‘Yellow Spring’ in North Korea…Similiar To The Food Shortage in 1998

Daily NK
Kim Young Jin
5/28/2006

North Korea is facing the hardest “yellow spring” right now. ‘Yellow Spring’ means the hardest time of the year in North Korea. “Yellow spring” originates from how the sky looks yellow because of starvation.

Mr. Lee Hyun Soo (46) who crossed the Tumen River on 15 May said, “It is hard to endure day by day”.

Mr. Lee, head of a household of four said, “Rumors of people going to China and South Korea go around. I tried not to cross the border, but I did because of my family members who are starving”. He complained, “The government have been acting like they would give us food for a long time, but they deceived us”.

Recently, North Koreans who cannot make their ends meet like Mr. Lee started to cross the Tumen River again. The reporter met 5 North Koreans including Mr. Lee. They met with the reporter at a secret place in Yanji, and expressed strong discontents about the situation of food shortage in North Korea and the policy regarding food distribution system.

Mr. Choi Young Nam (37) said, “I have been waiting since the 1st of April. I know that there are even less rice in spring, so where would the rice come from? They cannot deceive us like this”. Mr. Choi said. “In January and February, rice for 2~3 days were given to the old and supporting families. After that, we bought the rice at Jangmadang price at the distribution center”.

The official price of rice is 45won($0.015) for rice and 25won($0.0083) for corn. After North Korea resumed its food distribution system, the government regulated the rice transaction at Jangmadang while selling rice at 950 won($0.32) and corn at 350 won($0.12), which is same as Jangmadang price. Recently, price at Jangmadang went over 1300 won($0.433) and the price at distribution center went up accordingly.
“Similar To The Situation At The End Of Food Shortage In 1998”

They say, “Family of those who work at the government, police and national security agency store up food for one year. People who work at powerful organizations such as Office #5 (foreign currency earning office under office #39 under the Party, loocated at each city and province) receive food, but other workplaces do not distribute food anymore”.

After the 7.1 Economic Management Improvement Measure in 2002, policy which orders each organization to provide for their workers has been adopted; workplaces with power can feed the workers, while poor factories cannot. People generally have an attitude that does not care if others can eat or not.

Mr. Park who was involved in ‘suitcase business’ with Chinese said, “Everyone is involved in trade, and I could not even break even because I could not sell the goods at fair price”.

Mr. Park who is employed at a steel factory in Hoeryong has three family members to support. Mr. Park crossed theTumen River to earn money by farming in China, because it seemed hopeless and difficult to live in North Korea. Following is what Mr. Park said.

“The situation is similar to the situation at the end of food shortage in 1998. The number of people who come to China will increase soon. People at the border area know that why they are so poor because they are involved in trade with Chineses. All they have in their heart is anger”.

“Living By Grassroots and Porridge, The Old and The Sick Are Dying Of Starvation”

Mr. Hyun Joo Hoon (50) who sold goods in Pyongan and Hwanghae Province says, “People in Pyongan Province are worse off than those in border area”.

People in Pyongan Province and at border area both do not receive food from distribution system, but people in provinces without the capital to start business began to eat grassroots and porridge for meals. Mr. Hyun said, “I ate corn porridge because I only received five day worth of food”. Mr. Hyun said, he had seen the sick and the old dying of starvation at Soonchun and Dukchun in South Pyongan Province.

Mr. Hyun said, “It is because the government regulated the outflow of food to other provinces as the government ordered the regional governments to distribute food on their own”. In the fall of last year, North Korean government has regulated the outflow of food by placing posts at highways connecting different cities and districts.

Mr. Lee added, “People in the inner provinces believe the propaganda of the North Korean government that the reason for the poverty is the economic sanction by imperialists, even when they are dying. Unless their thoughts change, they cannot even resist”.

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