Fishing with grenades, generators, and gunpowder

Be it to the ocean, rivers, or reservoirs, North Koreans are heading out to catch fish not only with fishing poles but an array of creative tools in order to earn some extra money, Daily NK has learned.

Using a fishing rod or nets are of course the most basic of methods, but more extreme measures are also being employed such as electrocuting fish with the help of generators or even blowing them up with grenades and gunpowder, according to Daily NK’s local sources.

“Even though it’s so hot right now, people are out day and night fishing,” a source from South Pyongan Province said. “Some do it for entertainment, but most people sell their catch to buy more food. They also enjoy them alongside some drinks or for the extra nutrition,” she said.

Fishing rods manufactured in the North are typically made with bamboo and come with one to three joints, while imports are length adjustable, said the source. Donju [new affluent middle class] use import rods to fish as part of their leisure activities, but poor residents from fishing villages mostly use bamboo rods and sell their catch at the market, she added.

A bamboo rod fetches roughly 1,500 to 4,000 KPW, and the other advanced models, which mostly come from South Korea and are used by cadre, range from 30 to 100 USD, according to the source.

Fishing rods can be purchased at markets, with most vendors offering North Korean, Chinese, and South Korean models. The lines, hooks, and bait are all from China. The average container of bait costs about 1,500 KPW, but a lot of people choose bait from nature, meaning everything from flies, worms, cornmeal, to frogs. Especially when catching mullet, frogs are considered the best option.

In terms of fishing methods, those who catch fish to make a living use generators to electrocute the fish, said the source. “They secretly do it at night, but if they are caught by safety agents on patrol, the equipment is confiscated on the spot.”

A separate source in South Hwanghae Province told Daily NK, grenades are also being used. “A grenade factory in Haeju city drops the grenades right off the shore from Ongjin to catch fish under the guise that they’re testing their products,” he said. “If you drop a grenade from a boat, some dozens of kilograms of fish die, so it’s easy to haul them up on a net.”

This practice is also commonplace in the military, said the source. “When national holidays come around, military cadre use gunpowder in the middle of rivers so they can knock out or kill a lot of fish. They just pick out the ones that float to the surface and eat them raw,” he explained. Where fish are more scarce, pumps are brought out. “By pumping some water out from streams and creating embankments, they are able to catch the fish alive,” said the source.

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