GoodFriends: Research Institute For North Korean Society

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North Korea Today No. 446 March 14, 2012

[“Good Friends” aims to help the North Korean people from a humanistic point of view and publishes “North Korea Today” describing the way the North Korean people live as accurately as possible. We at Good Friends also hope to be a bridge between the North Korean people and the world.]
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[Intro] Food Sufficiency Can Come from “My Own Plot of Land”
Pig Farm Building Movement in the Entire Country
People’s Growing Distrust of Mid-level Government Officials
Organizational Life Intensified
Vegetable Field in the Mountain is My Real Cropland
A Story of Marriage between a Step-brother and a Step-sister
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[Intro] Food Sufficiency Can Come from “My Own Plot of Land”
The North Korean state’s ambition to provide “rice and meat soup” for its people and put an end to the food shortage is visible everywhere. The state’s effort in pushing for building pig farms, giving them priority in corn and electric supply, seems to be its attempt to create an alternative food source. However, there is a strong public backlash about feeding pigs when there is no food for people. Instead, the public claims that they will be self-sufficient if they are allowed to farm a plot of land anywhere, even in the mountains. They are trying to say that if they are given a piece of land that is truly their own, even if it is barren, they would at least manage to have potato and corn rice for themselves if not rice and meat soup. Building pig farm also poses challenges to local parties which lack funds. It is more realistic to focus the resource on highly productive farms which could be converted into plots for private farming. For agricultural development, investments in farm machinery, energy procurement, and irrigation expansion are necessary, but this infrastructure cannot be built in the short term. However, there is a way to improve agricultural productivity in a short term: letting people take home the crops that they produce themselves. It is now the time for starting agricultural revolution for the new era and this revolution must start with giving farmers their own plot of land to cultivate as they choose and letting them to trade the crops freely in the market.


Pig Farm Building Movement in the Entire Country
There is a movement throughout the county for building pig farms as an effort to solve food crisis this year. This effort comes from the policy to provide people with rice and meat soup, and cities and counties are immersed in the task of acquiring the material and the facility for building pig farms. It is easier in the case where already existing pig farms are being renovated but, on the other hand, areas that need to build an entirely new farm are having a hard time finding the funds. Even if they succeed in making a pig farm, they still face a mountain of other challenges, including the facility to dispose pig excretions, quarantine protocols, and installing water supply and sewage. Some pig farms that were finished last year are trying their best to provide corn feed for pigs and ensure that there is a constant supply of electricity. However, the plan for building additional farms is causing public backlash, eliciting complaints about pigs getting food and electricity when human beings are receiving neither. The Central Party, after a long contemplation, issued the order on February 18th to “provide electricity to people between the hours of 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. no matter what.” The Central Party seems to have judged that they cannot give up pig farming, a potential source of protein and alternative food, so they decided to appease the public by making the currently irregular supply of electricity into a more regular one. Some party officials express the opinion that building pig farms may be premature and it would be better instead to focus on raising herbivore animals such as rabbits, goats, and mountain goats.


People’s Growing Distrust of Mid-level Government Officials
The Central Party has reviewed secret reports on residents which were collected nation-wide, and concluded that people’s discontent with mid-level government officials is high. Reportedly, there is little dissatisfaction with Central Party or high-ranking officials, whereas mid-level officials are accused of writing false reports and oppressing residents. According to these reports collected by the Police and Security Department, people think that deceptive reports made by mid-level government officials has resulted in General Kim Jong-un being poorly informed about people’s difficult lives. The officials are thus responsible for their hard living conditions, which have not improved. The secret reports indicate that people regard the mid-level officials as only being interested in keeping their jobs and pursuing private interests rather than working for the welfare of the country and the General, and thus they should be removed. People further contend that, whoever takes such positions, it would not make much difference.

The secret reports also pointed out that the phrase, “Let there be war!” is becoming popular among residents. Furthermore it was reported that across the country there is a high level of discontent with police officers and the Security Department. People even view an outbreak of war as an opportunity to get revenge on security-related agents. An official of the Central Party reported that one elderly person haggling with a merchant over prices at a market in Hamhung said that he could not live like this and he would rather a war broke out. According to the official, the elderly person, seeing a police officer standing behind him, managed to save the situation by saying that his country would definitely be victorious if a war did break out. The Central Party official added that, without the presence of the police agent, the person might have gone on to say more about the high level of discontent among the people. No one around the elderly man at the crowded market made any attempt to stop him. In addition, the official explained that the reason why people often say that it would be desirable for something to happen soon is that they feel impatient with the hardship of their lives and the increasing level of control and regulation. According to him, security agents who regulate and crack down on people’s daily lives become first-hand targets toward which people’s discontent and dissatisfaction are directed.


Organizational Life Intensified
Since the beginning of this year the organizational structure of workers’ and farmers’ lives has been intensified. The rush hour schedule has been tightened and attendance at lectures is being strictly enforced. Chul-oung Kim (alias), a laborer living in South Pyongan Province, Pyungsung City, says, “Even if I go to work there is no work to do, but the orders to come in and go to work and to attend seminars have increased. There is no time for a laborer to get any rest. We used to be able to just turn in our time card at work and go back home and give helping hands to our wives earning money through trade, but this year there is no time for that. Since the General died it seems as if things have gotten harder. They haven’t given us even a little leisure time, so living has become more difficult.”

So-young Lee (alias) also said that she had in the past never made a pledge before starting her day’s labor. But now she begins her work day with a loyalty oath to Kim Jong-un. Previously pledges honoring Kim Jong-il and Kim Il-sung were said on the first day back to work after national holidays. But now whenever we start something we have to pledge that we will achieve the revolutionary goals of Kim Jong-un. Even when special labor brigade begin their combat drills (various labor projects) and other activities, they make such a pledge.


Vegetable Field in the Mountain is My Real Cropland
Ji-seok Choi (alias), a farmer living near Hyesan, Ryanggang Province, is thankful for having a small piece of slash and burn farm land for cultivation thanks to his brother-in-law, who is the secretary of Primary Party. He was barely able to secure a spot on the burned off land when his brother-in-law was promoted to secretary five years ago. The first land he cultivated was not far from his current one and was located in the mountains on a near-70 degree slope. Standing up was hard enough on that slope, but cultivating the land was much harder. However, his family of three could survive on the potatoes and radishes he harvested from that land. He reluctantly returned the land to the government after using it for three years because the land was registered with the Forest Department. However, he was able to acquire use of another small piece of land in the same area thanks to his brother-in-law.

It might sound easy to turn rocky land into tillable land. However, that is the last thing anyone wants to do who has ever done it before. Yet, they understand the land is the source of food supply for their family once the land is prepared. So Ji-seok worked his fingers to the bone, cutting down big trees, bundling them and selling them as firewood. He removed shrubs, tree roots, and rocks. He worked every single day on the field until he felt as if his back was broken, to turn the wild land into a field where he could plant vegetables.

Not long ago, a person was severely burned by a forest fire which started when the person began clearing land for a vegetable field. He barely saved his own life, but his face and hands were so severely burned that he could not work anymore. Ji-seok was tempted to burn the shrubs and brush he cleared, but with the danger of a forest fire, he threw the brush into the valley instead. A person must know how to practice slash and burn farming to do it safely, but apparently the burned person lacked the knowledge and patience to do so.

Ji-seok has become irritated lately because his boss has been checking his work attendance closely. Until last year, with a small bribe to his boss, he could come home from his job early to work on his small cultivated land, but this year he has to stay until the end of business hours. During the winter it didn’t matter so much, but since spring is coming, he is now in a hurry to prepare the land for planting. So, he recently used a falsified medical note to get three days of medical leave. His land still needs a lot of work because it is located on a mountain with many rocks. He and his wife work diligently removing rocks and tree roots. Due to the high altitude, the land will do well to produce 300kg of potatoes and 500kg of radishes by the fall. The total harvest will depend on the loss to wild animals and to thieves, since there are many people who try to steal food. Ji-seok estimates 100kg of each of the vegetable crops will be lost; he would be happy to have 200kg of potatoes and 400kg of radishes this year. That amount would be sufficient to get his family through the winter and have some left over to sell in the market. Ji-seok emphasized that, “The vegetable field in the community farm is said to be mine, however, the vegetable field in the rocky mountain is truly mine. Thanks to it, I have no worry about feeding my family.”


A Story of Marriage between a Step-brother and a Step-sister
Keum-sook is a 33-year-old housewife. She lives in Yeonsan-Gun, North Hamgyong Province with her husband, son, and daughter. In addition, she lives with and supports for her father and step-mother. Her home originally was in Musan-Gun. She lived in a 5-story apartment, which, although not very well equipped, had enough sunlight and good ventilation. One day, when the Great Leader passed away in 1994, her mother finally died. One year later, her younger brother died even before starting the school. In her family of four members, only two remained. After a while, her father brought home a kind woman, who is her step-mother now. Her step-mother had a son, who is one year older than Ms. Keum-sook. The family therefore has four members again. However, livelihood for the family became harder, so they sold the apartment and moved to Yeonsan-Gun, where they currently live.

