There is widespread displeasure not only at mobilization for various events planned for April but also the growing funding burden being placed on households, sources have reported.
One source from Musan in North Hamkyung Province told Daily NK on the 20th, “In all areas of North Korea including Pyongyang, everyone has been rushing around preparing for the upcoming birthday celebrations since the 15th. The authorities are collecting 20,000 won per household for the purpose of decorating streets and open spaces and to fund artistic performances.”
People in Hamheung in South Hamkyung Province have received orders to prepare eight flower pots per family for the streets and verandas of each home, a source from the city said; those without flowers are apparently purchasing them from traders. “We are so busy trying to get ready for the April celebrations right now that we don’t even have time to breathe,” the source said. “Difficult times during Kim Jong Il’s regime were nothing compared to now.”
A source from Wonsan in Gangwon Province agreed, saying, “It is tough for us to even make 2,000 won per day from trading, but the authorities are asking for 20,000 won from us to buy paint to do the exterior walls of apartments! I thought a new man would make the situation better but it has gotten worse.”
In previous years, the preparation period for April events was called the ‘big cleanup’. The stairs and hallway of apartments and the doors and fences of homes had to be painted with lime, which in recent years came to cost around 5,000 won. Thereafter, students would gather leftover paint and do the walls of their classrooms. However, the cost this year is much higher.
According to the source, “This year it is called the ‘total mobilization period,’ and they have told us that those who do not participate with sincerity will be evaluated politically.”
The period has begun fifteen days earlier than normal, too, which appears to be an effort to heighten the atmosphere for this year in particular.
The Musan source explained, “All organs, enterprises and schools are practicing songs and instruments during the afternoon, and women are using parks and public spaces to practice songs and dances until 7pm. Party cadres, to create a mood for celebration, ordered people to wear their outfits for the day, but the women all look disgruntled by the fact that they have to shiver in skirts all day in the cold.”
“There are lots of fights because local offices have exempted the Union of Democratic Women from paying festival costs, instead putting that portion on other families,” the Wonsan source added, commenting that the measure has been taken because practice hours are in the afternoon when most women ordinarily go to the jangmadang to work.