Exclusive: Now Even Party Cadres Must Take Part in the “Arduous March”
Farmers are suffering from exploitation more than they did during the Arduous March (DPRK term to describe the famine of the mid-late 90s), according to our correspondents. The ‘Favourable Treatment of Farmers’ and ‘3:7 Distribution’ initiatives much vaunted by Kim Jong-un have proved to be no more than a thin veneer.
With Kim Il-sung’s birthday on April 15 closely followed by the anniversary of the foundation of the Korean People’s Army on April 25, farmers’ crop allocations have been confiscated on various pretexts such as ‘Loyalty Offerings’, ‘Patriotic Rice Offerings’ and ‘Offerings to the Military’.
Reflecting fears that the food situation would become markedly worse, cases have been reported of Party cadres adding the names of their family members to the lists of bunjo (the smallest unit in the farm system). Consequently, the portion for farmers have become even more meagre than they already were.
People in North Korea now say that the ‘barley hump’ no longer begins in May or June, but instead, early in April. Because this expression serves to undermine the sanctity of Kim Il-sung’s birthday, considered to be the most holy day in the North Korean calendar, surveillance and monitoring of similar conversational topics by the state is said to be severe.
Since the execution of Jang Song-thaek, the regime has leapt headlong into ideological warfare initiatives. Orders have been issued for Kim Il-sung statues nationwide to have Kim Jong-il statues set up next to them before Kim Jong-il’s death anniversary in December is marked in 2014.
Also, it has been ordered that existing ‘towers of immortal life’, currently emblazoned with the slogan ‘Great Supreme Leader Comrade Kim Il-sung Is With us for Eternity’, should be refurbished, and that the slogan should now read, ‘Great Supreme Leaders Comrade Kim Il-sung and Comrade Kim Jong-il Are With Us for Eternity.’
On top of the demand for fixed ‘Loyalty Offerings’ from all foreign currency-earning companies that operate under the auspices of the Party, the military or the government, North Korean individuals dispatched abroad on business have been issued with threats that if they do not offer sufficient amounts of foreign currency, they will not be issued licences to return abroad.
In connection with the orders for the construction of new Kim Jong-il statues, even ordinary North Koreans are receiving edicts setting the minimum monthly offerings of foreign currency. As a result, disgruntlement regarding such extortion is said to be affecting the country on many levels.
On the grounds of funding state holiday ration distributions to mark Kim Il-sung’s birthday on April 15, foreign currency offerings had been collected since the beginning of the year. With orders for foreign currency offerings now being imposed for the construction of new statues and the refurbishment of the ‘towers of immortal life’, dissatisfaction is being expressed through sayings such as, ‘It must be due to Kim Jong-un’s Swiss education that he is in love with foreign currency more than his father or grandfather were.’
Among North Korean individuals dispatched abroad on business, there are already several who have volunteered to return to the DPRK, because the pressure for fulfilling the quota of foreign currency offerings is so high.
Nevertheless, the surveillance and control capabilities of the regime are perceived to be considerably weakening. As an example, we were told how the regime’s decreasing reserves of foreign currency is seen as linked to the weakening of the ration distribution system and the related organisational structures for cadres:
‘The current situation is such that even cadres have to take part in the Arduous March. Cadres’ daily, 3-day and weekly rations, which offered variety unlike the monthly rations for ordinary people, have dropped in both quality and quantity. In Kim Jong-il’s time, at the time of state holidays, many high quality imports were given to cadres. But in Kim Jong-un’s time, run-of-the-mill Chinese-made goods make up the bulk of cadre distributions.’
‘But above all, in the wake of Jang Song-thaek’s execution, the mood has remained savage; and cadres consequently have not had the stability and confidence to extort bribes the way they have done before. In a situation where even Kim Jong-un’s uncle can be executed for factionalism, and Party Committees continue with investigations of individual cadres, there remains a general feeling of mercilessness. When close cadres meet up, they will be frank in expressing their dissatisfaction with Kim Jong-un and the Organisation and Guidance Department (OGD). Many make a sarcastic dig at both Kim Jong-un and the OGD by bringing up the topic of Jang Song-thaek’s execution.’
Finally, there is said to be a campaign of propaganda and party lectures announcing that the ‘southern Chosun Revolutionary Artefacts Museum’, located inside the ‘Chosun Revolutionary History Museum’, is also being renovated. The implied message is that South Koreans too are making loyalty offerings of foreign currency to the regime.