At the Ninth Plenary Session of the Eighth Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un listed indicators in grain production, electricity, housing and other sectors, boasting that “all 12 goals of the development of the people’s economy have been achieved” and that “remarkable results have been achieved in the entire people’s economy.”
By emphasizing how North Korea has achieved its economic goals through self-reliance despite various difficulties, including international sanctions and COVID-19, Kim demonstrated complete confidence before domestic and international audiences.
But what are the realities facing North Koreans? North Korea’s state-run media, such as KCNA, publish photos of golden rice fields, brightly lit city nightscapes, and colorful, beautifully built houses, promoting how the “socialist fatherland is the cradle of happiness.
In the midst of it all, however, many North Koreans groan in hunger and poverty. People’s livelihoods were directly affected when COVID-19 destroyed markets, the center of the people’s economy, and they continue to suffer economic hardship.
Two residents of Yanggang and North Hamgyong provinces recently interviewed by Daily NK said that North Koreans are suffering from malnutrition because they cannot eat properly and cannot buy medicine when they are sick because they have no money. These two people, who barely get by on the money they earn from trading, shared their New Year’s wishes with Daily NK, along with the circumstances facing North Koreans.
Daily NK: What is life like for North Koreans now? Please tell us what you’ve experienced or seen.
“A” in Yanggang Province: It’s been unimaginably hard. Some families survive on a handful of boiled corn because they have no rice, while other families fill their bellies with water and collapse from hunger, though they cannot die. Families of homeless beggars huddle in garbage dumps or alleyways, shivering in the cold. All of this is the result of economic hardship. All we can do is sigh as it’s getting worse.
“B” in North Hamgyong Province: More and more people are suffering from malnutrition because they can’t afford to eat properly. Sick people can’t buy the medicine they need or get proper treatment because they have no money. It’s gone beyond hardship to life-threatening. Still, we have to shout, “Thank you, Supreme Leader,” and “Our country is the best,” but we really want to escape this life.
Daily NK: Looking back on the past year, what was the most difficult thing you had to face?
A: It was hard because the neighborhood watch units and the Socialist Women’s Union don’t care about our lives and just told us to contribute things. It’s always been this way, but they just tell us to give and shame us if we don’t meet expectations despite the increasing number of homeless beggars.
B: The raids and crackdowns. People who make a living selling things on the street because they can’t get a place in the markets are often chased away by enforcement teams, and if they are caught, their goods are confiscated. To get their goods back, they’re treated like animals. It’s just horrible to think, “Why do I have to die because I can’t be treated like the human being I was born as?”
Daily NK: What are your wishes for the New Year?
A: They built a lot of houses last year, but the people who live in them are struggling every day. Those houses are just for show. In the new year, I hope they will take care of the urgent food shortage and solve it instead of focusing on appearances.
B: In the new year, I hope that business goes well so that we can survive on what we produce ourselves. I hope it’s a year when people who are struggling with hardship don’t have to go hungry. I also hope it’s a year when the struggles and pains we’ve endured in recent years come to an end.
Translated by David Black. Edited by Robert Lauler.
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January 18, 2024 at 07:30AM
by DailyNK(North Korean Media)