North Korea’s sabre rattling continues to heighten tensions in the region. While missile launches and nuclear tests stoke international fears of North Korean aggression, domestically they are claimed as achievements of the leadership and used for propaganda purposes. Despite these successes, North Korean authorities are beefing up internal security and appear focused on regime stability. The North Korean people meanwhile, appear indifferent to the government’s efforts, expressing discontent at state shortcomings.
In mid September, ASIAPRESS discussed these matters with two North Koreans living in the northern border area. The first interview was with a resident near the Sino-North Korean border in Yanggang Province. (Kang Ji-won/Paek Chang-ryong)
◆ “I felt a strong tremble, and cracks ran along the sides of buildings”
Reporter: Did you feel anything around the time of the nuclear test on September 9?
Resident: Several apartments 1km away from my house had cracks in the walls and broken windows. People said that things were shaking as though a train was going by. Some people at the market place said they felt the earth quake; others don’t remember such things. I didn’t feel anything, which may be due to the fact that I live in a bungalow.
Reporter: How does the government let people know about successful missile launches, submarine launches*, and nuclear tests?
Resident: Well, it’s as propaganda (as tribute to the leader’s greatness). Local congregations are arranged for the purpose of informing the people that General (Kim Jong-un) has developed this weaponry. The nuclear test is a warning to enemies not to provoke. But it doesn’t matter to us whether we have nukes or not.
*The North Korean media claims that the country has a powerful strategic submarine-based ballistic missile, developed under the direct guidance and instruction of Comrade Kim Jong-un
Related Article: Enormous Flood Damage at Tumen River Basin, Outcry over No Relief Efforts by Government
Reporter: What are your thoughts on the nuclear bomb?
Resident: Here (North Korea), we say, “Nukes can break the earth.” This is one of General Kim Jong-il’s sayings and has been repeated at local meetings since. People also often say, “The earth can’t exist without North Korea.”
Reporter: Is that what happens? Do the nukes break the earth?
Resident: We don’t know. We know about the missile launches because they publish photos after it happens, but what do we actually know about the nuclear tests? We are just told: “It succeeded’” or “It was powerful.” We don’t really care whether they launch missiles or not. We care more about making a living. People ask, “If they can spend so much on nuclear tests and missiles launches why don’t they distribute rations?”
◆Local government collects CNY50 per a household following flood damage
Reporter: Do you know about the flood damage in North Hamkyung Province?
Resident: Yes. Rumor has it that many people died along the Tumen river basin. I’ve heard that in China they were picking corpses out of the river and later returned them to North Korea. Many people are still missing. Others have lost their homes; swept away in the flood. This happens every year. The rainy season brings death and destruction.
Related Article: People believe that the sanction should hit hard on Kim Jong-un and the high ranks, but inevitably it is hitting on people’s lives as well……
Reporter: Is the North Hamkyung Province government asking for anything to help with the flood damage?
Resident: They’ve made several demands of the people. It most likely differs from village to village, but in our region the local authorities were demanding CNY50 per household. That amount may not be a big deal for party officials and rich people, but ordinary people are feeling the pinch. CNY50 is enough to get you more than a 10 kg bag of rice. If I had enough money, I’d be willing to help. But these demands make things really tough.
※ ASIAPRESS uses China-based phones to contact ASIAPRESS reporting partners inside North Korea.
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