Keum-sook was 28 years old, but her family was pinched in poverty, and she was not even 145 centimeters tall. In addition she was skinny, undersized, and did not look good. Due to these she had thought that it would be difficult to meet a good spouse. Her brother, although close to age thirty, was also unable to find a good marriage partner. Her father and step-mother could not leave their son and daughter unmarried; they subsequently decided to have their son and daughter get married to each other. They decided that this could be the best for them, in that they did not need unnecessary formality for a wedding and their married son and daughter could live in the same home. Keum-sook’s parents thought their son and daughter married to each other would be better than leaving them staying single forever, although their relatives and neighbors might laugh at them. As expected, the relatives felt ashamed and did not attend the wedding ceremony. There were only the head of the Neighborhood Unit and a few acquaintances at the ceremony. They had a wedding ceremony without any formal dress. The food consisted with one bowl of rice, a chicken, and some liquor. That night, her father and mother slept over at the house of the head of the Neighborhood Units, insisting that the newlyweds need privacy for the first night. Keum-sook was dazed at having a husband who used to be like a real brother, even though he is not related with her a drop of blood. Her husband held her hand and promised to live well with their parents. In the first year after the marriage, a boy was born. Another boy was born in the next year. Keum-sook thinks that, although it is heartbroken not to feed her three-year-old and four-year-old children enough, it is just as good that all family members live together.

North Korea Today No. 445 March 7, 2012

[“Good Friends” aims to help the North Korean people from a humanistic point of view and publishes “North Korea Today” describing the way the North Korean people live as accurately as possible. We at Good Friends also hope to be a bridge between the North Korean people and the world.]
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[Intro] Revisiting the Issue of North Korean Refugees
Escaping amidst Extremely Strict Border Control
Hike on the Number of Illegal Border-crossers in Captivity
State of Refugees Just Like the Arduous March
A Mother and Her Son Knocking on the Door in the Middle of Night
Soohyang, a North Korean Female Refugee in China
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[Intro] Revisiting the Issue of North Korean Refugees
In this issue, we have a story about a North Korean female refugee who entered a Korean-Chinese’ house and devoured 20 eggs at once. Twelve years ago, we published almost identical stories entitled “People who crossed the Tumen River.” At that time, we met 28,000 people in 2,479 villages across North-East China who fled from North Korea in search of food. We called them ‘food refugees.’ They can be labeled with different names depending on how one sees them; illegal border-crossers, traitors to their country, or refugees seeking freedom. Seen with a political angle, they can be perceived very differently by each stakeholder, and countries will only reconfirm their different stances. However, from a pure humanitarian point of view, they are only needy people whom all countries should come together to help.

• The North Korean and Chinese government should ease their border control between the two countries so that the food refugees can move freely searching for food for their survival until the North Korean food situation is improved.
• The North Korean authorities should not punish the food refugees who either forcefully or voluntarily return to North Korea.
• The Chinese government should stop searching, arresting, and repatriating the food refugees to North Korea.
• South Korea should provide humanitarian aid such as food and medicine to North Korea to prevent any further increase in the number of refugees.
• Media should refrain from covering North Korea refugee issues for the purpose of criticizing North Korea or China.

These are the action items Good Friends proposed 12 years ago when it released its report on the status of food refugees. It is lamentable that we have to reissue the same recommendations after 12 years have passed.


Escaping amidst Extremely Strict Border Control
Even amidst reinforced border control, there are people still making attempts to escape North Korea. Last February 17, a family of five disappeared from Musan in North Hamgyong Province. The security guards shut the border area and searched for them in vain. People in the neighborhood unit are talking to each other that the security guards must have missed them given that there has been no news for more than a week. If the family was caught, it certainly would have been announced during the neighborhood unit meeting to threat the general public with a demonstration of the end of traitors who cross the borders. However, there has not been a single word of the arrest of the family thus far.

On February 22, a 31-year-old farmer was caught in Onsung while crossing the border. He was a wanted criminal since he was involved with drug trafficking. Knowing that he would never get away this time, he decided to cross the Tuman River while the security check was loosened for a moment.

On that same day, Lee Kyung-ok (alias) was caught on the Chinese side of the border after crossing the border. North Korean police station in charge of the region provided her profile to the Chinese authority and requested to send her back to North Korea.

On February 23, two women were caught in Hoeryong while attempting to cross the river toward Mangyang. They had been imprisoned for crossing the border before and got recently released during the time of great amnesty in February. They are expected to be punished harshly because they tried to cross the border again soon after they were pardoned.

The recent increase in the number of North Koreans crossing the border is because the food situation has been getting worse to the extent that people say it is worse than that of the Arduous March. They say that the number will not drop no matter how strong the border control would get, unless the food situation improves.


Hike on the Number of Illegal Border-crossers in Captivity
There has been an increase in the number of people trying to cross the border by themselves, without any help from brokers or backdoor deals with the border patrols. Due to enhanced border control regulations in recent years, it has been rare to see anyone dared to cross the border without bribing border patrols or Chinese officials. However, as the food situation got worsened, unassisted border river crossing cases have increased.

Some of them get caught while crossing the border, while others manage to make it to the other side of the border and then get caught by the Chinese police because they have nowhere to go and get reported by local residents. Throughout the Chinese side of the border such as Domun (Tumen), Ryongjung (Longjing), and Jangbaek (Changbai), it has become commonplace to see North Koreans entering private houses in the middle of the night and begging for food only to get arrested by the authorities. Chinese police officers say those North Koreans are in a terrible condition at the time of arrest, so frail that they could collapse at any second.


State of Refugees Just Like the Arduous March
Tumen, a city in China’s Jilin Province, was surrounded by darkness on the night of February 19th. The silence of the night was broken by a sudden barking of dogs that did not stop. Hwang, a town resident, turned on the light of her front yard and peered outside only to find a dark object on the ground - a human body. Hwang quickly woke her husband and carried the body inside the house.

After laying the person in front of the kiln, they were able to see the face of the collapsed stranger. It was a short woman, with a face full of wrinkles, and only skin on her bones. Her hair was tangled like vines and covered in dirt. The couple covered the woman in a cotton-wool comforter and placed a pillow under her head. After readjusting herself and finding a comfortable position, she fell asleep. After about an hour of sleeping soundly in the warm room, color returned to the woman’s face and she asked the Hwang’s for some water and food. By the time they helped her sit up, the wife had already prepared a cup of warm water along with a plate full of kimchi, rice, fermented soybean soup with pork, and hard-boiled eggs.

The woman then started devour the food, not even stopping to take the couple’s advice to eat slowly. She ate 20 hard-boiled eggs, two bowls of rice, and two bowls of soup in one sitting and shocked the Hwang’s with her appetite. The Hwang’s had witnessed something like this 15 years ago with a different North Korean refugee during the Arduous March when there was a mass exodus of refugees crossing the Tumen River.

The Hwang’s then turned their attention to the refugee’s hygiene. When they took off her coat, they found shreds of unrecognizable clothing with a dirt covered body and foul odor. The water used to wash her became dirty and dark quickly. After the Hwang’s covered her in a clean wool sweater, cotton pants, and white socks, she looked like a totally different person. The refugee said this was the first time in her life to eat a delicious meal and wear warm, comfortable clothing. She was from Onsung, the city across the river. Her husband had died three weeks ago and she did not know the whereabouts of her two daughters, but suspected they had crossed into China. It was so hard for her to live alone, so she had searched far and near for anyone for help, but because everyone was having difficulties financially, no one offered help.

She sold all of her household items and eventually even her home, leaving her homeless and nowhere to go. She said she was determined to see her two daughters again no matter what, and thus began this journey. The refugee could not stop crying while telling her story. How will she able to find her two children in this massive country?


A Mother and Her Son Knocking on the Door in the Middle of Night
On February 22nd, as a dog barked loudly in the middle of the night, Mr. Park, an aged farmer living in a village in Jangbaek (Changbai) district, Jilin Province in China opened the door and found two human-shaped shadows under the moonlight.

He asked who they were and got the answer with a shaky voice from a woman that they were from North Korea. She implored the farmer to open the door and help her and her son. Mr. Park locked the door and told them to find another house since he could be fined and arrested for helping North Koreans. Begging to let them stay only one night at Mr. Park’s house, however, the mother and her son kept knocking on the door and said that they did not have any relatives and they were cold and starved.

In spite of the desperate plea, Mr. Park justified his rejection because he remembered the time when he helped a North Korean in the past. The man stole his possession and money and ran away. He also thought about the legal punishments such as fines and an interrogation from the Chinese police, not worth to go through at his old age. Furthermore, he recently heard that a Chinese was fined with 2,000 yuan for helping North Koreans hide. The Public Security Officers announced that people who report North Korean border crossers will be rewarded with 200 yuan. However, Mr. Park did not want to report the mother and the son because he did not want to ruin their lives although he could not help them. He warned the mother and the son that they should be grateful about him for not reporting them; then he locked the door tightly, turned off the TV, and went to bed. He could hear the North Koreans knocking on his door for a few more minutes and then silence.

As he lied down, he got worried if they might die of cold in front of his house. Although he wanted to check if they were gone, he refrained himself from doing so in fear of facing them which would make him emotionally vulnerable. A few moments later, he heard lots of noise from a place near his house. He could see flashlights from every direction and heard men shouting, a woman and a child crying.

As soon as he heard a car leaving, the world went silent. He went outside and saw some villagers who got out of bed to watch the commotion. They talked to each other that it seemed just like the late 1990s when North Koreans without any means to get around desperately cross the border to China and got arrested. Mr. Park tried to suppress his guilt and turned back to his house.


Soohyang, a North Korean Female Refugee in China
Soohyang is from Hamheung; she crossed the river to China 15 years ago. When she lost all her family and became alone during the Arduous March, she heard from someone that she would be able to make a living if she goes to China, so she crossed the Tumen River along with other people. When she entered the village in shape of a crazy woman with ragged clothes and bare feet, a good-hearted Korean-Chinese woman took her in. She never had heaping bowls of white rice and soup as much as that time. It was the amount that she could never finish these days even if she was asked to do so, but she remembers how she stuffed down the food at that time. For over a week, she ate, slept, woke up, ate and slept again, and again.

