Archive for the ‘Good Friends’ Category

DPRK authorities reclaim plots for tree planting

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
NK Brief No. 08-11-18-1

The South Korean civic organization ‘Good Friends’ recently reported that North Korean authorities have prohibited North Koreans from working private plots in the mountains which had been cleared and used for grain production, and have recently begun replanting trees in these areas.

A source for Good Friends stated, “The Central Party decreed last September 29th, ‘The Fatherland’s mountains and fields must be adorned with green so that not one single desolate plot exists by the year 2012.’” Accordingly, garden plots are already being reclaimed from individuals and planted with trees.

North Korea is declaring 2012, the year which marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung and the 70th birthday of Kim Jong Il, ‘The Year Opening the Gates to a Strong and Prosperous Nation’.

The source stated that local residents in Booryung, North Hamm planted corn, potatoes, beans, and millet on those plots, relying on them for between 3 and 6 months worth of food, and that with the new decree prohibiting farming, more people would die. 

*NKeconWatch: The DPRK just recently replaced its Minister of Forestry.  This is his first large-scale policy initiative. 


Venerable Pomnyun at Johns Hopkins

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

UPDATE:Here is V. Pomnyun’s outline: pomnyun.pdf

NKeconWatch notes:
Agriculture: April – June are the lean months.  In July 2008 potatoes helped alleviate food shortage.  Also aid from West. Things began to get worse in August and September.

Earlier this year, the price of rice was up to 5x higher than a year ago.  In June-July it fell to 3x higher.  Now it is creeping back up.

Arduous March: In the 1990s, urban residents of North Hamgyong Province was the worst affected by famine.  Today, the worst affected are the farmers and rural residents of Hwangae (he did not specify north or south).  Shortage as bad as 1st arduous march, but fewer consumers and markets feed cities now.

Markets: protests in Chongjin.  People chanted, “Give us food or let us trade.”  None of the protests are political, just expressions of frustration.

Nukes:Nuclear weapons are a domestic propaganda weapon as well. Not just a matter of foreign policy.

Original Post:
Program details here
Wednesday, September 24
2:00 – 4:00 pm
Rome Auditorium at SAIS
1619 Massachusetts Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20036
RSVP here

The Venerable Pomnyun Sunim, Chairman of Good Friends and The Peace Foundation, will discuss the current political and social climate in North Korea, including the spread of the black market economy and the increase in political control over North Korea’s elite. Joining his discussion, is Dr. Cho Seong-ryoul, Director of the New Security Studies Program at the Institute for National Security Strategy (INSS), who will offer his insights on current and future inter-Korean relations.


Prices, deaths rise as grain stores run low

Sunday, August 24th, 2008

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
NK Brief No. 08-22-1

As the international community’s food aid to North Korea falls short of North Korean citizens’ expectations, previously falling rice prices have begun to rise again in August, according to ‘Good Friends’, a South Korean organization working for human rights in the DPRK.

In a recent issue (no. 189) of the group’s newsletter, “North Korea Today”, it was reported that “the amount of outside food [North Korean] authorities had promised did not come in, and at the same time, the rumor that not even smuggled rice from China had been able to come in since August spread among traders, raising the price 200-300 [DPRK] Won per day” for a kilogram of rice.

Last May, the price of rice had risen to 4000 won per kilogram, but began to fall as news of food aid from the United States emerged, bottoming out at 2300-2400 won last month. It has now risen back to between 2900-3050 won.

The newsletter reports that the reason prices are climbing is that in June, North Korean authorities were spreading the word that plenty of food would be coming in from the United States and other overseas donors, but in July, when expectations were not met, concern grew that supplies would run out. This led traders to horde stocks, driving prices up.

According to a North Korean document acquired by ‘Good Friends’ titled “Statistics on 2008 Lean Season Farmer Starvation”, as many as twenty to thirty people per farm died of hunger during the spring lean season (April-June). The document listed the cause of death simply ‘death from disease’, with no reference to what particular disease had befallen the victims, but ‘Good Friends’ reports that North Korean medical officials are saying the cause of death was malnutrition.

