A special kind of rice for DPRK Workers’ Party officials
North Korean refugees say that there is a special type of rice reserved for officials of the ruling Workers’ Party.
Once a North Korean reaches a higher rank such as an officer in the army, police force or security ministry, the state provides rations for their household.
North Korean rice is dark in colour, and often full of husks because they are not put through the proper polishing process. Recipients of state rice rations normally sell their rations on in the markets “straight away, without even bothering to open the packet,” according to Kim Eun-hee, who escaped from North Korea in 2012.
Eun-hee says her family received rations because her father was an official in the Workers’ Party. “The children of Party officials don’t like the state rations because it’s a bother to pick out the husks. Some people do take the trouble, but anyone who can afford it prefers to eat better quality rice,” she explains.
Those who sell their state rice rations to market traders buy South Korean or Chinese rice in its place. It works out for everyone involved: “Chosun [North Korean] rice is sticky, and it tends to fill you up more. While ordinary North Koreans will purchase Party officials’ Chosun rice rations in the markets, officials will seek out what they perceive as higher quality rice.”
Son Kwang-chul is from Pyongyang, and he escaped North Korea in 2011. He explains that there actually exists good-quality ‘state rice’ rations for higher-ranking officials. “They say that Jaeryong rice, from Hwanghae Province, used to be offered up to kings in the past. Today, it is designated as a No.9 product.”
In North Korea, No.9 farms and No. 9 production teams are separately managed by the accounting department of the Workers’ Party Central Committee. Products manufactured here are referred to as ‘No.9 products’ and cater to the Kim family and other high-ranking officials.
“Jaeryong rice is in circulation within Pyongyang. It’s starchy and tasty, and it looks transparent. In fact, we say ‘it tastes like honey’. Those with real purchasing power will look to buy Jaeryong rice,” says Kwang-chul.