She met her current husband and started a family without a wedding ceremony. Her father-in-law passed away a long time ago, and she takes care of her mother-in-law who is now over 70 years old and cannot move after a stroke. Her husband is a disabled person suffering from polio and is on a wheelchair. Soohyang is thankful every day for being able to stay safe and well even in such situation. She is shorter than 150 centimeters but works so hard that she has a very good reputation among the villagers. Her daily wage after helping others’ farm work is about 50 yuan. The Korean-Chinese get paid 100 yuan or 150 yuan whereas Soohyang gets paid only less than 50 yuan after doing the same work, but she says that the villagers are good to her. She says that many villagers try to give her more by adding a dozen eggs, and they helped her to get away with several crises when the Public Security Officers stormed into the village. The local Public Security Officers overlook Soohyang’s family these days because her husband is disabled, but other North Korean women in the village got arrested and expatriated, or escaped to other villages. There used to be more than 20 North Korean women in the village, but few of them are left these days, according to her. Among the children who were born between a Korean-Chinese father and a North Korean refugee mother, many do not even remember their mother’s face. She is now a mother who raises a 10-year-old son, and says that she is so thankful because she can see her child every day.

Her son, Cheon-il, is healthy because he is not picky and eats well. He is also a pleasant boy with a lot of friends and does well in school, which she is always thankful for. However, she is worried about his education these days. There was an elementary school in the village where she managed to send her child. This year the school was closed, and her son needs to go to a larger city to continue his education. Soohyang’s wage combined with the government’s subsidy for low-income families still cannot cover the cost of his education. “Thanks to the (Chinese) government’s special consideration for us, my son is officially registered, but my status is still that of an illegal defector. If my status problem is resolved, we could move out to a city. Then I would find a job as a laborer in a restaurant there and be able to support my son for his education. I am so sorry to my son for being a mother like this…” Soohyang could not finish her words, as tears welled up in her eyes.

North Korea Today No. 444 February 29, 2012

[“Good Friends” aims to help the North Korean people from a humanistic point of view and publishes “North Korea Today” describing the way the North Korean people live as accurately as possible. We at Good Friends also hope to be a bridge between the North Korean people and the world.]
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[Intro] Control on Movement Going Too Far
ID Cards Required for Travel in Same City
Sentenced to at Least Three Years of Re-education for Illegal Cellular Phone Use
Security Tightens after an Outbreak of Arson
Widespread Anxiety under Heightened Regulation
National Border Patrol Has “Half-and-Half” Meal
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[Intro] Control on Movement Going Too Far
Now North Korean people must carry identification cards and passes even within the cities they reside in. They are stopped and inspected several times a day at check points at almost every single block. If caught using an illegal cellular phone, they are interrogated and held until they pay a fine even if they are proven to be innocent of treason [by using their phones].

It seems that the new regime is trying to tighten social discipline as the first ‘Day of Bright Star’ (Chairman Kim Jong-il’s birthday) holiday is approaching after his death. However, the excessive control on movement of people is threatening their livelihoods beyond the state of discomfort. Even when people need to travel to the neighboring village looking for food, their trips are interrupted.

At checkpoints are occurring human rights infringement cases. The inspection agents insult, curse and sometimes confiscate personal belongings from the travelers. Apparently it creates discontentment and anxiety among the people. It should have been the other way around to keep the society stable: people should not be restricted in being able to work for their own livelihoods. This is a time when the new regime needs people to voluntarily participate in the new industrial revolution it calls for. The excessive traffic control must be stopped promptly in order for people to travel freely and do business to make a living.


ID Cards Required for Travel in Same City
On February 16th a special security order was put into effect nationwide until the 17th for Kim Jong-il’s birthday. Employees working in reading rooms, research facilities, factories, businesses, city party offices and administrative offices nationwide worked for 24 hours two days in a row as part of an effort to strengthen security. The National Security Agency repeatedly released an order saying “In preparation for February 16th ‘Day of Bright Star’ (Kim Jong-il’s birthday) and April 15th ‘Day of the Sun’ (Kim Il-sung’s birthday), all citizens must be on alert to the actions of overseas anti-state forces and espionage activities carried out by defector organizations working under the direction of South Korea.”

North Korean authorities have strengthened control over the border region by constructing new police boxes and security check points or by increasing the frequency of patrols. Citizens in the border regions are now forced to carry around their identification cards even when traveling within the same city or county. For example, a citizen of Hoeryong City, North Hamgyong Province, traveling to Yoosun-dong will not only be subject to a search at a checkpoint, but will also have to present his/her identification card and a form signed by the local neighborhood unit head permitting the passage.

In Hoeryong City, new check points have been set up from the end of January at the entrance to the Boeul Bridge in Yoosun-dong, and at the crossings in Ingye-ri and Bangwon-ri, while additional patrols have begun in Hakpo-ri. North Korean authorities have also increased the search rate of cars and pedestrians at the Security Department checkpoint in Pungsan-ri, Hoeryong City, the General Guard Command checkpoint in Jeongeo-ri, the 9th Corps Defense Security Command checkpoint in Chungdo-dong, and the military camp and Public Security Department checkpoint in Mt. Komoo, Buryong County.


Sentenced to at Least Three Years of Re-education for Illegal Cellular Phone Use
The Safety Bureau issued a strong warning to anyone using illegal cell phones, threatening them to a minimum of three years of sentencing to a maximum of life imprisonment in accordance with the nature of the offense. It is a part of massive efforts to crack down on defectors and to keep people from communicating with South Koreans, who the North Korean government claims use propaganda to pose threat to national stability. The application of the law is not always consistent. Contrary to the official position of the Central Party that party officials will be discharged for the illegal use of cell phones, money can still spare the illegal users from imprisonment.

One police officer said, “In certain regions removed from Pyongyang, illegal cell phone users are released after paying a fine of 2 to 3 million won if they can prove the cell phone was used to earn a living.” Early in the morning on February 9, 2012, Joo-sung Kim (alias) in Musan County, North Hamgyong Province was caught making an overseas call to China, which is an illegal use of the cell phone according to law. Well aware of the repeated warnings against the illegal usage of cell phones, his family was deeply concerned about the consequences. The police officer who caught Mr. Kim dropped a hint to the concerned family that Mr. Kim could be released if they paid him 5,000 yuan in renminbi as a penalty for the offense. The police officer was kind enough to set a deadline, saying that it would be too late once the issue leaves his hands. Mr. Kim’s wife feels frustrated over the money issue.


Security Tightens after an Outbreak of Arson

Since the beginning of February, the National Security Agency has repeatedly ordered the Security Departments across the country to be alert and on guard for crimes during the holidays. The Neighborhood Units are lecturing daily that criminals who are caught will be severely punished without a second thought. Hoeryong City in North Hamkyong Province has been keeping a close eye on outbreaks of fires around the holidays. There was a forest fire on February 12th in Saeul-ri, Hoeryong. The fire spread rapidly and turned 24.5 acres of forest into ashes. Each Neighborhood Unit mobilized its residents to extinguish the fire, but the fire wasn’t put out until the Forest Management Team and the military arrived at the scene.

The National Security Agency concluded the incident was arson, and soon after rumors spread that the fire was set by North Korean reactionaries sponsored by South Korea. On the same day, a fire occurred at the stable in a collective farm in Changtae-ri. The haystack caught fire first, and then the flames were exacerbated by the arid and windy weather. The entire winter and spring’s supply of feed for the cows was consumed. The National Security Agency concluded this incident was arson as well. They also concluded the fires at the farms in Songhak-ri and middle school in Yoosun-dong last lunar New Year were cases of arson. People become anxious enough at a series of fires, but hearing that these fires may have been caused by espionage operations is even more disconcerting. The Security authorities of Hoeryong City are using the excuse of this series of fires to tighten the reins of control.


Widespread Anxiety under Heightened Regulation
Any kind of food weighing more than 30Kg being carried by people is subject to being seized; defectors are punished and sentenced as national traitors secretly in league with South Korea; and illegal cellular phone users are punished as war criminals. New checkpoints are being installed at every crossing near the border region, and the use of renminbi is still being prohibited. Despite perceptions that the regulation may be easing due to the order not to fire at the defectors, in reality, regulation seems to be getting more intense. One official of the Central Party shared that the regulation is strengthened as anxiety about the food crisis heightens for which there is no solution. [North Korean] People were expecting holiday provisions for February 16th, the ‘Day of Bright Star.’ Officials have in turn asked people many times for their patience until that day saying there would be provisions provided even if they received nothing on New Year’s Day. In spite of that, the special provisions were given only to the high ranking officials and to officials at the influential agencies, public enterprises, and units. The authorities are only aggravating people’s anxiety with their reinforcements of ideology and politics despite their intention to calm social unrest.

People shout in unison, “We wish the way of the world runs can be changed soon!” At the same time, many people are strongly hoping that a certain change will happen this year. The people’s desires for a change are reflected in a keen reaction towards events outside the country. People exchange news coming from the media and word of mouth and pay attention to global events more than ever before.


