Nuclear test draws different set of concerns from North Koreans

While Pyongyang has been busy touting its
claimed success of testing a hydrogen bomb as a historic achievement, most
North Koreans remain critical of the leadership for having spent exorbitant
sums of money on weapons development instead of looking after the economy.
 

“I was busy working at the factory, when
everyone was suddenly told to gather in the propaganda room for a ‘special
major announcement’, and this got people nervous,” a source in South Pyongan
Province told Daily NK on Thursday. “Some even speculated it may be to announce
the death of Kim Jong Un like they did in the past (for Kim Il Sung and Kim
Jong Il).”
 

Added the source, “But after hearing on the television and
radio that it was about the complete success of a hydrogen bomb, the tension in
the air dissipated and everyone was at ease again. A lot of people found it ridiculous that the authorities made everyone so nervous with all the buildup to the announcement.”

After the statement, propaganda
officials at each company gave workers a blank sheet of paper and told them to
write an essay on the ‘hydrogen bomb test”; this order was issued to
students from elementary school to university and to members of the Chosun
Democratic Women’s Union as well.

“All of the markets were shut down and vendors
sent home right ahead of the special announcement,” the source said. “A lot of
people were annoyed by this saying they’re making a fuss out of nothing.”
 

“Those who don’t really have a good
understanding of nuclear weapons like students or homemakers questioned why the
country needs a hydrogen bomb after saying there’s nothing to fear as long as
it has a nuclear bomb,” the source asserted. “University students indirectly
criticized the dual track of nuclear and economic development, saying there’s no
use in developing nuclear arsenal since it can’t be used anyway.”
 

News of the recent test has also angered
people, with some openly criticizing the nuclear program and pointing out that
money should go into providing for the people instead. “Market vendors don’t care if it’s an atom bomb or a hydrogen bomb. Most of them say they just want to make a lot of
money and live a quiet life,” the source said.
 

A different source in North Pyongan
Province reported that most people who watched the announcement out of
curiosity were neither surprised nor interested, noting, “But market donju (newly affluent middle class) are worried that having blown up a massive
‘dollar bomb’, Kim Jong Un will now have a gaping hole in his coffers, making
things busier for them since they’ll have to offer up more funds.”
 

“Loyalty funds had swelled because of the
greater stability in the markets, so recently there weren’t a lot of purges of
donju, but now with all the money that they’ve spent, it looks like donju will
be under pressure or persecuted more to make up for the funds that went into
the hydrogen bomb test,” he explained.
 

“After the first three nuclear tests,
prominent donju were purged on ‘anti-socialist’ charges and their assets
confiscated by the state. The leadership is likely to tighten its grip on donju
again to make up for its expenses.”
 

People have tried to speculate how much it
would have cost to put together a hydrogen bomb, referring to the figures as
“beyond the imagination” and “astronomical,” given the cost of one bullet is usually
compared to a pricey whole chicken at the market. “To make up for all the
dollars they frittered away on the nuclear test, corruption among the power
elite will become worse and the tax burden for the public heavier,” he
pointed out.
 

News of the test has also weakened morale
within the military, a separate source from the armed forces in North Pyongan
Province reported. “Soldiers who have just started their winter training
question why foot soldiers need to train if the hydrogen bomb can
single-handedly end a war,” he said. 
“Commanding officers have been debriefing among themselves on whether this bomb actually exists and complaining that
the news has undermined training morale.”
 

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