NK State Food Distribution System, A Mere Lip Service?

[imText1]It has been repeatedly reported that the food distribution system of which the NK government had been promising turns out to be a mere lip service.

North Korean defectors visiting China unanimously testify that there was no food distribution of any kind except the rice and corn only enough for two days, which was distributed on the commemoration day of the party establishment. However, the government started to count private farming as part of the state production. Unlike initially attempted, control of jangmadang also seems to have loosened.

◆ Gaechon, South Pyongan Province – “Food distributed in October, sufficient for only two days”

Yoon Sun Yong (pseudonym, age 46, resident of Gaechon, South Pyongan Province), whom The DailyNK met on November 8 in Dandong, China said, “A month passed after the state promised the people of the state food distribution, but there is no worker who received it. All the people who expected restart of the food distribution system considering that we (North Korea) received food aid from South Korea in summer and had overall a good harvest, were very disappointed.”

Yoon further said, “Average workers never received food for their family members nor those considered as qualified for state care received any. Those working for railway service have not received enough food for the month, but enough for only two weeks.” “The food they distributed enough for two days on the commemoration day of the party establishment was not part of food distribution, but annual tradition.” explained Yoon.

In the farming area, it had been reported that the state is pursuing a bureaucratic effort to transform private farming into part of the state food production.

◆ Kimchek City in North Hamkyung Province – “Indefinite Control of the food selling in Jangmadang”

Choi Young Soon, (pseudonym, age 61, Kimchek City in North Hamkyung Province) whom The DailyNK met in Tumen, China testified, “I harvested 370kg of corn this fall from my private farm, but municipal administrative officer visited me, and said, “think of it as part of the state food distribution already given to you.” He formed a document, making my 370kg of corn as state provided food for six months.”

“I was dumbfounded when state called it “state distributed food” when I climbed up and down of the mountain kilometers away from my home to farm. If that is so, they should not collect tax for farmlands. If they distributed fertilizers at least, I would not be feeling so empty hearted,” said Choi.

As the food distribution system turns out to be a failure, the jangmadang control of the food sales have been pretty much normalized starting mid October.

According to Choi, in the Kimchek City, the Social Safety Agency fined those selling food in the jangmadang and those unable to pay fine were confiscated of their possession of food. However, after the commemoration day of the party establishment of October 10, they pretty much stopped controlling altogether. Only mass transportation of food in and out of the city is still controlled.

“No food was provided from the state, no food was to be sold at the jangmadang, and in the end, people’s dissatisfaction increased toward the safety agents, but they are troubled the same. They are obliged to control the food sales, but they themselves cannot obtain food anywhere else but at the jangmadang. In Kimcheck, the unofficially circulated rice cost up to 950Won($0.475) per kilo. After the the commemoration day of the party establishment, people started to out to the river banks and made illegal food sales. Since then even the safety agents reduced control. Although the stalls in the jangmadang are empty, people are making deals around the jangmadang areas.

◆ Dancheon, South Hamkyung Province – “Price of Rice Skyrocketed Temporarily due to the Jangmadang Control”

Park Gil Chun, interviewed in Sanhe, China on November 8 said, “In Danchon, not only sales of rice and corn, but also of beans was controlled, which caused trouble between safety agents and the people.”

Due to the strict control on sales of rice, corn, and barley starting on October 1, more and more people started to buy beans in the jangmadang, and the safety agents started to fine those who were buying beans as well. Those who were fined filed a complaint in the Danchon Municipal Safety Agency. The office acknowledged people’s complaint by officially stating that “bean is supplementary nutrient, not main food” and the dispute ended with further fuss.

”After the “bean incident” which happened in mid October, there are unofficial deals made for food sales in Danchon City on which the safety officers intently turn blind eye,” added Park.

Putting the testimonies of the North Korean residents together, it seems that the state food distribution system did not take place in an appropriate manner, even on the first month. Park complained, “Due to the prior lip service of the state, innocent people are victimized.” Price of rice in the areas of Hamkyung and Pyongan provinces had skyrocketed by 150Won($0.075) to 200Won($0.1) now reaching 950kg per kilo.

Park’s last remark well expresses people’s sentiment on the state’s failure of restarting the food distribution system. “There is nobody in North Korea expecting restart of the state food distribution system. It would be okay even if the state did not restart it at all, but if it only allowed the people to make living on their own, we will be happy. While it spread out empty promises of restart of the food distribution and controlled the food sales, the price of food in the jangmadang once increased up to 1,000Won($0.5). It is now November, in which the food price must be the lowest in the year since it is shortly after the harvest period, but if the food price goes up to 1,000Won, how will people be able to survive? They said a great amount of food aid came in from South Korea and the harvest was a success this year that it is the best in the last ten years. I wonder where all that rice disappeared to.”

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