National Border Patrol Has “Half-and-Half” Meal
It has come to light that the National Border Patrol, which is treated better than other units, is receiving ‘half-and-half rice’ (50% rice and 50% corn) for their meals. This contrasts with the interior troops in Hwanghae and Kangwon Provinces, who have crushed corn, potato, or corn. Kim, Il-cheol (alias), who serves in the military in North Hamgyong Province, receives 800g of food daily, a mixture of half rice and half corn. Each platoon grows vegetables on about five acres of field. Since the General issued an order that soldiers should not impose any burden on the people, soldiers have provided side dishes such as vegetables, meat, and eggs for themselves. They usually eat breakfast at 7:10 a.m., lunch at 1:20 p.m., and dinner at 6:30 p.m., and they have ground soybean soup once a day. For the other meals they have bean paste soup with radish or napa cabbage, and cabbage kimchi or radish kimchi, etc. for side dishes. They have eight candies and two 100g finger-shaped cookies as snacks, and they get 10 cigarettes every day. They receive one summer uniform and one winter uniform each year, and the winter clothing includes warm underwear, an over-garment, a pair of winter boots, and a pair of gloves. Once every four years they are given a fur hat. Compared to soldiers serving in other areas, they are receiving favored treatment. When they are sick, they can go to a military clinic or get treatment by medics, but if they need medicine, they need to buy Chinese-made medication because of the shortage of domestic medication. They have to pay for the medication with their own earnings or with pocket money sent from home.

North Korea Today No. 443 February 22, 2012

[“Good Friends” aims to help the North Korean people from a humanistic point of view and publishes “North Korea Today” describing the way the North Korean people live as accurately as possible. We at Good Friends also hope to be a bridge between the North Korean people and the world.]
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[Intro] They Say ‘China is the Only Path of Hope’
Amnesty Announced for the Day of the Sun
Issuing a Border Crossing Pass Cost a Loan and a Wild Pig
Bribe Is Imperative Even After Returning From China
Dunned for Debt Payment, Woman Crosses the River by Risking Life
Reason to Fix Breakfast Three Times
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[Intro] They Say ‘China is the Only Path of Hope’
North Korean people who obtained passes to China said they felt like heroes. Hope for a new life is now visible for them. For the North Korean people, the focus is now on China as their only path of hope. In light of this, we welcome the South Korean government’s proposal to schedule a meeting between North and South Korea’s Red Cross organizations and a meeting to discuss the ways to help North Korea with a pest problem around ancient Koguryo’s tomb mound sites. Even if North Korea does not readily respond to this proposal, the two countries must be patient and build trust in each other. Instead of facing one another with hostility, the two countries must work together to bring hope to the people. I hope that this year will bring great opportunities for the North Korean people, and divert them from thinking that China is the only option and recognize collaboration with South Korea as the better direction for them.


Amnesty Announced for the Day of the Sun
The Central Party placed orders to grant amnesty to well-behaved prisoners on April 15th, the Day of the Sun (birthday of Kim Il-sung). This was following the amnesty granted on February 16th (birthday of Kim Jong-il), which simmered down people’s complaints about the strict restrictions enforced upon them. On February 1st at Hoeryong City in North Hamgyong Province, prisoners at the Jeongurrie Re-education Center were discharged. Many of them were female prisoners charged three-year sentences for crossing the border to China. The prisoners could not contain their surprise at being released before their sentences were over. Even the citizens unrelated to the prisoners were overjoyed by Kim Jung Un’s granting of amnesty in commemoration of the Day of the Sun. In addition to the Jeongurrie Re-education Center, labor training centers nationwide also discharged prisoners on a broad scale, including economic offenders.


Issuing a Border Crossing Pass Cost a Loan and a Wild Pig
Mr. Lim Il said he was thrilled to receive a border crossing pass recently. His relatives on mother’s side all live in China but he hasn’t seen them for a while. After a long time apart from each other, he wouldn’t even recognize them. They all became like Han ethnic Chinese without knowledge of Korean. Nontheless, Mr. Lim still was able to contact his aunt in Ryongjung (Longjin), Samhap. Since she had been registered as his relative, Mr. Lim applied for a pass for border crossing for family visit three years ago. However, he has not heard from the government yet. People say that it is because he did not pay a bribe. They say he needs to spend at least 2,000 yuan to obtain the pass, equivalent to 1 million won. Mr. Lim rejected that idea and said, “If you have that much money, you don’t even have to think about visiting your relatives in China. I’m trying to go there because I’m having a hard time making the ends meet.” People responded with sarcastic remarks that he is too naïve. Mr. Lim could do nothing but wait for the pass, since there was no way for him to even see that much of money.

Mr. Lim expressed his frustration saying, “Doesn’t it sound absurd? I want to see my aunt, and I’m doing it in a legal way. But why should you need that much money? I don’t understand what the world is coming to.” Some of his sympathetic colleagues advised him to borrow some money from hwagyo (Chinese Koreans) several times. He initially rejected that idea, but as he ran out of resources to survive on, he finally decided to use bribery to get the pass. He borrowed money from one hwagyo in the same neighborhood unit with 300 yuan of monthly interest hoping to pay it off with his aunt’s support. Loaning money was not an easy process. Several people had to stand surety for him. Mr. Lim managed to make 800,000 won with the help of collateral from several people, who appreciated his diligence and honesty. He had to spend 100,000 won to bribe the Ri Party secretary, 100,000 won for the directive officer and the chief in Foreign Affairs Section respectively, 100,000 won for the Anti-Espionage Section chief and 200,000 won for the deputy director of Anti-Espionage Department, and still another 200,000 won here and there. As he ran out of money, Mr. Lim offered a wild pig he caught from the mountain to the police officer and the security agent 20kgs each. 20kg of pork is worth at least 120,000 won.

Mr. Lim finally obtained the pass. He was filled with deep emotion after a long journey with the cost of 1 million won and one wild pig. The story spread quickly. All the neighbors were elated by the news. Even people who had not exchanged greetings extended their congratulations to him. Mr. Lim said he felt like as if he became a hero of the Republic. He also shared that he now realized that being able to visit a relative in China would haven’t have been something to boast of, but it means a lot these hard times.


Bribe Is Imperative Even After Returning From China
What Mr. Lim Il (from the previous story) took up first was a list of goods that he must buy in China. What took up the most were medicines for his parents to take, but there were also many things asked by a security agent. He asked for office supplies such as papers, pencils, notebooks, copying paper, photos and films as well as medicines for pneumonia and hepatitis. He said that his mother had problems in her lungs and liver. This security agent smiled as he said that it will be less than 500 yuan in Renminbi, even if he buys all. Mr. Lim was taken aback and expressed that the request of the security agent was a burden to him by saying, “What is 500 yuan in Renminbi? It is the amount which one may receive through cash distribution by attending the farm work all the time for ten years. I went to work so diligently last year, but I only received 18,000 won during the distribution at the end of the year. Even that amount was not given to me at once; I was told that it will be given to me through three payments, so I only received 6,000 won. Even if I receive 18,000 won in its entirety, it is less than 40 yuan in Renminbi according to the current market price.”

A police officer also asked him for nine goods. Mr. Lim could not even watch TV due to the lack of electricity, but the security agent asked for an electric blanket. Mr. Lim told him that according to what he had heard, electric goods cannot pass through customs, but he could not insist it anymore. The officer told him that he had an acquaintance in the customhouse and it will be taken care of once he mentions the name of the police officer. A few years ago, electric goods were overlooked at customs if possible, and the used clothes could be brought into if they were washed and trimmed, but it is difficult to bring them into these days even if one offers a few cigarettes to the customs officer. Mr. Lim also thought about bringing into some used clothes for trading, but he gave up his idea as the regulation was so strict these days.

After completing the fastidious political reviews and talks, he received the warnings so many times as to memorize them. He was told to be absolutely careful of his speech, keep himself from contacting South Koreans, and to come back within the specified time, i.e., one month. In order to offer bribes to the officers in the Foreign Affairs Section and Anti-Espionage Department, he had to receive at least more than 3,000 yuan of support from his aunt in China. His friends told him to find a place to work while he was out because he will not know when he can be issued of the border-crossing pass again after this occasion. Those who are savvy were said to stay for several months and earn money even after the length of stay was expired. Mr. Lim thought about his mother who was hemiplegic and was unable to move freely at home, and firmly determined to earn some money, but it was not that easy once he arrived at the aunt’s house. The house of his aunt did not worry about food, but they were not in a situation to provide generous support, either. Still, his aunt was well known to be generous and good-natured in her village, so he was able to assist a Korean-Chinese who raised cattle through his aunt’s introduction. As Mr. Lim was able to pay the money owed to the Chinese residents in North Korea, prepare bribes to be offered to the officers, and earn enough money to buy medicines for his parents, he says that he now knows why people are so eager to cross the border, even illegally. “I feel very sorry and frustrated that I had to just sit back for three years to wait for a border-crossing pass, but fortunately, now I can go there and come back,” he says, with a big smile for the first time in a long time.


Dunned for Debt Payment, Woman Crosses the River by Risking Life
Chong-ok, living in Chungjin, North Hamgyong Province, crossed the river to China on December 10 and returned a few days ago. She crossed the river to seek help from her husband’s uncle who lives in China. Though recently there was an order not “to shoot” in the border areas, the atmosphere then was brutal.

People said even frequent crossers should stay quiet. But Chong-ok was desperate because of her debt. Gangsters, sent by debt collectors beat up her husband, who was lying down because he had already hurt his back. She begged the guys, yelling and crying. They gave a final notice of one month. She had nothing left to sell, nor could she borrow money from anyone. Every day, she cried and thought about committing suicide, then, she remembered the Chinese relative who helped her 10 years ago. She thought it would be better to cross the river before she dies.

“I took a shabby bus from Soonam market in Chungjin,” said Chong-ok. “The bus fee rose to 10,000 won recently, but when I traveled it was 5,000 won. Cold wind came in through broken windows, but because the small bus was packed with people, I did not feel too cold. The bus crossed five checkpoints, as it passed Soosung, Sukmak, and Jang-heung to finally reach Hoeryong. My heart quivered when I had eye contact with the soldiers at the posts. Fortunately, with the resident permit, I could pass through the checkpoints.

