North Korean authorities are distributing special gift rations to people throughout the country to commemorate Party Foundation Day on Oct. 10, Daily NK has learned.

According to a Daily NK source in Pyongyang yesterday, North Korean authorities made a list of items to distribute on Party Foundation Day last week and ordered that as many items as possible be supplied as gifts.

The items designated by the authorities for the special gift rations reportedly included glutinous rice, non-glutinous rice, flour, basic foodstuffs (bean paste, oil, seasonings), seafood, fruit, meat, eggs, confectionaries, liquor and sugar.

The authorities have reportedly threatened factories, grocery stores, and food service offices that manage food products and restaurants, warning that they will face an “evaluation” after Party Foundation Day based on documentation detailing what they handed out to people (supply account breakdowns).  

In short, the state is encouraging competition between these organizations to get them to “voluntarily” supply more of their products. 

According to the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, the authorities have paid – through cash or in-kind payments – for 50% of the special gift rations these organizations have been tasked with distributing. The state, in other words, is paying for only half of the rations, while the organizations are left to pay for the rest themselves. 

price controls
Tongil Market in Pyongyang / Image: Daily NK

According to the source, the authorities are saying that the special gift rations are thanks to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s “love of the people.”

Indeed, some in the country seem to believe that the North Korean authorities have “put some work” into providing special gift rations for the holiday given the unprecedented distress the North Korean economy faces due to international sanctions, COVID-19 and damage by recent monsoons and typhoons. 

Nonetheless, Daily NK understands that there are significant differences in the kinds of special gift rations being handed out in Pyongyang and other regions.

“In the provinces, there are no fixed regulations [regarding the distribution of the special gift rations] since individual provinces or agencies handle the supply of gifts on their own,” said the source. “In destitute places [of the country], all they might be able to supply [to locals] are potatoes or corn produced in that region.”

Even within Pyongyang, there are big differences between the gifts received by people living in central districts of the capital such as Chung-guyok, Potonggang, Muranbong and Mangyeongdae and other districts on the outskirts of the city such as Taedonggang, Tongdaewon and Rangrang. 

“The supply stations that provide rations for people working at state agencies in Pyongyang give out meat, seafood and all sorts of eggs by the box, not by the number [of items] or by kilogram,” said the source. “The difference between [what the] the central districts of Pyongyang and provincial regions [receive in terms of rations] is so great it’s impossible to compare.”

In the provinces, there are reportedly complaints that the authorities’ efforts to win public favor are limited to just Pyongyang residents.

The authorities plan to finish the distribution of the special gift rations by today (Oct. 8), according to the source.

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

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Jang Seul Gi is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about her articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.