Ordinary residents ordered to provide ingredients for Kim Jong Il birthday snack manufacturing

Kang Mi Jin  |  2018-02-08 00:09
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Clockwise from top left, snacks distributed to children on the birthdays of Kim family
leaders in 1977, 1994, 2008, and 2017. Image: Daily NK

As North Korea prepares traditional snack packages for children in celebration of Kim Jong Il's birthday on February 16, sources in Ryanggang Province has revealed that the authorities are demanding local residents provide the ingredients needed to manufacture these snacks.

"Every household in the area was ordered to provide to their inminban (People's Unit) 150 grams of sesame seeds and soybeans (towards the production of the snacks), but almost nobody is voluntarily complying. So the People's Unit leaders are having to go around and personally collect the offerings, to which people are reacting quite coldly," a source in Ryanggang Province told Daily NK on February 5.

The source added that while the central government is providing the bulk of materials needed to produce the birthday distributions, they are also emphasizing the country's self-reliance and placing some of the burden on provincial governments, which are in charge of various food processing factories. But because no official policy on these matters has been established, local governments turn to ordinary residents to make up for supply shortages.

But last year's drought and the resulting poor harvest, resulting in the inability for many to grow sesame and soy crops, are having an effect on the latest orders, the source said. The order is thus forcing residents to offer a significant portion of their already meager food reserves.

"People are on edge now, being asked to give up their food after they were already ordered to provide food for other projects recently, such as the Paekam County 'Youth Hero Power Plant' project and the Samjiyon railway construction," he added. "Some households without children are asking why they must comply with the order if they have no kids to receive the snacks anyway."

"Some particularly bold women have said things like, 'Doesn't the fact they are demanding sesame and soy from people mean that the birthday snack distributions are not really gifts at all?' and, 'It doesn't matter under what pretense they make these demands; it's just another typical move by the authorities,'" a separate source in Ryanggang Province said.

Nevertheless, the local authorities continue to harass People's Unit leaders to fulfill their demands, leading in turn to disputes between the People's Unit leaders and residents.

"I have also heard some harsh reactions (to the orders), like people saying, 'Even if they threaten to kill us, we cannot pay up. Don't we have to actually have the food in the first place in order to give it to them?'" the second source said.

Although Kim Jong Un is attempting to promote his "love for the future generation" through "gift politics" and surrounding propaganda, the intended presents are instead being interpreted by residents as "hardly worth the trouble."

In previous years on the birthdays of the Kim family leaders, the North Korean authorities have given each young child throughout the country 1 kg of locally-manufactured snacks such as sugar candy, rice crackers, and soy candy.

*Translated by Colin Zwirko

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