North Korea has been rounding up kkotjebi
[homeless children who often beg for food] and forcibly relocating them to
collective facilities, but the absence of proper rations prompts most in this hapless
contingent to return to the streets.
Daily NK reported earlier this year of a
nationwide initiative set forth by the North Korean authorities to propagandize
the nation as the preeminent place for children, no matter their socioeconomic
situation, to live in the world. The kkotjebi were rounded up and
ultimately transferred to so-called “elementary academies,” where they would allegedly
be provided with three square meals a day, additional snacks, and education,
for which teachers were being recruited.
However, residents predicted that the lack
of sustainable, methodical plan laid out by the state would fail to meet with
significant or stable results. According to sources within the country, these
predictions have been proven correct.
“There were less kkotjebi on the streets
last year and at the beginning of this year, since many of them were sent to
collective facilities; however, the number of them on the streets has
drastically increased lately,” a source in Yangkang Province told Daily NK on
Monday, adding that these “elementary academies” cannot even provide the
children with an adequate amount of rice mixed with equal portions of corn.
“Children are leaving these facilities
because the hunger is too much to bear,” he explained. “The state had tried to
round them up because they were considered unsightly, but if they wanted to do
that they should have fed them properly; obviously, they didn’t manage to.”
The source was quick to note how this
development provides more evidence highlighting the contradictions rife within
North Korea’s state propaganda, rebuking the Central Party for promulgating images of love for the people but failing to to provide
funding to these facilities.
Predicated on a lifetime of experience with the
broken system, the source was far from surprised to see the situation’s rapid
deterioration. “How would they expect Party cadres, who only care about lining their
own pockets, to provide anything to these homes for kkotjebi?” he pointed out.
Noting the growing disparity between rich
and poor in North Korea, the source said there are growing number of older
kkotjebi–teenagers, and in some cases, even adults. “Those who barely get
by each day often end up becoming kkotjebi as conditions for them grow worse; that’s
why the number of kkotjebi is not going down,” he explained.
Some people offer food to kkotjebi who have
wandered in from other regions, but most prefer not to get involved. This,
according to the source, is because the young homeless population is considered
an eyesore by the state, and people worry about getting roped into an issue
that could in turn pose problems for them. “The state’s policies have managed
to strip people of sympathy they might have had for the kkotjebi,” he concluded.