I have visited North
Koreafs north-west area, mainly North
Pyongan Province, from this January to
April. I made around 10 hours of video-shooting
with my hidden camera. I have heard that
part of my video report was publicized
in the world media via Asiapress, and
it has received a lot of feedback from
many people. I was excited to hear my
work and reports reach overseas.
On the other hand, I was told that there
is lack of understanding on the current
food situation in North Korea. In this
report, I would like to marshal and summarize
the situation of food shortage in our
country, especially focusing on the military
food condition by introducing my interviews
% of 100 soldiers of my troop will be
In March, I visited an area in North Pyongan
Province. I spoke to two young soldiers.
Their lapel pins show they belong to a
cadet troop. North Korea has a conscription
system. Some go to military college while
they maintain their position in their
original troop and its graduates become
One was 26 years old and the other was
29. I asked about their food conditions.
They start talking to me about the conditions
of the troop that they belong to.
Since it was impossible to identify myself,
this video interview was recorded with
a hidden camera.
Do you have regular meals?
Soldier 1: Yes. I have
just had a meal today.
Kim: What kind of meals
do you have? (in the military)
Soldier 1: Corn meal.
Kim: How is the size
Soldier 1: Well, it looksc
appearance looks nice.
Kim: But you look vigorless.
It must be hard.
Soldier 1: Yeah, itfs
Kim: Are there many malnourished
Soldier 1: All are visibly
Soldier 1: All are like
that in my troop.
Kim: But you have meals
three times a day somehow?
Soldier 1: Yes. Serious
problems would occur if Peoplefs Army
He doesnft say much about the precise
condition of food. From his evasive answers,
I felt he was told from his superior not
to talk to someone about food conditions
in the military.
He had a spade in his hand.
Kim: Why do you have a spade
Soldier 1: Wellc Do you
know any place where I can get something
suitable for side dishes?
Soldier 1: I need something
to be a side dish.
Kim: How about salted
vegetables, is it fine for you?
Soldier 1: Sure.
He talked to the other cadet soldier standing
next to him. He seems to be this soldierfs
acquaintance but belonging to a different
Soldier 1: (talking to
other soldier) Actually I came to collect
Soldier 1: Yes. I left
my troop quietly to get it because my
officer-comrade did not have enough side
Soldier 2: I came out
to patrol the water-supplying pipe.
Kim: Water pipe? Water
is being stolen?
Soldier 2: Water goes
to my troop from this position. But there
are many residents who get water by making
a hole in the pipe. Then water pressure
goes down in our troop compound. So I
came for patrolling.
Kim: Oh, yeah. (asking
to other soldier) You came to collect
Soldier 1: Yes.
Kim: I'll give you salted vegetable. Then
you wonft need to get wild shepherd's-purse.
Soldier 1: Right.
Soldier 2: I know it
all goes to officers even if we do our
effort to collect it. (We) Cadet students
cannot have the sharec.
Kim: Even officers donft
have side dishes?
Soldier 1: There is some artificial-meat.(*1)
But it is not enough.
(*1: Note - Dried soybean
Kim: You guys donft have
even salted vegetables?
Soldier 2: We have something
like that. But those are not pickled in
a jar or pot, but in a bag made of cloth.
Soldier 1: It gets moldy
I spoke with them in a familiar attitude.
After a short talk, the soldiers began
to talk about food conditions.
Kim: What is your meal
Soldier 1: c I canft
figure it out. Because itfs so poor.
Kim: Such an awful condition?
Soldier 1: Peoplefs Armyfs
meal is like that.
Kim: A meal with sampler
of corn grain?
Soldier 1: I wish I could
have enough amount of even such meals.
Soldier 2: Even corn
meal is better if we could have enough
of it. But actually it is less than a
Soldier 1: It is difficult
to say when I think of my superior. But
all troops are told to make gself-solutionh.
(*2) The condition
is slightly better in the military college.
But it is quite hard in my troop because
everything, including meals, lacks.
(*2: Note - The state does
not give any ration and food supply to
the military. Each troop is ordered to
solve problems among themselves.)
Kim: I have heard that
some troops are in a much awful condition.
So you guys are better since you somehow
have corn meal though.
Soldier 2: How it will
be if we donft even have it?
Kim: But the amount of
food is little, isnft it?
Soldier 2: I canft even
talk about it because itfs so poor.
Kim: Are there many malnourished
soldiers in your troop?
Soldier 1: I have heard
an area (of troop) in Kanwon Province
is much severer.
Kim: How many soldiers
in one unit of troop?
Soldier 1: Around 100.
Kim: I guess around 30
percent of 100 soldiers are malnourished,
is it right?
Soldier 1: It becomes
50 percent in spring.
Soldier 2: After a while,
itfs gonna be worse. In potato harvest
season (after mid June), we have seven
small potatoes for one meal.
Small potatoes, he meant, are the size
of a thumb or slightly bigger than that.
I think it is not enough amount to fill
the hungry stomach of soldiers.
This food shortage is not only the case
for his troop. Food shortage and malnutrition
are rampant among all troops.
This January, I have heard from my acquaintance
who is a regional commissioned officer
belonging to Household Command Headquarters
(a troop in charge of security for General
Kim Jong-il and higher officials) that
they have 100grams(=3.5 ounce) of ration
meal for a portion. This is a ridiculously
little amount. They will be malnourished
even if they just sit without moving all
In this situation, the government launched
massive impressments of rice for the military
from the people.
- To be continued - PART
(Report by Kim Dong-cheol. 2011, July)
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