“The bus struggled to climb up the Musanryung Hill and sped up as it went downhill. I left home at nine in the morning, and reached Hoeryong after three in the afternoon. It took five hours to ride 150-Li (approx. 60 km). The shabby bus could not speed up. But it was also crossing checkpoints which delayed the journey. When I reached Hoeryong, I paid 500 won to ride on a servi-car. I wasted more time recalling my memories in search for the house of the lady who helped me cross the river 10 years ago. Since many people were expelled from border area, I could not be sure if the lady still lived there. With a glimpse of hope and help from heaven, I found the lady. She greeted me with a surprise. The furnace was lit for it was dinner time. I took out two rice balls, and we had them with hot water. Since she suspected what I was up to, I went straight into the subject.

“The lady said that the situation has completely changed compared to ten years ago. Ten years ago the security guards allowed passersby to cross the border in most cases. However, it is not the same anymore these days. Not to mention the money, they examine whether the person is reliable. The inspection process has become stricter. They examine why the person crosses the border; whether the person will come back; what kinds of items the person carries; and which contact information the person knows. People are not willing to help the people who cross the border, since border-crossers are generally treated as betrayers now. The helper might go to jail if he or she supported the border-crossers for small amount of money.”

Chong-ok explained her pitiful family circumstances as the old woman shook her head. When she visited the relatives in China ten years ago with the help of the old woman, she borrowed money amounting to 20,000 Chinese yuan because both the younger brother of her father and his wife were healthy and lived in affluence.

With the money, the family of six which included her parents-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, and husband, were able to live for three years without much worries. After both the brother-in-law and sister-in-law got married and moved out, her two children were born, thus keeping her family as having six members. Her mother-in-law passed away after a lingering illness. Her husband hurt his waist and the injury became chronic, making it difficult for him to do hard work.

Her household became poor. Her family used up all the borrowed money and they started to sell household items, appliances and clothing in the second-hand market. However, the family ran out of saleable items and started to borrow food. Her family could not afford to pay back the debt. Therefore, she had to sell her nice house and moved into a small one-room place to repay her family’s debt.

Her previous house was a very nice single house that had a 500 square meter vegetable garden. Everyone was envious of her house because the fenced garden was large enough to grow vegetables tha can feed almost ten families. She could have earned 4 million won if she sold it now. She did not receive proper price for her house since she had to sell her house in a hurry. The new house is Munhwa housing which is only 20 square meter large and whose vegetable garden takes up only 30 squre meter. Moreover, there are five units under one roof.

Her family’s debt has increased over time. She was originally supposed to pay back 200 kg of corn in the fall, while borrowing 100 kg corn in spring. However, she never paid back properly for the last three years. She has been feeling the temptation to commit a suicide. She stated that she came to thus far to try her last efforts for survival by obtaining some rice from her work place after obtaining a medical certificate via a doctor, who is also a long distance relative, in a public health center on a farm.

Telling the story, Chong-ok kept emphasizing to the elderly woman that she would do her best to repay her kind help. The woman began to find a way to help Chong-ok despite the high risk of getting killed. After staying one more week there, Chong-ok got a telephone number that she was supposed to call between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. A young man asked for 2,000 Chinese yuan and two cartons of Jangbeaksan (Cigarette brand) for the job; guiding Chong-ok’s round trip through the river. She agreed to his offer and followed him with three rice balls and a bowl of fried corn.

After one hour walking along the road upward Tumen River, they arrived somewhere near the river. The young man whistled three times with caution. Amazingly, he could recognize clearly where he was in the night’s darkness. Suddenly, two soldiers with guns on their shoulders came out of the woods and motioned her to come toward. The young man had already gone away and left her alone. She just followed the soldiers for about 10 minutes and finally ran into the hard-frozen Tumen River. She began to run and cross the river as fast as possible. The one thing she could think of while she was running was “survival”.

At last when she stepped on the soil of the other side of the river, she realized she had survived and felt relief. She was so lucky. Her uncle and his wife were so kind to welcome her sincerely. They gave her 10,000 yuan and felt sorry not to be able to support her with more money since they got older. Even after paying 2,000 yuan and cigarettes to the guide and reasonable brokerage to the woman who helped her in the first place, she still got 6,000 yuan. With the money, she paid back three years of debt, corn and money to neighbors and finally had 700 dollars in her pocket. Her risk taking action, crossing the river to get some help from her uncle opened the way for her to live. When she looks back upon those days, it all seems like a dream.


Reason to Fix Breakfast Three Times
Ji-eun prepares breakfast tree times every day. Considering there are only six people in the family; in-laws, the couple, and their two daughters, it is rather curious why she has to do so. With a hint of smile, she started to explain why.

“I wake up at 5 a.m. I enter the kitchen in the dark. I set fire on the hay and dry leaves that I have collected. The flare of the fire seems to bring some light and warmth into the house. This is my favorite moment of the day. I start preparing breakfast and lunch with 500 grams of corn. Normally, a family with six people needs at least one kilogram of it. However, if I went with such a measurement, the food would be gone in five days when it is supposed to last for ten days. So cutting down the amount of food per meal is the only way of preventing us from having nothing to eat. And the best way to do so is to eat less, keep your movement to the minimum throughout the day, and go to bed early. The good thing about winter time is that day time is short and night is long.

“We used to eat breakfast together but not anymore. When six of us had meals together, my husband would keep taking food from his bowl and putting it in his parents’. He would also push side dishes close to his parents. His parents had grown worried about their son’s not having enough food. They wanted him to eat well since he would be the one who had to go out and work. Finally, they decided not to have breakfast with him to stop him from giving his food to them. They believe that my husband, the breadwinner, needs to eat well and stay healthy to take care of the family.

“Before he goes to work, I prepare breakfast for him with a bowl of steamed corn, cabbage kimchi, mu-ogari-jang (pickled radish) salad, and miso soup. Hot pepper powder is very expensive these days and we cannot afford it to make cabbage kimchi. Even though our kimchi is seasoned only with salt, I think this is still quite a decent breakfast. I am a strong believer of having breakfast as the main meal of the day; one can have a light lunch or dinner but he or she should have good breakfast to start off the day well. So every morning I fix breakfast with freshly prepared steamed corn and potato or radish soup. If I am out of potato and radish, I serve him at least a bowl of hot water. With hot soup or water, he can warm himself and also prevent himself from getting thirsty at work. In the winter time, it is not easy to get even a glass of warm water outside so you’d better get hydrated enough at home before going to work.

“After my husband takes a bite, now it is the turn for my 7 year- and 5 year-old daughters. They come to the table not even having washed their face and wait eagerly for their father to finish his meal. Because they aren’t old enough to know better, they wait for their dad to finish eating and put rest of his rice to their bowl. When he leaves the table, they run to the table and grab the spoon. Then I serve them rice and fix the second round of breakfast. My older daughter, because she’s old enough to know a little better, starts from eating her own bowl of rice, but my younger one pulls her dad’s bowl with leftover rice in front of her and starts eating it first. They are kids, but they still eat a good deal, so kimchi and soup run out in no time. I can’t serve them more food when the food on the table runs out, and I even try to put dishes with leftover food under the table so that the kids wouldn’t have any more; my parents-in-law need to eat too. The kids finish their rice put in the bowl of potato soup after only a few spoonfuls. I never gave them a second helping, so they never ask. After they eat like that, they just go back under the blankets. The outside is horribly cold, so I can’t let them out. When they are under the blanket on the heated floor, they are not cold and they are less hungry, so a lot of times they spend the whole day there.

“My parents-in-law come to breakfast almost at 9 in the morning. They fall asleep late after a night of suffering from coughs these days, so they wake up late. I give them steamed corn meal, pickled dried radish, and potato soup in the same serving size for both, but their servings are smaller than my husband’s. A lot of time I can’t serve them dishes like kimchi if my husband and children finish them beforehand. I also have my breakfast with my parents-in-law, but I never put my bowl on the table. I am worried that they will notice that my bowl has more coarse grains and a lesser amount than theirs and then feel bad about it. My parents-in-law also go back to bed after breakfast like my kids.

“This is how we came to have three breakfasts. After I’m done with dishes, I put a bowl of meal preciously kept away from breakfast on the warm heated floor, so that my husband would have lunch after work. The rest of my family haven’t had lunch in four years. It’s good enough if we get breakfast and then dinner. It’s not just for my family. Most households only have two meals a day. I guess we all got used to it, and no one says they are hungry when lunchtime comes. Those who have lunch must be party officials or hwagyos (Chinese Koreans), or rich merchants. After I’m done with serving breakfast, doing dishes, and preparing my husband’s lunch, I go to the mountain at least to pick up some scrap wood. I don’t know whether the day will finally come when we all are seated together at the same table having a family meal, talking to each other.”

