Changchun, China — A source has relayed news that North Korea has begun to so-called “essential food factories” in provincial capitals for the first time since Kim Il Sung’s death, and that distribution of soy sauce and soybean paste to civilians in those cities has resumed.
A source from Yangkang Province said in a phone conversation with the Daily NK on the 28th, “Essential food factories situated in each province entered production in October and every household has been provided with a kilogram of soybean paste and a kilogram of soy sauce on a monthly basis ever since. Such provision is on a par with the amount rationed when the Supreme Leader (Kim Il Sung) was alive in the 1990s.”
A North Hamkyung Province source said, “At a North Hamkyung Province essential food factory in Chongjin, production began in October and a kilogram of soybean paste and soy sauce has been being provided to each household once a month.”
North Korea changed the name of “food factories” in each city and province to “essential food factories” in 1993, and remodeled the buildings. It also pursued the modernization of equipment for soy sauce and soybean production. However, due to the “economic crisis” following Kim Il Sung’s death in 1994, the operation of all food factories ceased.
Accordingly, the resumption of operations has triggered the analysis that the “confidence” of the North Korean authorities has been restored regarding both North Korea’s agricultural production and the food situation this year.
A source from Yangkang Province emphasized, “Soybean and peas which have been coming in as foreign aid have sometimes been used to produce the soybean and soy sauce to be provided to Pyongyang, the military and the construction units, but this is the first time that rations to average civilians have resumed since the Kim Il Sung’s death. The reason for the state’s display of concern for the civilian economy is because farming went well this year.”
He then said, “Not only in Yangkang Province, but essential food factories in Hamheung and Pyongsung have also been brought back online. The civilians are hoping that soybean paste and soy sauce distribution will be normalized.”
The source noted, “In the Hyesan Essential Food Factory, approximately 22 tons of ingredients for soybean paste and soy sauce, including peas and wheat, are used daily. At such a rate, a kilogram of soybean paste and soy sauce can be provided to civilians each month over a fixed term.”
He then went on to explain the backdrop, “The storage capacity of the soybean paste fermentation tank in the Hyesan Essential Food Factory is about 60 tons, but with the 22 tons of ingredients that have been coming in each day, only a portion of the production equipment has been operating.
According to North Korea’s central pricing system, a kilogram of soybean paste and soy sauce are 150 North Korean Won and 80 won, respectively. The source added, however, “The soybean paste produced from the factories has been extensively sold in the jangmadang for 300 won per kilogram. Homemade hot pepper paste has been being sold for 900 won per kilogram.”
Therefore, North Korean authorities are said to have held civilian education lectures nationwide, on or around the 19th, stressing the subject, “Regarding strictly adhering to the national grain regulations and preserving army rations as the top priority.”
The source added, “Within less than a month of the resumption of the essential food factories, some managers and cadres of the factories were found to have embezzled the soybean paste ingredients, so the state authorities held formal reeducation lectures for officials. Also, the civilians in the counties or farmlands have not been receiving soy sauce and soybean paste, because only the essential food factories have been operating.”