[imText1]North Korea is facing its most trying “yellow spring” ever. “Yellow Spring” refers to the color that the sky looks due to mass starvation, and is considered the most difficult time of the year in North Korea.
Mr. Lee Hyun Soo (46), who crossed the Tumen River on May 15th said, “Survival is a daily challenge”.
Mr. Lee, head of a household of four said, “Rumors of people going to China and South Korea go around. I didn’t want to cross the border, but I had to because my family was starving”. He complained, “The government keeps telling us they will give us food, but they’re lying”.
North Koreans who are unable to make ends meet have recently begun to cross the Tumen River to get food. The reporter met five North Koreans, including Mr. Lee, at a secret place in Yanji, who expressed strong discontent about the food shortage in North Korea and the food distribution system.
Mr. Choi Young Nam (37) said, “I have been waiting since the 1st of April. I know that there will be even less rice in spring, so where will the rice come from? They cannot continue to lie to us like this”. Mr. Choi said. “In January and February, 2~3 days of rice was given to the elderly. Except for that, we had to buy rice at Jangmadang”.
The official price of rice is 45 won( $0.015) for rice and 25 won ($0.0083) for corn. After North Korea resumed food distribution, the government regulated rice sales at Jangmadang, selling rice at 950 won ($0.32) and corn at 350 won ($0.12). Recently, prices at Jangmadang have surpassed 1300 won ($0.433) and prices at the distribution center have gone up accordingly.
“Similar To The Situation At The End Of Food Shortage In 1998”
They say, “Families of government officials, police and national security agents, store up food for a year. People who work at powerful organizations such as Office #5 (the foreign currency earning office within each city and province) receive food, but other workplaces do not distribute food anymore”.
After the 7.1 Economic Management Measure in 2002, a new policy requiring organizations to provide for their workers was adopted; workplaces with power can feed the workers, while poor factories cannot. It seems that many people have taken the selfish attitude of not worrying if others are provided for or not.
Mr. Park, who was involved in a ‘suitcase business’ with Chinese said, “Everyone is involved in trade, but I could not even break even because I could not sell the goods at fair price”.
Mr. Park, who is employed at a steel factory in Hoeryong, has three family members to support. Mr. Park crossed theTumen River to earn money by farming in China, because it seemed hopeless and difficult to live in North Korea. Following is what Mr. Park said:
“The situation is similar to the situation at the end of the food shortage in 1998. The number of people who come to China will certainly continue to increase. People at the border area are angered by the fact that they are so poor because they are involved in trade with Chinese”.
“Living On Grass and Porridge, The Old and The Sick Are Dying Of Starvation”
Mr. Hyun Joo Hoon (50), who sold goods in Pyongan and Hwanghae Province says, “People in Pyongan Province are worse off than those in border area”.
Neither people in Pyongan Province or at border areas receive food distributions, and anyone lacking the capital to start a business is resorting to eating grass and porridge. Mr. Hyun said, “I ate corn porridge because I only received five days worth of food”. Mr. Hyun said, he had seen the sick and the old dying of starvation at Soonchun and Dukchun in South Pyongan Province.
Mr. Hyun said, “The government has regulated the distribution of food to other provinces, ordering regional governments to distribute food on their own”. In the fall of last year, the North Korean government regulated the distribution of food by placing posts at highways connecting different cities and districts.
Mr. Lee added, “People in the inner provinces believe the propaganda of the North Korean government that the reason for the poverty is the economic sanctions by imperialists, even when they are dying. Unless their thoughts change, they cannot even resist”.