Ryanggang Province trading companies hand out gifts to employees for New Year’s

A table set for one North Korean family’s celebrations on January 1, 2019. Image: Daily NK

Many North Koreans spent their four days off for New Year’s playing games or resting with their friends, family and neighbors. Some cadres and workers, however, had to go to work to prepare for study sessions focusing on the content of the New Year’s Address and goals for the year.

In Ryanggang Province, which straddles the border between North Korea and China along the Yalu River, there are reports of local residents receiving various holiday gifts from the trading companies and factories they work for.

“There are more workplaces that are handing out holiday gifts this year compared to last year, so most local residents received something,” said a local source in Ryanggang Province on January 3.

“The Hyangryon Trading Company under the Ministry of People’s Armed Forces and the Kangsong Trading Company under the Taesong General Bureau have given out so many presents to their employees that people’s hands are full.”

Ryanggang Province is a mountainous region home to numerous trading companies that export fruits, pine nuts, medicinal plants and other forest products that grow in the region to China. Local residents gather these goods and sell them to the government so that the trading companies can import products from China to serve as gifts for the new year.

“Trading companies that earn profits as well as regular companies have distributed gifts like 1 kg of soybean oil, 25 kg of rice, 1 kg of pork, 1 kg of candy and 1 kg of cookies,” said a separate source in Ryanggang Province. “I heard that the Ilup General Bureau also handed out similar gifts.”

“There were also workplaces that handed out bananas, tangerines, pineapples and other tropical fruits, along with apples and pears,” she continued. “Some smaller trading companies have given out beef, lamb and frozen pollack.”

Local residents have reportedly enjoyed sharing the glutinous rice cakes, dumplings, beef, soy meat, dried bracken, and boiled pollack along with the fruit they have received from their workplaces. Rice cake soup, traditionally eaten during the New Year holiday in Pyongyang and Kaesong, is generally not eaten in North Korea’s northern regions.

Given that markets and food stores in the country have recently begun to sell holiday foods, many are opting to buy rice cakes and dumplings instead of making them at home.

“Local residents are getting used to buying food, which is becoming easier each year.In the past, most people made rice cakes and their own noodles during the holidays, but now they just buy them,” an additional source in Ryanggang Province reported.

“Families who are largely employed receive a lot of different kinds of gifts, so they are able to save money that would have been spent on food at the market. I saw people sharing the fruit, meat and liquor that they received from their workplaces with their neighbors.”

She added, “Just like last year, most workplaces and the Socialist Women’s Union of Korea were on holiday until January 3, so many just ate at home and enjoyed themselves. On the second and fourth day of the holiday period, work colleagues and those who are part of the same inminban (people’s unit, a type of neighborhood watch) gathered together to play traditional Korean games, and sang and danced together.”