The Daily NK (2008-05-13) carries an interesting story, which hints at the brewing public unrest in North Korea. People seem to be losing trust in their leadership due to Pyongyang’s “soft” approach towards the United States, and “hard” approach towards jangmadang markets.
Some parts of this text are mistranslated (바치다 means “to yield” or “surrender” rather than “to deliver”). Here is a slightly corrected version of this report. Things look pretty gloomy in North Korea at the moment. Some say it is as bad as it was in the late 1990s during the “Arduous March” which cost 1-3 million human lives. The main difference between the Great Famine of 1996-1998 and the currently looming disaster is the 10 years of changes, which were brought by the Sunshine Policy and 7.1 Economic Measures. People experienced unprecedented freedoms and significant improvement in lifestyle are not going to yield their interests easily. If Kim Jong-il does not change his policies this summer, he probably will not have another chance…
By Moon Sung Hwee, from Jagang in 2006, The Daily NK (2008-05-13)
The rumor recently spread among North Korea citizens that the “North Korean authorities are surrendering nuclear weapons to the U.S.,” leaving citizens unsettled. An inside North Korean source said in a phone conversation with the Daily NK on the 7th, “Is it true that we are delivering nuclear weapons to the U.S.? The rumor has been spreading that the U.S. is refusing to give us rice unless we give up nuclear weapons.”
The source also relayed the prevailing atmosphere, “I listen to the radio frequently, so I know a fair amount of news, but it is difficult to separate the truth because people are going around cautiously saying that ‘we succumbed to those Americans and surrendered nuclear weapons to them.’” According to the source, such rumors started when North Korea recently demonstrated on TV and newspapers its willingness to shut down the nuclear reactor.
The source revealed, “People have not been able to hide their nervousness. Those who used to say ‘now that we have made nuclear weapons, we do not need nuclear reactor’ are now saying ‘the reactor have been destroyed and it has been determined that all nuclear weapons will also be surrendered, yielding to U.S. pressure. Our country lacks strength, so we are being dragged around by whatever the U.S. says.”
He also retorted, “Even if the army has a lot of guns, the economy is completely ruined, so what kind of strength would we have? How can Kim Jong Il preserve the soldiers when we are living off of outside aid day and night?” The source said, “From the past, people used to say that economic subjugation is political subjugation. North Korea has already went this direction. People joke, saying that ‘In the past, only our bodies were domestic, but now, we are living off of foreign rice, so even the body is not domestic.”
He also relayed, “The situation here (in the North) is unspeakable. People are blatantly complaining, ‘Why did they make what they couldn’t even keep (nuclear weapons) while letting the entire country starve to death?’” Concurrently, the source let out a sigh related to the aggravating food shortage, “We do not even have fertilizer this year, so we do not know how we will farm. The food situation for next year will not be much different.”
In North Korean jangmadangs (markets) recently, the composite fertilizer sent by South Korea rose to 1,200 won per kilogram, so the price of fertilizer has become slightly more expensive than the price of corn. The explanation given by the source was that fertilizer, which has been secretly sold in the market, is the fertilizer sent by South Korea last year. Consequently, collective farms have promulgated that they can only provide 15kg of fertilizer per a hectare, so a decree was issued to concentrate efforts on the manufacturing of decayed soil.