To mark the New Year, North Korean authorities sent supplies to residents of Gomdok, South Hamgyong Province, where Gomdok Mining Cooperative Enterprise is located. Social distancing measures, however, are reportedly delaying distribution of the goods.
A source in South Hamgyong Province told Daily NK on Monday that supplies had been sent to residents of Gomdok Mine Workers’ District for the New Year. He noted, however, that many families “have yet to receive anything” due to social distancing measures, though “in the past, three days would have been enough to distribute them all.”
According to the source, North Korean authorities marked the New Year by sending each Gomdok resident 10 days’ worth of food (30% rice, 70% corn), three pollacks, and a bottle of alcohol. These gifts were just half of what authorities had supplied in years past, and since the supplies could not be delivered to families in a timely manner due to social distancing, many locals were not able to enjoy the gifts on Jan. 1.
“At first, the heads of the inminban selected a couple of people to bring the supplies to families, but arguments broke out among people who believed the packages were [suspiciously] light,” said the source, using a term for North Korea’s lowest administrative unit. “When this got back to the county party committee, [the deliveries] were immediately suspended and the [authorities] switched to having families pick up the supplies themselves at distribution centers.”
The authorities selected groups of 10 families from each inminban to go in turns to receive the supplies, but since this took so long, many families could not receive their share by the first day of the New Year. Because of this, some people reportedly went to the homes of neighbors who had received supplies to borrow rice, promising to compensate them later.
The source said it will be another two or three days before distribution of the supplies is complete.
Meanwhile, families in Gomdok have received only ten heads of cabbage and five radishes as part of their “winter cabbage rations.” This has led to unhappiness among the locals because they have nothing other than kimchi to enjoy as side dishes.
“Every year, you could fill two clay jars with kimchi even if you didn’t make that much, but this year, hardly any households could fill more than half a jar,” said the source. “With their supply of kimchi already depleted, people are complaining, ‘What are we supposed to eat until the spring greens [harvest season] arrives?’”
The source said that people in Gomdok are unable to earn foreign currency after the border was closed due to COVID-19, and with rations falling to just half of what they were, local residents are “barely holding on.”