Kang Chol-hwan on Hamhung

From the Choson Ilbo:

I visited Hamhung many times before defecting to South Korea, and whenever I went I felt distinctly uncomfortable. Hooligans clustering at the railroad station glared at the goods carried by pedestrians and provoked quarrels if they thought you were looking at them. At construction sites in Pyongyang, the word was that Hamhung people were wild. Often there were gang fights at project sites where tens of thousands of youths from different regions had been mobilized, and Hamhung youngsters were always the most violent. The city was home to the greatest number of organized gangs, and even police officers couldn’t handle them. Hamhung also has more access to outside world as it is an intermediary place through which all things coming in through the northern border with China pass.

As long as 20 years ago, markets in Hamhung were so active that almost everything was available there. It was here, among other cities, that market traders rioted in the wake of a recent disastrous currency reform since they suffered greater damage due to the bigger size of the markets.

I also got the impression that many young people in Hamhung listened to South Korean broadcasts, and those who didn’t know South Korean pop songs were treated as country bumpkins. The people there struck me as more resilient than in any other city, and that may be a reason that the city often sees public executions.

Read the full story here:
Kim Jong-il’s Visit to Hamhung Is a Bad Sign
Choson Ilbo
Kang Chol-hwan


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