Let’s Reform and Liberalize, Please!

Daily NK
Kim Young Jin
1/13/2006

The North Korean people feel they have reached a limit in enduring daily hardships.

The North Korean defectors recently found in China all say, “There is no other way to live unless (North Korea) opens up.” They are “tired of living.”

Last October, the North Korean state officially announced a restart of the food distribution system. It requested the halt of food aid from the WFP and demanded for a withdrawal of international rescue NGOs in Pyongyang.

However, the North Koreans who escaped to China testify that the empty promise for the good distribution system was never fulfilled.

Hur Chul Min who defected from Musan said, “They said they will distribute food starting in October, but all I got was 9 kg of corn in November.” Hur, who was a miner, must have received 900g of corn per day, which makes 27kg a month according to regulations. However, he received enough for only ten days.

The North Korean state last year put out a slogan saying, “Farming Prioritization” and the same slogan prevails this year. Hur says the only reason why the state returned the food distribution system is to earn loyalty from the people. The North Korean people already know all about it.

The following is the interview with Hur in full text.

– How is the situation of food distribution for Musan Mine this year?

On the October 10 holiday, they gave all the companies an order to make food cards. They said because farming this year was successful, they will give us food. They gave us food for ten days in November, but after that, they kept telling us to wait because there is not enough of food at the distribution centers. Those who started working again because the state promised food distribution, started to talk again, that they will only get “word distribution.”

– What do you mean by “Word distribution”?

It means they only give us words instead of food. People were deceived so many times that they no longer believe in the government promises.

– Did the government control of the people intensify?

The National Security Office orders the people to go to work. The people’s committee conducts family counts and reports the people who do not work. It is better to disappear from home. If you don’t come to work for two days, the mine patrol come to your home to take you. Even when you eat gruel, they demand you to work.

– How long did you work at Musan Mine?

I worked for 18 years. There was a lack in the workforce, so when I graduated middle school, I was “levied” to the mine by the state. None of my peers could go to the military. Starting in 1994, we did not receive any wages. Until 1997, we lived on grass. Starting in 1998, people started to sell things, and found ways to survive.

– Is it true that the farming last year was a success?

I do not know because I worked in a mine. After they ordered the “farming prioritization” policy, people were not allowed to stay jobless. Those who were selling things were forced to work. The road patrol caught those who hitchhiked to do their business. Those without travel permits were taken to the farms to pull out weeds.

– Did the situation improve after the 7.1 Economic Management Measure?

Immediately after the government implemented the 7.1 Economic Management Measure in 2002, the wages increased instantly. At the time my status was a level 4 technician, so I received 2,500 Won ($1.25) a month. Those who had level 6 status received 4,500 Won ($2.25). It made everyone happy at first. However, in less than two months, the price of goods increased more than 50 times.

Rice that used to cost 70 Won ($0.035) per kilo was now 1,200 Won ($0.6) per kilo. Meat enough for a meal cost more than 2,000 Won ($1). Wages were not given on time. They told us to consider the wages not given to have been saved, and gave us a ticket. They said, once the production takes place, they will give us the accumulated wages. But we never received them. Actually, after taking out support fees for the People’s Army and health insurance fees, there isn’t much left anyway. If you don’t have your own business, you will die.

– Have you ever received rice from South Korea?

I saw rice sacks that had “Republic of Korea” printed come into the Chongjin Port. However, for us, they are only cakes in pictures. They took all of them to the military in three days. On a day like that, you have so much rice in the market. The price of rice drops dramatically and those who can afford it buy a lot of rice to store. Their intention is to sell it when the price increases.

Now the people know why they are so poor. Whenever people gather, they openly say they want reformation and liberalization to take place at last.

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