market prices
FILE PHOTO: Vendors and customers at the Rason Market in North Hamgyong Province. (Daily NK)

Children have been collapsing from malnutrition even in Rason, a North Korean city that was regarded as being in decent economic shape despite the prolonged closure of the country’s borders during the pandemic. Following reports of the collapses, Rason’s party committee has decided to provide children with two pieces of bread each day.

“Rason’s party committee passed a measure under which all children between the ages of three and six will be provided with two pieces of bread each day,” a source in North Hamgyong Province told Daily NK on Wednesday.

According to the source, a crucial factor behind this decision was reports from lower level officials that an increasing number of children are severely malnourished.

As a special economic district on the border with China, Rason has long been home to brisk trade that has given it an economic advantage over other regions. However, this decision shows that the party committee recognizes that conditions in Rason have deteriorated during the border closure, which has now lasted for more than two years.

Rason’s party committee immediately swung into action, handing down specific instructions about what should be produced by the city’s food processing facilities, including the Seonbong Bread Factory. At the same time, every department of Rason’s people’s committee resolved to take charge of supplies, including wheat flour, corn, sugar and oil.

In the end, these efforts once again emphasized “self-sufficiency,” with the people’s committee and officials at various levels taking responsibility for work, rather than Rason’s party committee.

In fact, the party committee “established the principle of mobilizing privately-held fields and other sources to find wheat flour or alternate ingredients for bread until trade reopens, instead of asking the central government for handouts,” the source said. 

The committee also decided to “expand the program to elementary school students once trade [restrictions] are eased,” he said. In short, the committee made clear that lower level officials can expect to take on greater burdens going forward. 

In addition, the party committee called on officials to exercise creativity in resolving not only the bread issue but various other issues to improve the people’s quality of life. It further promised that there would be thorough performance assessments on all these activities in the second half of the year.

The committee warned that officials may be punished if they fail to find a decent solution for the food shortages. 

Low-level officials are frustrated about the impossibility of achieving results under such challenging economic conditions, the source said, adding that they are also flummoxed about how to feed children when so many elderly people are starving as well.

Translated by David Carruth. Edited by Robert Lauler.

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

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Jong So Yong is one of Daily NK's freelance reporters. Questions about her articles can be directed to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.