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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

livelihoods in North Korea

The journal Ilda has an article on a seminar by Peace Foundation (P'yônghwa Chaedan) about the daily livelihood of people in North Korea.

Some points worth noting from the discussion, as conveyed by Ilda:

• In case both salary and rations are given, it's possible to get by, but these two conditions are rarely fulfilled simultaneously (now that an average monthly pay is at around 3000 won, 1kg rice costs 1000 W, 1kg of pork 3200 W, one head of Chinese cabbage 150 W, and one egg 200 W).
• North Koreans' livelihood depends on a large part on trade, which has been the situation for the last 10 years; the upper class deals in high-risk items such as drugs and antiquities, but the risk is covered by the high position and political power. Low class is engaged in all kinds of petty commercial dealings from trading to handicrafts and growing veggies.
• "Almost all people are making a living either by illegal means or by trade"; also corruption is widespread
• the gap between the poor and the rich is growing; those with means (money) cannot be defined as "capitalists" (chabon'ga) in the North, but are called tonju (-主?) instead. "Evene if you've got a job you can't make more than 3800 W a month, so people are fed up with party members and functionaries, and nobody wants to work in the party"; instead, people are concentrating on how they themselves and their families survive
• a refugee from Musan close to the Chinese border tells of having collected juice from bellflower (toraji) but later got to know that it had been a government's opium poppy field
• a DPRK refugee who took part in the discussion suggested that the sanctions will have the biggest efect on mid-level government (party) functionaries.
The poor people have not been relying on the government distribution since the late-90s' famine. The mid-level functionaries in the party or in the security apparatus are highly dependent on the state and on bribes given from below, and the sanctions are likely to affect this structure the most according to the speaker.

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