It also reports that at the Taesungri Farm, visited on several occasions by both Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, poor harvests last year meant that the government was only able to provide two months worth of rations, leading to an increase in deaths during the lean season. In July, as small amounts of the year’s first crop began to be distributed, there were no deaths, but as August rolled around, people again began to die one or two at a time.


Price of DPRK rice drops

Tuesday, July 1st, 2008

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES) 
NK Brief No. 08-6-26-1

One kilogram of rice in North Korea, the price of which shot up to as much as 4,500 DPRK won last month, has reportedly fallen in price this month by up to 2000 won.

According to a North Korean source, on June 10, one kilogram of rice was selling for between 2,500 & [] 2,700 across the country, quoting prices from cities such as Horyong and Chongjin (North Hamgyong Province), Wonsan (Kangwon Province), Sinuiju (North Pyongan Province), Kangye (Changang Province), Kangso (South Pyongan Province), and Haeju (South Hwangae Province). The source explained, “as soon as rice prices skyrocketed, smuggling in the border region picked up and permission to export 100,000 tons [of grain] came from the Chinese government, and as this occurred, the import food eased a little.”

The source also said that spreading news of food aid from the United States was also an important factor in the falling grain prices.

However, the source stressed, “While the price is falling, food prices are still more than three times what they were last year, so citizens with no money have a hard time feeding themselves…in agricultural regions with no money, famine is spreading regardless of falling grain prices.”

It was also reported that on June 11, a shipment of corn arrived at Chongjin Port (North Hamgyong Province) and distribution to workers has begun, while on the 12th, polished rice, corn, and other grains entered Heungnam Port (South Hamgyong Province) was distribution began the next day. Corn was priced at 800 won per kilogram, easier to purchase than the 1,200 & [] 1,300 won prices found in markets, but more than two times as expensive as market prices at this time last year.

Good Friends, an organization working to aid North Korean people, reported in its newsletter, “Between the end of June and beginning of July, workers in Pyongyang will receive 2 kg of polished rice, 7 kg of milled corn, and 5kg of Southeast Asian rice, for a total of 14 kilograms of rations per person…in the areas surrounding Pyongyang many people cannot work due to starvation,” and they had a hard time swallowing news of these rations.


US food aid arrives in DPRK

Sunday, June 29th, 2008

According to CNN:

A U.S. ship has arrived at a North Korean port carrying 38,000 tons of food aid to be distributed to some of the millions living in hunger, U.N. sources said Sunday.

The delivery is part of a new deal signed by U.S., U.N., and North Korean officials and others, which gives outsiders — including the U.N. World Food Program — much greater access to the country.

From the New York Times:

The ship’s visit and the North Korean agreement to invite an additional 50 international relief experts from the World Food Program, as well as a consortium of U.S. relief agencies, followed recent progress in six-nation talks on ending the North’s nuclear weapons programs.

For years, North Korea has guarded its people from contact with outside aid workers. The WFP, the largest international aid group operating in North Korea, currently has only 10 international personnel based in North Korea.

After sailing for several weeks from the U.S. west coast, the American-flagged M/V Baltimore arrived in Nampo, the North’s main port near Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, on Sunday evening.

On Monday, it began unloading half of its cargo of 37,000 tons of U.S.-grown wheat, Risley said. The ship will discharge the other half of its cargo at Hungnam and Chongjin, ports on the North’s eastern coast.

The shipment is the first installment of 500,000 tons in promised U.S. aid that will be distributed by the WFP and U.S. aid groups, such as Mercy Corps.

Before the ship’s arrival, North Korea agreed on Friday to allow the WFP to deploy the largest number of international workers since it began operations there in 1996 amid a famine that eventually killed an estimated 2 million North Koreans.

Until now, the WFP has had access to only 50 of the North’s 200 counties, distributing its aid through nurseries, schools, hospitals and orphanages. Under the new agreement, the agency will have access to 128 counties, including the remote and traditionally deprived northeast region and some counties never before accessible to humanitarian agencies.

