North Korean People Care Only for Rice

A resident of North Korea called Kim Cheol Man (pseudonym, 48) talked with Daily NK over the telephone on the 28th. He spoke about the North Korean nuclear test, the risks of a military collision, current conditions for the common people and the difficulties caused by price rises.

On the nuclear issue, Kim was highly dismissive, “How could we avoid knowing about the test when the uppers call us to lectures and gatherings everyday and tell us the nuclear test succeeded! However, people couldn’t care less about it. We live like this every day, so we are nonchalant, ‘These things happen.’”

He continued, “They constantly tell us that America and South Chosun (Korea) are trying to start a war, so we are compelled to live with the tension.”

“We are sick and tired of words about war, and we don’t believe what the authorities say.”

On the question of what the North Korean people would do if a military collision did come about, Kim was equally ambivalent, “This is what I have been listening to for my whole life, thousands of times, but we have never had a war. Even if war broke out, we wouldn’t have anything to lose, so we wouldn’t care.”

About the general workers’ lives in Hoiryeong, he explained, “The regime has provided workers in Hoiryeong factories with regular food distribution for the last few years because Hoiryeong is the hometown of the General’s Mother (Kim Jong Suk).”

However, he complained, “They give us a mere 10-15 days of food per month, so even workers have to do business in the jangmadang or on a farm. Utilizing the excuse of giving us only a tiny amount of food, they have strengthened regulation of the jangmadang.”

His one worry, “The toughest time is May and June. Food prices, including rice, have already risen by 200 or 300 North Korean won. Now rice sells for more than 2,800 won. We don’t know yet how far it will rise.”

Questions or comments about this article? Contact us at