The Buddhist organization Good Friends has finally released what appears to be their final two reports (here and here) for the month of Febuary based on defector and cell-phone testimonies. Suffice it to say, the information is somewhat more alarming than usual.
February 16, Kim Jong-il’s birthday, lacked special rations for most of the country, including the model Kim Chaek Steel Mill in Chongjin, where the Dear Leader himself visited not long ago; in the otherwise model city of Sinuiju, people are starving; wandering children are on the rise in Wonsan; salaries are not being paid; and women in North Hamgyong are trying to get across the Tumen, as they themselves say, in order to eat as well as do Chinese dogs.
Bartering is more valued than trade for questionable currency (and with little on the shelves of state stores, it’s wise), and Chinese companies that purchase pig iron from North Korea are being asked to pay in rice rather than yuan.
Plans may be proceeding for an influx of Chinese tourists, as trenchantly relayed by Michael Rank at NK Economy Watch, but these funds certainly can’t bail out the DPRK. Even the recent news of a 10-year lease to China of a port at Rajin is being interpreted as a sign of North Korean weakness.