The wheat shipment arrived just days after North Korea delivered a long-delayed nuclear declaration.

Meanwhile, the North rejected a South Korean offer to ship 50,000 tons of corn, the Seoul government said on Monday.

From the Associated Press

Sunday’s wheat shipment will be enough for the WFP to expand its operations to feed more than 5 million people, up from 1.2 million people now getting international aid.

On the supply side, anticipation of this aid, plus Russian aid, and increased Chinese grain exports could be behind recent reports that grain prices are falling in North Korea’s markets

Read the full articles here:
Seoul offers corn aid to Pyongyang

Food aid reaches North Korea

U.S. Food Aid Arrives in North Korea
New York Times
Choe Sang-Hun

UN: US food aid arrives in North Korea
Associated Press
Burt Herman


‘Good Friends’ launches video appeal

Monday, June 9th, 2008

Seoul-based “Good Friends” says North Korea is dangerously short of food.  The group released video interviews with disguised North Korean officials appealing for food aid.  They claim one or two people are dying each day in every district of several of North Korea’s southern provinces, which were hardest hit by last year’s heavy flooding. 

 From Voice of America:

One North Korean man says farmers have consumed all of their seed corn and grain and are suffering the most.  Hunger has also brought education to a halt.

“Teachers are saying that if food conditions remain in this precarious state, children will not report to school regularly,” he said. “When the teachers try to get the students to come to school, they are always told that either the children have to go begging for food with their parents, or that they are lying in bed because of starvation.”

“In some districts, workers have not received a month’s worth of rations.  This is the reason why workers are not coming to their factories,” an unidentified Korean said.

Check out the videos on the Voice of America web page:
South Korean Aid Group Releases Video Testimonies Of North’s Food Crisis
Voice of America
Kurt Achin


Recent rice prices skyrocket in DPRK

Friday, June 6th, 2008

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

Even North Korea’s North and South Hwanghae Provinces, an area known as the DPRK’s ‘Ricebowl’, now appears to be suffering severe rice shortages, with prices at the end of last month hitting 4,000~4,500 DPRK Won per kg, more than three times the cost of a kilogram of rice last February, according to a June 5 report by Good Friends, a human rights group focusing its efforts on North Korea.

According to Good Friends’ latest newsletter, prices across South Hwanghae Province all rose to 4,500 DPRK Won on May 30, and at the same time, prices in South Hwanghae rose to over 4,000 DPRK Won per kg. In Sariwon, North Hwanghae Province, rice was 1,350 DPRK Won/kg in February, rose to 1,700 DPRK Won/kg in March, climbed again to 2,200 DPRK Won/kg in April, then shot up to 2,500 DPRK Won/kg on the 10 th of last month, 3,500 DPRK Won on the 25 th, and 4,200 DPRK Won on the 30 th. As the average monthly wage of a North Korean laborer is thought to be around 3,000 DPRK Won, rice selling at 4,000 DPRK Won/kg is well out of reach.

Corn prices in the Sariwon region at the end of last month was 1,950 DPRK Won/kg, 270 percent higher than the 720 Won prices seen in February, and the newsletter reported that prices throughout North and South Hwanghae Province were generally 1,950-2000 DPRK Won/kg. In particular, the newsletter stressed that at one military base in the Hwanghae area, rations have run so short that officers with children under the age of 12 will be ordered to send their families to their parents’ or in-law’s house until rations are reissued in November.

The newsletter drives the point home by pointing out, “These officers that send their families will take their meals on base…this is the first time since the ‘arduous march’ that there has been an order to send families [away] because of this kind of ration shortage.”


