“Normal” North Korea

Often times, when we think of North Korea, we have an image of people with grim faces and lifeless eyes walking through a drab city full of grey tones. We think of these people as mere puppets of the North Korean government putting on shows for the foreign tourists with a forced smile on their faces. They become part of the picture we paint in our minds of starving children and prisoners. How often do we actually think of these people as just people who have daily lives just like you and I do? Granted, our lifestyles may be extremely different. But the fact that they have lives separate from the one we imagine them to have is very true. Dr. Andrei Lankov addresses this in his article in The Korea Times.

For those of you who do not know who Andrei Lankov is, let me offer you a brief introduction. Dr. Andrei Lankov was born in St. Petersburg, Russia and is now a renowned specialist in Korean studies. In 1985, he even spent some time studying at Kim Il Sung University of North Korea. In 2004, he moved to South Korea to teach at Kookmin University, which is where he remains today. He is one of the few foreigners in South Korea who can offer a scholarly perspective on North Korean issues. If you follow North Korean news and issues, you have probably come across his name quite a few times.

In his article “Normal North Korea,” Dr. Lankov talks about his experience of visiting North Korea in September of 1984. As he first drove through the streets of Pyongyang, he explains that what he saw was quite unexpected. Russia at the time was by no means a democratic state but was far more open and “permissive” than North Korea was. Therefore, having come from Russia, he had expected North Korea to look like a scene from George Orwell’s book 1984, which is ironic considering the year of his visit. He explains it as follows: Continue reading

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In the News – AusAID On The Road In DPR Korea

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In the News – AusAID On The Road In DPR Korea

Australian aid officials recently went on a field mission to Wonsan, Hamhung and Nampo port to monitor Australian assistance to women and children through WFP in DPR Korea.

The mission visited a pediatric ward and a private household in Wonsan city before overseeing the arrival of Australian funded soya beans at Nampo port.

One third of all Korean children under 5 are suffering from under nutrition, mainly caused by insufficient food and lack of protein. Soya beans are a key ingredient for ‘Super Cereal Corn Soya Milk Blend’, which is distributed to children and pregnant and breastfeeding women to combat hunger.

The impact of AusAID’s contribution to the WFP’s operation ‘Emergency Assistance to Vulnerable groups in DPRK’ is significant, with almost 2.5 million children and women in DPRK benefitting from Australian support throughout the life of the operation. Australia has provided over US$7.5 million to WFP’s current DPRK operation.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – Children Brave Harsh Cold for Arirang

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In the News – Children Brave Harsh Cold for Arirang

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung, the North Korean authorities ordered the holding of provincial cultural events along similar lines to the famed ‘Arirang’ mass gymnastics. However, in Yangkang Province the weather in the run-up to the event meant that this created considerable displeasure, prompting some wealthier parents to make significant payments to avoid participation.

According to a source from Yangkang Province, a two-hour Arirang-style performance called ‘Shine, Shrine of the Revolution’ went ahead in Hyesan Stadium on the 15th, apparently causing the watching citizens of the city to agree that “We are in tears just watching those kids perform so well when they haven’t had enough to eat.”

Starting in February and continuing throughout the winter, preparations for the performance were intense, so a number of middle and upper class families apparently paid 60-100,000 North Korean Won to get their elementary- and middle school-age children out of it.

“The provincial education office issued an order telling schools to organize the performance for themselves, so the students in charge of preparing the card section had a really hard time making it,” the source explained. ”The intensity of the dance practice was too harsh as well; there were many kids with nosebleeds.”

“They said it was hell, spending all day in the icy cold practicing,” she went on. “Even in April it is about 10℃ in Yangkang Province, cold enough to be wearing padded clothes at midday. The students had to bring lunch, and those who did not practiced the whole day starving”.

“Does ‘Arirang’ know that these children are starving and suffering like this?” Hyesan residents could reportedly be heard to wonder, referring euphemistically to Kim Jong Eun.

Provincial performances of this nature were first initiated when Kim Jong Il attended a mass gymnastics event in Jagang Province in August, 2009, declaring that regional variations on a theme be prepared nationwide. These events are ordinarily held from Liberation Day on August 15th to Party Foundation Day on October 10th, but this year saw special performances organized to mark the April 15th holiday, requiring preparations to go ahead during the winter.

However, on April 15th Rodong Shinmun released news of the Yangkang Province performance, saying that it had rendered the stadium “aflutter with joy.”

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – Most N.Korean Children Undernourished

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In the News – Most N.Korean Children Undernourished

Nearly two-thirds of North Korean children under 10, or some 2.2 million, suffer from growth disorders related to malnutrition and 18,000 of them are so undernourished that their life is at risk, according to a study.

Hwang Na-mi, a researcher at the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs in Seoul, published her findings in the March issue of the journal Health and Welfare Forum on Sunday. She analyzed a nutrition assessment conducted in the North by the UNICEF in cooperation with the North’s Central Statistics Bureau in 2004 and 2009.

According to the study, 2.2 million or 61.7 percent of the North’s 3.55 million children under 10 were underweight, chronically malnourished with stunted growth, or acutely undernourished with a frail physique. Some numbers overlap.

Some 320,000 or 18.8 percent of children aged 0-4 years were underweight, and 430,000 or 23.1 percent of those aged 5-9. Five-year-old North Korean boys weighed less than 14.1 kg and girls less than 13.7 kg on average, about 4 kg lighter than their South Korean peers.

Some 1.23 million or 34.7 percent of children under nine showed stunted growth for their age due to malnutrition. Some 210,000 or 6 percent were frailly built and underweight for their height as a result of acute malnutrition.

Conditions varied widely between regions. In Ryanggang Province, which has no proper food rations and suffers from a lack of farmland, a massive 82.1 percent of children were undernourished, nearly double the percentage in the capital Pyongyang (43.5 percent). Next came South Hamgyong, North Hamgyong, and Jagang provinces.

“The health of North Korean children has improved thanks to food aid from the international community, but most of them are still undernourished,” Hwang said. “Some 0.5 percent of the North’s entire child population are at a high risk of dying of diseases like tuberculosis, pneumonia or diarrhea because their immune system is so weak due to extreme malnutrition.”

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – Former aid official says N. Korean children suffer from poor diet

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In the News – Former aid official says N. Korean children suffer from poor diet

SAN FRANCISCO, Nov. 30 (Yonhap) — Many North Korean children are stunted due to chronic malnutrition, a former aid official said Wednesday, the latest sign of food shortages in the communist country.

The North has relied on foreign handouts since the late 1990s when it suffered a massive famine that was estimated to have killed 2 million people. North Korea also suffered from devastating floods earlier this year, which experts have said may worsen the country’s food shortages.

Katharina Zellweger, who led the Swiss Agency for Cooperation and Development in Pyongyang for five years until September, said North Korean children need a balanced diet, though the public rationing system has been very up and down. Continue reading