Many North Korean teenagers no longer aspire to become party leaders, soldiers, or even to join the party, but instead wish to become “merchants.”
“Good Friends,” an organization that distributes aid to North Korean refuges, said in issue no. 104 of its newsletter “Today’s News on North Korea,” that, “nowadays, many elementary and senior middle school students, upon being asked what they would like to do post-graduation, say they would like to become merchants.”
According to the source, “Many of their peers have stopped going to school and have started doing business. It is too burdensome for some students to attend school, so they sell noodles or vegetables in the jangmadang (markets) and contribute to their families’ livelihoods.”
As the poor get poorer and the rich get richer, the children of high officials can expect to attend universities or commercial colleges even if they don’t study as well as the children of laborers. And these privileged children have access to private training sessions where they can practice computer skills.
The Good Friends Newsletter also featured an article discussing new controls on long distance buses.
The Standing Committee of the Supreme People’s Assembly released the results of an investigation into the state of long distance bus services in selected parts of the country. The report disclosed a number of illegal, privately operated bus companies.
Accordingly, the Standing Committee issued an order to investigate long-distance bus services nationwide. In certain regions, measures were taken to prevent individually owned buses from operating, the source said.
The source also stated, “In Chongjin, North Hamkyung Province, as a result of preventing individually-owned buses from operating, only 116 buses are in operation. These buses used to run once a day, but with the disappearance of private buses, they are now operating 2 to 3 times a day.”
Further, the source commented, “As the choice of bus services declines, the sight of people scrambling to get a spot on a bus is becoming common. There are only 40 staff members. Up to 100 people can be squeezed onto a bus at one time, and serious accidents involving these buses in places like Musanryeong are frequent.”
A final article in the newsletter discussed emerging markets for water.
As water pollution becomes more severe in the Shinuiju region, the number of people who are buying and selling water is said to be increasing.
A source said, “Merchants who procure and sell fresh spring water from Sukha Village, which is about 9 km away from Shinuiju, are commonplace. Citizens pay 500 won per 10 kg. Mostly, it is males who sell water. They carry loads of up to 100 liters by bike and deliver door-to-door.”
Damage to the city’s water supply facilities, built during the Japanese colonial period, is blamed for the for the worsening water quality, along with the shortage in electricity, in the Shinuiju region,
Subsequently, wealthy households have started purchasing spring water from Sakha Villiage. In addition, Uiju Hwangchiryeong Spring Water, a brand of spring water from China, starting becoming available two years ago. Sources have previously remarked that in the morning, a large procession of bicycles sets out to fetch water from nearby springs.
The source also stated that highly organized inspection groups from the People’s Security Agency’s are rigorously regulating the vehicles of merchants at various checkpoints between Chongjin and Onsung. These checkpoints are located at Gomu Mountain, Jungeori, Punsan, Hoiryeong Baemgol, Sambong, and Gangahn.