Daily NK snapshots from North Korea

Kim Il Sung
An image of President Kim Il Sung created by thousands of participants in the Arirang Mass Games. / Image: David Stanley, Flickr, Creative Commons

Family disappears after child takes scissors to Kim portraits 

The Daily NK learned belatedly that at the end of July an entire family from Chongjin, North Hamgyong Province, disappeared during the night. Rumors have been circulating among local residents that the family was sent to a political prisoner camp for “damaging the supreme dignity” of the Kim family.

Sources indicate that the circumstances behind the family’s arrest stemmed from their intellectually-disabled son. Though the parents recruited a resourceful kkotjebi (a homeless child) to look after their son during the day while they were out working, the son shattered the portraits of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il hanging on the wall in the family’s residence and used scissors to cut up a calendar with images of the faces of “The Three Generals” (Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Suk, and Kim Jong Il). The kkojetbi then reported this behavior to the Ministry of State Security.

While the reasons for the family’s disappearance is shrouded in rumors and mystery, the act of damaging images or likenesses of members of the Kim family is considered an act of subversion against the state, which is punishable by the death penalty.

North Korea abruptly beaches mid- and large-sized fishing vessels 

The Daily NK has confirmed that earlier this year North Korean authorities prohibited the operation of all mid- and large-sized fishing vessels off the west coast of the country on the pretext of protecting fish stocks. 

During the early stages of his rise to power and in his 2014 New Year’s Address, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said that “modernizing fishing vessels and implementing a dynamic fishing campaign through scientific methods should ensure that all ports have vessels returning with full loads.” Despite this call to action, the yield from the fishing industry has been lower than expected over the years. North Korean authorities soon shifted their policy to selling fishing rights to China, which has become an important source of foreign currency given that international sanctions have now cut off North Korean seafood exports. 

Daily NK sources report that North Korean fishermen have complained that the restriction on fishing off the west coast was aimed at guaranteeing China fishing rights in those waters, rather than to protect fish in the area.  

Vietnamese rice sold in North Korean markets

Since July of this year, Annam has been distributed in markets across North Korea. Both state media and rumors have called this rice “humanitarian aid” from the Vietnamese government. Annam rice was sold in North Korea until the early to mid-2000s, but then disappeared from most markets as the food situation in the country stabilized.

In contrast to the Annam rice from two decades ago, the Annam rice entering North Korea’s markets now seems to be of higher quality. The grains are larger in size and the texture more glutinous. Annam rice is known to be crumbly and not very glutinous (and thus not very filling), however, so its price per kilogram is lower than that of North Korean and Chinese non-glutinous and glutinous rice. Food vendors have been stockpiling cheaper yet quality Annam rice. Some Daily NK sources believe that military bases are where all this Annam rice is originating from. 

As Annam rice has spread through the country, Daily NK sources reported that some North Koreans now think that despite the failure of the US-North Korean summit in Hanoi, the summit was not a waste of time because Vietnamese-North Korean relations improved.

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