Minster would not get away this time.

Seven officials at the general manager level have already been dismissed. The Ministry-affiliated organizations are filled with imprisoned employees and some overseas representative officials voluntarily returned to the country. However, people who could not complete their tasks for the past year or two were summoned being accused of “the lack of loyalty to the country with no contribution.” High rank cadres who have a close relationship with Minister Ri Ryongnam and those who have no apparent pretext to receive punishment have been ordered to return to the country with an offer of some position of general manger level in each department. “They want to punish us, but without an appropriate pretext, they want to bring us back to North Korea, keep us in some office for a couple of months and then push us away. I know their intentions; however, there is no way to decline such work. Once all of us have been demoted, the Minister will be removed, too. These days there are huge limitations on the actions of the Minister, and surveillance tightened,” said one official who was summoned.

Although the deadline of the food task was extended by one more month, not many officials will be able to complete the task by October. Many officials deplore the current situation, worrying about the vacuum in foreign trade in case everyone gets summoned. “How can these diplomatic novices who know next to nothing accomplish national plans? The only thing we can sell outside is coal, and only those who accumulated trust from merchant over time can sell the coal at a decent price. What on earth will they do when they have fired and summoned all officials so thoughtlessly?” lamented one official in the Ministry of Foreign Trade. Some people responded differently upon being summoned back to North Korea saying that “It is actually good for me. No matter hard I try, there’s no way I can complete the given tasks. I would rather spend time with my family than wrestle with all these tasks than be fired when I can’t complete them. I have no idea how they’ll manage to build a Strong and Prosperous Nation. I am concerned about the future of this country and I don’t see any kind of future for my children’s generation.”
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