Special Holiday Snacks ‘Hard As Rocks’

Special rations in time for Kim Jong Il’s birthday [Feb.16] celebrations were not handed out this year in North Korea, although crackers
and sweets did make their way to children as “gifts from the Marshal,” despite
their pitiful quality.

“In the past, cases of alcohol, oil, and other special
rations were handed out for this holiday but for the past few years this has
not been the case,” a source in Yangkang Province told Daily NK on Tuesday.
“Though the children were given crackers, they were hard as rocks and not
adequately processed; it certainly didn’t feel like a holiday.”

Just as during Kim Jong Eun’s birthday, crackers and candy were distributed, but the crackers were heavily laden with cornmeal, so people “couldn’t tell if they were cornmeal crackers or rice
cake crackers,” he said. “The candies had so much yeot [a
taffy-like substance made from grains] in them that people joked around calling
them lumps of yeot [the Korean term for this taffy sounds similar to an obscenity for waste matter].”

Most felt that these special rations were so
significantly low in quality compared to previous handouts that people would have been better off not receiving them. “Most people don’t think much of it anymore if they don’t
get any rations during the holidays, because they’re so used to not receiving
anything,” he said. “Even if they hold ‘loyalty singing gatherings’
people are mobilized to the event, but most focus more on business and their
personal life.”

North Korea designated February 16th as a public holiday in
1975, and on the former leader’s 50th birthday in 1992, Pyongyang officially
named it one of the biggest national celebrations. In 2012, the year following
the leader’s death, February 16th was renamed the “Day of the Shining Star” and
rations were provided to help rally public sentiment around the occasion. 

North Korea has typically used holiday rations as an essential means
to promote the “consideration” of the Kim leadership for the public and encourage
loyalty. But in the recent years, even on the Taeyangjeol [Day of the Sun],
 which celebrates the birthday of founder Kim Il Sung, rations have been
unavailable.

“The state seems to know that people don’t carry
significant, if any, expectations for special rations,” a high-ranking North
Korean defector told the Daily NK on condition of anonymity. “It reflects Kim
Jong Eun’s method of governance, which purports to look after children and
other vulnerable groups, leaving the general population to fend for themselves.”

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