North Korea’s food factories have started preparing the cookies which are provided annually to the nation’s children on Kim Jong Il’s birthday, February 16th.
One inside source from Yangkang Province reported today, “Since the 1st of this month, food factories in cities and provinces have begun preparing to produce gifts for the General’s birthday special distribution next year,” adding, “They finished looking into the provision of flour (potato, wheat, barley, soy beans and so on) at the end of October, and since the start of November they have been allocating firewood provision to each factory worker.”
Since factories in rural areas are no longer provided with fuel and electricity by Pyongyang, workers have to take personal responsibility for supplies of firewood.
He said, “Workers at Baekam Food Factory have to provide four cubic meters of firewood each,” and continued, “Food factory workers have been crazy busy since they were mobilized for gift production preparation, immediately after harvesting their private plots.”
The source said, “Workers have to go to mountain villages generally between eight and ten kilometers from cities in order to collect firewood; but while the walking is also work, making lunch is the big burden.”
In mountainous areas such as those where people go to collect firewood, a simple railroad system using pulleys and gravity called a “Ddoreurae” is set up. Especially in forested provinces such as Yangkang this system is widely used, winding around the foot of mountains all the way down into towns and cities. It is one tool which lightens the daily burden of the North Korean people.
The North Korean authorities provide kindergarten and elementary school children with a 1kg “General’s gift” of candy, biscuits, jellies and other kinds of cookies on both Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il’s birthdays. These gifts are produced by provincial food factories and distributed by the Education Department of provincial committees of the Party.
However, there are big differences between major cities and local provinces in terms of both the quality and quantity of gifts, because provincial factories tend to be laboring under more serious financial difficulties than those in big cities. Therefore, they face greater difficulties in obtaining materials, and moreover the corruption of local cadres is more serious, making it even harder to produce decent cookies.
The source explained, “Since children can easily find Chinese cookies in the jangmadang, the gifts made in places like Baekam are of such poor quality that children from households with a regular income won’t even look at them.”
Furthermore, the source pointed out, “It is both absurd and pathetic to think that children have to bow before a portrait of the General and say ‘Thank you, General’ in order to get a pack of cookies which are made from the labor of their parents.”