North Korea Today No. 442 February 15, 2012

[“Good Friends” aims to help the North Korean people from a humanistic point of view and publishes “North Korea Today” describing the way the North Korean people live as accurately as possible. We at Good Friends also hope to be a bridge between the North Korean people and the world.]
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[Intro] Let’s Help North Koreans for Spring Farming Season
Rice Price Plunges at the Rumor of Rice Coming in from China
Serious Feeds Shortage at Ingye-ri Farm in Hoeryong City
Mother and Son Make Living on Goat Milk
Surviving Winter by Badger Hunting
North Koreans Tremble in Worry of Their Debt to Chinese Residents
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[Intro] Let’s Help North Koreans for Spring Farming Season

I stop complaining about the cold weather whenever I think of people in North Korea left out in the cold. How do they survive in the harsh winter? I had never heard of a badger hunt until I read the heart-breaking story of a father boiling a badger’s blood for his starving child in this issue. My heart also aches at the story of a mother and her son whose lives are entirely dependent on their goat's milk and another mother who is extremely worried about not being able to pay back the loan to a Chinese loaner. I wish people in North Korea could have a nice warm meal in a warm house. I feel guilty that we do nothing for them while we have an excess of materials and food and squander them every day. During a street fund raising for North Koreans, I have run into people who are not happy about helping North Koreans. Sometimes they yell at us. I understand though, that it is a normal reaction from the generation who experienced the Korean War. Ironically they are also the ones who contribute big bucks to our fundraising box because they have experienced hunger and poverty during the war. What happened to generous Koreans who used to share food and help each other during the hard times? Why do we hate each other? I hope we become good-hearted again and let the governments address political issues through diplomacy. If we provide starving North Koreans with warm meals even as we criticize North Korea, it means no other than reconciliation. Now, spring is around the corner. I sincerely pray that we could provide North Koreans with fertilizer and farming supplies for the spring farm season.


Rice Price Plunges at Rumor of Rice Coming in from China

The rice price, which used to be 5,000 North Korean Won per kilogram in December, has been rapidly dropping. The price of rice in Chungjin, North Hamkyong Province, has dropped from 4,500 won/Kg at the end of December to 3,500 won/Kg on January 18. It dropped again to 3,000 won/Kg on January 20. As it continued dropping to 2,700 won in February, the rice price has finally stopped marching at high levels after four months. Grain sellers say that it is because wholesalers have released their stock after a rumor spreading out in the whole nation that rice is coming in from China. Also, the ban on Renminbi currency at the beginning of January could be one reason for this phenomenon. Since the ban, the usage of Renminbi has been noticeably reduced, which then pushed the price of Renminbi down. Because most of the products on the market are Chinese-made, this measure resulted in lower consumer prices.

Consumer prices, including manufactured goods, food, construction materials, and electronic products, went down, which led to a drop in prices of domestic products as well. For example, the price of pork, which soared up to 8,000 won/kg in December from 7,500 won in November, plunged to 6,400 won in mid-January and further to 6,200 won in early February. However, it is hard to predict that the prices will continue to fall. Some people suggest that the consumer prices will stay low until the February 16 holiday (Kim Jong-il’s birthday), and the prices will go even lower when more food is released into holiday food supplies. Others, however, are very cautious about making a prediction because of the uncertainty as to when China will fulfill its pledge to supply rice. If China fails on its pledge, the rice currently on the market might be taken back to reserve.

Trend of Consumer Price in Chungjin, North Hamgyong (2011.09 - 2012.02)
(Unit: North Korean Won)



Serious Feeds Shortage at Ingye-ri Farm in Hoeryong City
Livestock at a farm in Hoeryong City, North Hamgyong Province, is dying due to a serious shortage of feed. In the face of a serious shortage of feed and many diseases, the number of livestock has plunged from early last year – for hogs from 150 to 40; for rabbits from 80 to 30; for chickens from 300 to zero. Eighty goats survived as they are resistant to prevalent diseases and consume less feeds. Though goats are mobile enough to wander around mountains for food and can eat almost every kind of grass, they also became thinner due to the lack of wild herbs, let alone feeds. In cold winter, goats do not produce milk, either. About half of the 80 goats will be supplied to the military on February 16 holiday (Kim Jong-il’s birthday). When it happens, the number of workers at the stock farming section will drop from 34 to about 10. The 24 workers at the section will be re-assigned to crop farming because the section has about 20 jungbo (1 jungbo = 2.45 acres) of corn fields.

Only 60% of the cornfield's produce will be left to the farm workers for either their food or to feed the animals; 30% is supplied to the military; and 10% is dedicated to the government as a token of patriotism. The cornfields had a poor harvest last year. To make matters worse, soldiers stole the corn before the harvest season came. With less than 2 tons of produce per jungbo (2.45 acre), they could not feed themselves, let alone the livestock. The workers at the animal husbandry section say, “Without feeding ourselves, we can’t raise livestock, produce crops, or build Strong and Prosperous Nation. We are eating anything edible that does not kill us right away, and it is not sufficient for subsistence. Without food to live on, how could we live long enough to see North and South Korea reunified? We humans are facing starvation now, and it is just a matter of time before all livestock die of hunger or diseases.”

Mother and Son Make Living on Goat Milk
Kyungnam lives with his mother. His father and sister died during the Arduous March, the period of massive famine in the 1990s. Kyungnam describes his deceased father and sister as “fools.” His father blindly followed the Party’s orders. While others were stealing food or fleeing from North Korea to survive after the food rations were suspended, Kyungnam’s father remained truthful, saying he would never go against the Party by committing a crime. He grew weaker and weaker until he eventually passed away. Kyungnam refers to anyone who had died like his father as fools. Kyungnam was able to survive because of his mother’s desperate attempt to save her remaining son. This is his story:

“I am twenty two. I was exempted from serving in the People’s Army because I was afflicted with rickets and was only 4’11” at the time of draft. My neighbors tell me I was actually lucky, saying that it is now common for soldiers to die of starvation or be maimed and killed from unexpected accidents.

“Even in my neighborhood unit, there are some families whose sons were discharged after two or three years of military service due to sickness. When I hear their stories, I feel lucky that I was not tall enough to be enlisted in the military. I also feel relieved that I can still be with my mother even if I die of illness or starvation. I live alone with my mother. My father died during the Arduous March, the massive famine of the mid-1990s. I had a sister who was two years older than I was but she also died of paratyphoid fever. People said that my father and sister were fools. Without my mother, I would have been the third one to die. When I also got paratyphoid fever just like my sister did, my mother visited all of her relatives, borrowed some money to obtain Chinese medicine and restored me to health. In order to pay the debt, she risked crossing the border into Longjing, China, and returned home in a year. She earned money by helping on a kind-hearted Chinese family’s farm. Although it was only one year she worked, she came home with a bundle of 100 Yuan bills. This huge amount of money cannot be obtained during one’s entire life in North Korea. We paid the debt, repaired the house and bought two pigs and one goat. Thanks to this goat, we get milk every day and manage our life without grave illness. We sold the pigs and goat and kept only two goatlings. They are now grown up and we get milk from them. If fed well, they give us slightly more than a bottle of milk each day which can be traded for one kilogram of corn. Our lives are dependent on these two goats. That is why we let them live in the kitchen during the winter. It is difficult to stand the bad smell, but it would be impossible for us to survive without them. There would be no hope in the future if we lose them. We even named them ‘Fortune’ and ‘Gold,’ treating them as family. We are always thankful for them.”


Surviving Winter by Badger Hunting
Jongkook, thirty-three years old, and his brother Jonghoon, one year younger, manage to survive the winter by badger hunting. They shared their story of badger hunting:

“My younger brother and I spent four days digging a badger den on the mountainside. I hoed and my brother shoveled. We eventually made a den which was four or five meters in depth. Wearing only long underwear and jumpers, we worked hard and got very hungry. Although it was a very tough job, our efforts rewarded us. We caught two badgers the day before yesterday. Although they were neither big in size nor fat enough, the two badgers seemed to be a total of 10 kilograms in weight. I t appears that they never had a chance to grow fat because people eat their food such as acorns and frogs. In this sense, humans are cruel. People just cross into an area where wild animals live, take their food and eventually hunt them. Nowadays, there seems to be really nothing that people will not eat. Since all humans and animals have to eat to survive, starvation is likely to make people eat whatever they can find.

“Anyways, we cannot possibly describe the happiness we felt when we found the two badgers. With a hand axe we hit their heads and killed them. After putting them in bags, we covered the badgers with brushwood. If we get caught by forest guards, we would lose the badgers to them. The forest guards would take the badgers from us, saying that they are endangered species, but eventually they would eat them by themselves. My brother was walking ahead of me and looked around to see whether there were any forest guards. I followed him carefully and hid in the woods whenever the forest guards showed up. Because we were walking carefully so as not to get caught by the forest guards, it took more than three hours instead of one to get home. After taking off our bags, we immediately locked the door and covered the window with a thick cloth to prevent anyone from seeing the badgers and letting others know. We were so hungry that we first ate corn meal with water.

“Have you ever seen how to handle badger meat? First, we took a knife and peeled off the skin. In the old days, we would eat only the meat after peeling off the skin, but nowadays, we take off the hair after blanching the skin in the boiling water because we also want to eat the skin. When we cut the belly, intestines came out with blood. We immediately put a bowl to collect the blood. In the past, we used to cut the gullet to drain the blood and throw it away, but now we drink the blood as well. My brother took out the kidney and ate it without cooking it. It looked a little scary as the blood dripped down on the side of his mouth.

“The intestines amounted to three geun (1 geun = 600g) in weight. The fat only would be one geun. There is no better medicine for burns than the intestine fat, so we will be able to sell it for 3,000 won per 100 grams at the market. From one geun, we can earn 18,000 won. After taking off the hair and washing, there is really nothing left to throw way. We weighed the meat and the intestines, and they totaled eight kilograms.

“We would like to eat the meat ourselves, but we could not indulge in it for a one-time meal. We cannot sell it in the public market, but if we sell it in the black market we could earn at least 48,000 won. Adding the money we would make from selling the intestines, we will end up earning 66,000 won in total. That will buy more than 70 kilograms of corn, which is enough food for my brother’s and my households for a month.

“We have not sold them yet but we are already excited at the prospect. My five year old son cried because he wanted to eat some meat, so I gave him blood instead. My family has not had any meat for half a year, so blood soup is a very special meal for us. We were very lucky to catch two badgers. We decided to try to find more badgers on the days we do not go to work. These days we even dream about hunting badgers.”


