Residents embrace Rodong Sinmun, but not for reading

North Korea’s state-run publication, Rodong Sinmun, has become extremely popular, but not for reading, according to
inside sources. Instead, residents use the kanji paper that Rodong Sinmun is
printed on to roll cigarettes and cover their walls. In light of this, the
paper is selling for twice the normal cost at 10 KPW (0.001 USD) in the marketplace. 

“These days people have flooded the market
looking for kanji paper (
large paper divided at the center for printing
newspapers), so the cost has doubled. As we enter autumn, a lot of families
around here start to do wallpapering and home repairs that require the use of
paper. Outside of Rodong Sinmun, paper is awfully hard to come by, so people
end up using it,” a source in South Pyongan Province reported to Daily NK on
September 15th. 

An additional source in North Pyongan
Province confirmed this news.

She added, “Not only that, but people who
dry acerbic herbs and smoke them also prefer to use the Rodong Sinmun. The demand for
kanji has risen as a result of an increase in smokers as well. Kanji is softer
and less stiff than other kinds of paper. There is also a general consensus
among smokers that kanji gives off a better flavor when smoked.”

“Factory-produced cigarettes have an odor
and they’re expensive, so the majority of men simply buy some paper in the
jangmadang (markets), roll up some dried herbs, and puff away. Party cadres also prefer the
smooth, high quality herb-based hand rolled cigarettes, which has helped to
push up the demand.”

“It is a political crime to damage any
paper which contains an image depicting Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il, or Kim Jong
Un. So nobody uses those pages. Vendors in the jangmadang sell paper with their
likeness on it at a steep discount for 1 KPW (0.0001 USD). One vendor said to me, ‘Even if I
gave it away for free, no one would take it. A publication that has a picture of
any member of the Kim Dynasty is worth less than (expletive).’”

According to inside sources, North Korea’s
lack of pulp sources coupled with the country’s frequent energy outages makes
it difficult for paper factories to function properly. As a result, production
of Rodong Sinmun has been on the decline. Party members and cadres still get it
delivered to them, but “that’s about it,” as the source put it.  

Additionally, the publication doesn’t contain
much worthwhile news, she said, adding that “it’s mainly a tool for propaganda
purposes. So most ordinary residents simply use it to wallpaper their houses
and roll their cigarettes.”

“Because of the fantastic rise of popularity
for using the publication for these nontraditional purposes, the cost has gone up
and the ease of purchasing has gone down. That’s why some ordinary folks are
now cutting out the images of the Kim family members in order to use the
remaining portion as wallpaper,” she continued.

Now that the trend has caught on,
propaganda units attached to state-enterprises have been meticulously reviewing
the roster of subscribers and going to their homes to recollect the paper
before it can be pawned off or repurposed.

As a result, the source concluded, many of
the cadres who receive the Rodong Sinmun would rather not see it delivered to
their homes in the first place. “They think, ‘What a pointless exercise! I’m
not going to risk my life over a piece of lousy paper.’ And now there is a
significant portion of cadres that simply give the paper right back when it is
delivered to them,” she said.

*The content of this article was broadcast
to the North Korean people via Unification Media Group.