Good Friends publishes price data

Tuesday, April 15th, 2008

North Korea Today No. 119 Apr 2008
End of March, Price of Rice and Maize Reaches Highest Level in History


(click on image for more legible version)

The price of foodstuffs is increasing at an incredible pace. On March 30th, for the first time in the country, the price of rice went over the 2,000won per kilogram mark and was traded for 2,050won in the city of Nampo. In the case of maize, the situation is even more extreme. The rumors that the price of maize would go over 1,000won in April became a reality and was being sold for 1,000won in places like Pyongyang, Chungjin, and Hamheung, while in Nampo, it was being traded for 1,050won. In other outlying regions, maize was still being traded at high prices ranging from 900won-950won. Only in areas like Onsung, Hoeryung, and some border areas in North Hamgyong Province was rice being traded at the comparatively low price of 1,600won for rice and 650-750won for maize.


Price of Flour Goes Up, So Difficult to Sell Dumplings

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

Daily NK
Yang Jung A

Due to the food export restraint imposed by China, the price of food items have been rising significantly recently, revealed Good Friends, a nongovernmental organization for North Korea, through a newsletter released on the 30th.

The newsletter relayed, “The price of rice, flour, corn, and grains has been continuously rising due to a systematic adjustment in trade exchange with China. With the Beijing Olympics ahead, the duties on food items have gone up 5% for rice, 20% for corn, and 20~25% for flour.

The newsletter also divulged that “China demands an export permit for grains. Rice and corn are flowing into North Korea because the export permits issued last year still remain in effect. However, China has not yet demanded any export permits for flour, and therefore flour cannot be exported to North Korea.”

“As a result, the price of flour has been increasing rapidly within just a month. In December of last year, the price of flour remained at 1,000 won per unit for the most part, but since the new year, it rose to 1,700 won per unit. People who have been selling bread, dumplings, and snacks have not been able to do business due to the shortage of flour.”

The source relayed, “The North Korean custom house has been requesting a quality verification report on par with international standards at the time of the importing of Chinese food products, but a majority of merchants with whom food is traded has not been able to follow the new standard yet, saying such documents are hard to provide.”

“So, the food items have not been imported into the market, which has caused the price to continuously rise due to the lack of provisions. Nowadays, even if people tried to buy a 1 kg of rice for over 1,400 won, they are unable. Chinese companies who have been dealing with North Korea have predicted that the cease in trading with Chosun (North Korea) will give rise to a food shortage.

The Ministry of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China announced the process of registration and 2008 conditions for registration for milled farming export quarter on the 19th and has implemented a method for the provisional food export of rice, corn, and flour starting January of this year. Related parties of North Korea-Chinese trade forecasted that food exports to North Korea will be reduced significantly as a result of the stringent food export conditions imposed by the Chinese government.


Travel to Kaesong Restricted to Prevent Awareness of South Korea

Friday, January 25th, 2008

Daily NK
Yang Jung A
A job in a factory at the Kaesong Industrial Complex is fast becoming the ideal job for North Korean citizens, and positive feelings toward the South are continuing to grow.

Good Friends reported on the 23rd that most North Koreans are aware that economic cooperation at Kaesong is thriving as South Korean enterprises supply advanced materials and management, and North Korea supplies labor.

“South Korean advisory managers supervise workers. If workers do not come to work on time in the morning or they do not work diligently, the managers simply say, ‘You don’t need to come here tomorrow’” reported one North Korean citizen through Good Friends.

The citizen added, “Workers try to complete their appointed tasks under all conditions, while monitoring the South Korean supervisors’ attitudes.”

As the Kaesong Complex grows, the internal customs procedures into Kaesong become more complicated.

Good Friends reported, “Kaesong was originally a strictly controlled zone because of its location just north of the 38th parallel. If a North Korean wanted to visit Kaesong, they had to register, undergo an investigation and get a pass. Now, If they try to go to Kaesong, the process is much more complicated.”

A cadre working at the Kaesong Complex said that this is because people have growing positive feelings toward South Korea. The authorities worry about the great gap between the North and the South and worry about growing public disillusionment.”

He added, “The only place people can talk about South Korea is at Kaesong. They have a yearning for South Korea, especially after they’ve encountered South Korean products.”