North Koreans Tremble in Worry of Their Debt to Chinese Residents

Many North Koreans have trouble paying off their debt to hwagyo, ethnic Chinese living in North Korea. Many North Koreans who went to China to make money send money back to their families in North Korea through hwagyos. During the process, they have to pay a 20% to 50% of commission to the brokers. Initially, North Koreans used the money sent by their children from China to start some small businesses. Sometimes, however, they also have to borrow money from hwagyos when their businesses do not go well. This kind of debt is expensive; many debtors are required to pay double the principal. Since higher interest payments will be added past the deadline, the amount of debt can increase exponentially. Kyung Suk’s mother living in Musan worries day and night because she is not able to pay off on her debt to a hwagyo. The following is her story:

The wife of Sung Ro-ul came to my house today yelling at me and giving me the final notice before she went straight out the door kicking it very hard. She said that she would give one more week, so if I could not make the payments by then, I would have to sell the house and go somewhere else. Otherwise, she would annihilate everything before her eyes. Originally signing a contract to pay 1,000,000 won before the New Year, I had borrowed 500,000 won. The principal was supposed to be paid off in 10 days, but as I was unable to meet this deadline, interest payments began to accrue and the total amount I owed became more than 2,000,000 won. I could not pay this off, but instead had to borrow yet another 600,000 won promising to pay 1,200,000 won by the Lunar New Year. On New Year’s Day, I implored the infuriated Sung Ro-ul who came to settle the debt, promising to pay 2,200,000 won for those loans before February 16th. Sung Ro-ul is usually a carefree man who likes alcohol and does not care about money too much, but his wife is awful.

Many days have passed since my daughter, Kyung Suk, was supposed to send me money from China where she went to live three years ago. However, I am worried about her now that I have not received any money from her and she has not called me to let me know that she is fine. My daughter mentioned that she had married a Chinese man near Mokdan River and that she had been living at least without starvation, but I do not understand why she has not contacted me recently. Sung Ro-ul is a Chinese broker who delivered Kyung Suk’s money to me with which I was able to live day to day. I should not have borrowed money from him even if my business did not do well last year. In the beginning, the Chinese loan shark took 10% of the money my daughter sent, but then charged 20% at some point after. Starting last year, he started charging 30%. In some cases, the loan shark could take up to 50% from those who are extremely powerless. Since there was nobody to report to or listen to the victims of this ruthless business, the victims cannot say anything so that they could keep at least some of the money after the horrendously high interest is charged. Furthermore, they (the loan sharks) have connections with the Department of Security. Even though their abuse is too much to bear, their victims know that it would not be worth a fight.

Our people, who crossed the river at the border risking their lives, work so hard to earn money in China only to fatten the pockets of these Chinese residents in North Korea rather than to be used by their families in need of the extra support. I heard that by just making phone calls, these Chinese loan sharks could make 50,000 to 60,000 Chinese Yuan a year while some even make over 100,000 Chinese Yuan a year. Even my family was ripped off money that was worth a house by a loan shark. It is the money that my daughter Kyung Suk saved by working so hard and not eating or spending on herself to send to us. Thanks to the money sent by my daughter, we got acquainted with Sung Ro-ul. Being an acquaintance of a loan shark has certain benefits such as enjoying a meal or a few drinks after working for him. I can sometimes feel the envious eyes of my neighbors on me when I am with the loan shark. They consider me as a servant for the landlord as in a feudal society, which is not untrue in a way.

Sung Ro-ul would work on minor things around his house, but for major jobs, he is called for in charge of the work and forms a group among our neighbors to do the work. The loan shark typically feeds the workers very well; however, he will not allow workers inside his house. This is because he considers North Koreans as manner-less and greedy who would try to borrow or steal anything they see if the opportunity is granted. So, he carefully watches North Korean workers to make sure they will not steal or take anything from his house. If he could, he would do a full body search. He claims that something is always missing after many people visit his place. These missing items are usually not new or valuable items, but things that have no real value such as toilet paper or a used shoe. I think he could claim this since he has everything and anything. His house has all the premium products made in China. It seems the Chinese are very good at making everything and anything that one can imagine.

Sung Ro-ul is ruthless businessmen when it comes to money. When they lend money, they request a notarized document with a finger print and a co-signer. I borrowed money from the loan shark this way. However, I have no way to pay back the debt by its due date, the Lunar New Year, since I have not heard from Kyung Suk for more than 2 months no matter how hard I try to find a way. The only thing I can think of is waiting for her to send some money. I pray every day that my daughter will get back in touch with me and send me even a small amount of money so that I can appease the loan shark for a while.

North Korea Today No. 441 February 8, 2012

[“Good Friends” aims to help the North Korean people from a humanistic point of view and publishes “North Korea Today” describing the way the North Korean people live as accurately as possible. We at Good Friends also hope to be a bridge between the North Korean people and the world.]
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[Intro] Urgent Need to Restart the Reunion of Divided Families
Border Control: “Don’t use guns” in Consideration of China
North Koreans Want China-style Economic Development
“We need food more than we need nuclear weapons”
Three Factors Hurting Productivity at Hoeryong Cigarette Factory: Shortage of Power and Water, People Management
“I hope for free exchanges of divided families”
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[Intro] Urgent Need to Restart the Reunion of Divided Families
At the end of last year, we received a call asking for a subscription to North Korea Today from an elderly man in South Chung-Cheong Province. He said that he had just learned about North Korea Today and wished to receive all the editions, including past ones. He eagerly wanted to know the details about the situation in North Korea because he had an older brother in Pyongyang. He had met his brother at the reunion of divided families in 2003.

In 2008, he sent $2500 to his niece, who lives in Pyongyang, upon receiving a request for help from her, through a friend of hers in South Korea. However, the friend took the money in the middle of the process. Later, $1500 was sent via a defector, but the money disappeared en route - money kept disappearing every time middlemen route, even on the third and forth tries. The elderly man eventually went to Dandong in person last year and talked with his niece, and sent her $1800 by finding someone [whom he could trust].

According to the niece, living in Pyongyang is so harsh that she manged to survive until now only by selling a gold ring that was given to her by her uncle at the reunion of divided families. The elder also told us that people should keep searching for their divided family members without being discouraged because there is always a way, although he himself had failed many times.

Despite spending lots of money on searching for divided family members, those affected still feel heartbroken and confused, due to the dysfunctional relationship between South and North Korea. We should remember that these people left their hometowns in order to survive, not because they disliked their hometowns and never wanted to go back.

We, all together, should resolve the pain rendered by these times, so the divided family can see their loved ones whom they are searching for. They must be able to meet each other while at least one more family member is still alive.

If only to resolve the issue of reunion of divided families, abductees, and food support for North Korea, the government of North and South Korea must cooperate unconditionally with each other.


Border Control Order: “Don’t use guns” in Consideration of China
The Central Party has issued an order to the security department and military not to use guns along the national border areas. Last year, it had ordered to shoot anyone secretly crossing the border who does not stop by the third warning. It cited that there were many spies sent by the South Korean intelligence crossing Tumen and Yalu to steal classified information from the North. However, it has recently changed its policy in consideration of China, stating, “We should reinforce our national border, but do not use guns in a way that could negatively influence the friendship between North Korea and China. Do not shoot but try to arrest river-crossers in cooperation with the Chinese border control. It also has ordered not to treat poorly any Chinese people suspicious of illegal activities during the preliminary investigation. This is to avoid any harsh torture or violence that could spur diplomatic friction. North Korean residents, while welcoming the news of the ban on guns, expressed their wish that the authorities would consider their own people even a quarter as much as they consider the Chinese.


North Koreans Want China-style Economic Development
A Central Party official said the recent nation-wide surveys on the sentiment of the people showed that their perception of the new leadership was not bad. The conclusion from the reports from all over the country conducted since last October revealed that people of North Korea wanted a huge change in their economy but not in their political system.

“The result of the secret investigations by the security offices in all parts of the nation shows that the people of North Korea really want Comrade Kim Jong-un to pursue economic development following the Chinese example. It is not only the opinion of ordinary people but also of Parity and regional officials. If you consider our closer-than-ever relationship with China, it is not a surprise. People want Chinese style economic growth”, he continued.

Reading the reports, it seems that people talk among themselves in anticipation of something new happening. However, most people think against any military conflict including inter-Korean military actions. In his opinion, although people have a habit of saying “I wish a war breaks out,” it is just an expression of their distress from harsh life, not that they really want a war.

According to the official, “There has been no human resources replacement or movement in local government offices since the General (Kim Jong-il) passed away. No sign of movement in the military, either. The General had formed a new leadership comprised of his close relatives and key aides since 2010, and the succession process has been completed in September last year. The Kim Jong-un era began in October. His consideration and support for bureaucrats is higher than that of the previous era. There is no reason for bureaucrats’ loyalty to decline.”

Nonetheless, his support for ordinary people is still insufficient. The birthday of Kim Jong-un was not declared as a holiday. There was no food ration or special holiday gifts either during the three-day holidays for the lunar New Year’s Day. Most people except for government officials and employees of some rich companies had to celebrate the holidays with nothing. Party officials only made some excuses, saying, “We need to save on food. The food situation is bad because of the last year’s floods in the breadbasket areas in the South. There will be lots of rations on the holiday of February 16.”

Pyongyang City is having a hard time as well after boasting that it would provide full electricity supply from January. The power supply for the Central District, downtown, special companies and offices got somewhat better, but the supply for the general public is unstable. Some say it got even worse. A Central Party official says that supplying sufficient clothing, food, and housing is the only way for the new leadership to earn trust of its people.


“We need food more than we need nuclear weapons”
One officer from the Central Party stated that a phrase which frequently appears in the local population status report is, “We need food more than we need nuclear weapons.” On the other hand, young adults and middle-aged people say the following all the time: “If the communist paradise mentioned by the Great Leader Kim Il-sung, who sits in a palatial house and eats white rice and beef soup, is not realized yet again, I will carry the nuclear weapon myself, vault over the military demarcation line, swim the Pacific Ocean, and set off the bomb in America.” If someone points out how this statement contradicts the previous one saying that they “need more food than nuclear weapons,” they say, “we will be dead anyway if we just do nothing, so it is just an expression to call for any action; it does not mean that we are really willing to wage the war. The expression reflects the desperate states into which we are cornered.”

This is to say that even though the minds of the people are changing, many of them still believe that they are impoverished because of the oppression and sanctions against North Korea by the United States. In the past, however, people were only allowed to say things such as the General, reunification, or the Juche revolution in a meeting; these days, they usually talk about how to eat and make a living such as how to live well, how China, located across the river, made money and developed such prosperity, or when they can follow the footsteps of China. They can be arrested for uttering anti-revolutionary words, but people rarely report or regulate such statements to the authorities. Rather, a bond of consensus is formed on the assertion that they should accept the method and advanced technology of China.

In the 1980s, those who had good social status and financial power were the Korean-Japanese residents; but these days, it is the overseas Chinese residents in North Korea. The overseas Chinese residents are the ones who regulate the market price and import goods in bulk, and the number of North Korean people who live off the overseas Chinese residents has increased rapidly. The government officers, not to mention the merchants in the market, believe that the market was turned over to the Chinese capitalism headed by overseas Chinese residents. The government officers think the following: “As the relationship with China is improved, the economy will be developed more like the Chinese way. The regime will be more stabilized, and the economy will be developed more.”

“I do not know specifically what it is to develop the economy like the Chinese, but there is no hope in the current situation, and the only desire of the people is to become well-off like China,” says an officer from the Central Party.


Three Factors Hurting Productivity at a Cigarette Factory in Hoeryong: Shortage of Power and Water, People Management

The Daesung cigarette factory in Hoeryong, North Hamgyung Province, which is supported with the investment by the Chungdo Company in China, is the premier cigarette factory that Kim Jong-il, Chairman of National Defense, surely visited when he had his field supervision in Hoeryong City. The cigarette factory was converted from a Goksan factory, which was built by the former Soviet Union. The raw material, equipments, and technical know-how are now provided by China.

One Chinese technician has been placed at the factory as a long-term resident employee, and North Korean workers are sent to the head factory of Chungdo Company to be instructed in skills when needed. Including one general manager, five maintenance workers, eight technicians, and a security officer, the total employees number approximately 90. The average monthly salary of the general workers is 3,000 won, but it would be around 5,500 – 6,000 won per person if they have special bonuses. The Chinese company pays the salary of $50.00 per each North Korean worker to Daesung Trade Company. The company provides lunch that consists of two pieces of corn bread, a bowl of vegetable porridge, and pickled napa cabbage.

The company uses their own generator when there is no power because the power supply is not steady. In case of emergency, they use saved water in a 1 ton size container, which was brought by the Chinese company. They preserve water when it is being supplied because the supply is not reliable.

Besides the shortage of water and power, overly frequent mobilization of workers to work on non-compensated community labor is another reason for the dropping productivity rate. The Chinese technicians confide that they can temporarily handle the shortage of water and power; however, it’s the improper human resource management of North Korean workers that makes the productivity rate drop.


“I hope for the free exchanges of divided families”
Kim Hak-ryong (alias) living in Musan, North Hamkyung Province, witnessed a tearful reunion of a divided family. It was a reunion of a father who left for the South in November 1950 during the war and his family in the North after being apart for 63 years. It was Kim’s first time arranging a meeting of a divided family, and he says he would never do it again. It was such a knee-trembling experience for him. He unpacks the story with a wish to give hope to other divided families:

“Hwang Tae-seob (alias) is eighty years old and is originally from Myeong-chun, North Hamkyung Province. He had a wife and two sons. He left for the South alone when his older son was three years old and his younger son only a few-months-old infant. He never imagined he would be apart from his children for a lifetime. After the formal diplomatic relations between Beijing and Seoul was established, Hwang frequently visited China and spent much money, more than 10 million won, to send people to Myungcheon in an effort to find his children. At the time of Inter-Korean Summit in 2000, Hwang filed an application to participate in the family reunion, but was not successful. He tried to find his family several more times afterwards, and this task somehow found its way to me. Though I decided to take it because of the money, I was nervous. I had traded goods at several places but never searched for people. Anyhow, I did not do it alone. Several people took parts in the mission. I took the responsibility for finding the individuals and bringing them to Beijing. I told Hwang that it would not be easy because the border control had been strengthened recently. I went to look for his two children only with their names and the address from 1950. From Musan to Cheongjin and then from Cheongjin to Myeongchun, it cost me 30 thousand won. Through a few rounds of searching, I finally located the brothers. At the news that their father from the South was looking for them, the brothers showed mixed feelings of joy, fears, confusion and sadness. Because both of them following a stranger would be seen with suspicion, we decided only the elder one would cross the Tumen River next day with me.

At the border, I bribed two soldiers with 2,000 yuan. Through a hole that had been made with the help of another person, we crossed the barbed-wire fence. Because the troops and armed police patrol the border even during the night, we had to leave the border area as quickly as possible. We walked for four to five hours across mountains, having to avoid main roads. We followed the barking of the dogs and we reached a Han Chinese household raising cows.

We paid 200 yuan to lodge for one night, and we started to walk again the next day morning after having two hurried bowls of rice together with well-steamed pork meat. By lunch time, we had paid 200 yuan for a meal at one of Han ethnic families that cultivate ginseng. We slept in a mud hut during that day while drying out our wet shoes. We could not walk anymore in the afternoon since we were so tired. We departed in a hurry the next morning and called a taxi once we arrived at a small city before lunch time. A taxi from Ryongjeong (Longjing) arrived in less than an hour. We checked in at an inn in Yeonkil (Yenji) for 100 yuan. We spent 300 yuan in taking a bath, eating our fill, and sleeping as much as we wanted. We informed the people in Seoul of our whereabouts and made a reservation on the bus for Beijing. The next day at 12 pm, we got on a bus for Beijing. The price was 350 yuan each.

Although train is more convenient for a long distance trip, we used bus since we were concerned about a sudden police inspection. We arrived in Beijing the next morning. When we arrived at the appointed place, Mr. Hwang was already there. I was about to observe the reunion of a father and son who had lived separately for more than 60 years. An 88 year old gray-haired father and a 65 year old gray-haired son met at last. It was not possible that they could recognize each other since the father left home when the son was only three years old. While the family-members of Mr. Hwang watched, the father and son checked out each other’s identity for more than an hour. After their thorough search about their old home address, mother’s name, age, and birth day, uncle and aunt’s name, grandfather’s and grandmother’s name, and other relatives’ address, and after having some time of tracing back their memories, they started to cry out, hugging each other. Other people also started to cry as they witnessed the father and son reunion.

After three days, Mr. Hwang handed over $3,000 to me expressing his appreciation. It was the biggest amount of money I had ever had in my hands. I felt bewildered. Mr. Hwang gave two golden rings, two golden watches, and two golden necklaces to his son, as well as $5,000 cash. The father and son had to say goodbye in tears. It was a heartbreaking reality that they had to say goodbye again only after three day’s reunion. Mr. Hwang said that he has four children from his marriage in South Korea. He told me that the people who accompanied him were his sons. The sons from the South told their older half brother that they wished for his health and hoped to see each other again when the countries get united. The son from the North also had to return to his home town since he has his own wife and children.

The father came back to Seoul with pictures of the second son and the eldest son’s family. The eldest son returned home in Myungcheon as well after 50 days of unbelievably risky journey. Out of five thousand dollars that his father gave to him, the eldest son exchanged a thousand dollar into Renminbi. He paid 2,000 yuan to soldiers of the border and 2,000 yuan additionally to the guide who helped him cross the Tumen River. When he got back and tried to share his father’s presents with his younger brother, he didn’t share everything evenly together with his brother. Actually, a gold ring, a gold necklace and several children’s clothes are given to his younger brother. The eldest decided to keep two gold watches and all cash, including 1,500 yuan, left over after spending for his return journey. However, after arguing with his wife for a long time, he gave only a thousand dollar to his brother. His brother and sister-in-law took money and other stuffs with great gratitude without knowing that they deserved more. The younger brother’s family was happy enough because they didn’t have to keep having corn noodle only. The eldest and his family can survive without worries for about 10 years with what he keeps now, 3,000 dollars, 1,500 yuan, two gold watches, and “made-in-China” good quality clothes that he bought in Yeonkil (Yenji). He is not so sure what will happen when his younger brother gets to know about the unfair share in the future. However, he just ignored all of his guilt because it’s a natural part of human instinct to be greedy if you are in need.

During all this time, I went through so many indescribable feelings. Leaving other feelings aside, I think that it is lucky for separate family members to be able to ascertain the matter of their family’s life or death by seeing each other, even for only a brief time. How many families are suffering in the Korean Peninsula now? How desperately do they want to see their parents, siblings and relatives? If we agree that they will die sooner than later, I don’t think that anyone can deny the urgent need for divided families’ reunion. Ironically, even though I make a living thanks to those divided families, I think that the reunion day shouldn’t be delayed any longer.
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