|▲ The border guards of Yalu River work on their field. ⓒ the DailyNK|
The unfortunate students of general middle schools have gradually turned into labor for the benefit of affluent households and the powerful classes.
Affluent households get children from the lower classes to repair fences, harvest crops, produce charcoal briquettes and perform other household chores. For poor children, it serves as a good opportunity to get fed somewhat well.
The trend is even clearer in rural areas; wealthy families ask children from poor families to cultivate their private fields, sowing them in spring and harvesting the crops in fall in return for feeding them.
If they employed adults, they’d have to pay them in money, but they can use these poor children in exchange for food alone.
There is a North Korean saying, “If the mother pig is fat, the baby pig will also be fat.” That is how North Korean society operates: according to family property and background.
Another controversial issue is that of “commuting soldiers.” It shows once again how loudly money talks in North Korean society.
In North Korea, students of just 17-years must begin ten years of compulsory military service right after graduating from school. During this military service period, soldiers tend to spend half the time doing military training and the rest being mobilized by the regime for state construction projects, army crop farms or the raising of livestock belonging to the military base.
Seeing this tough situation, however, the families of generals make sure that their children are placed in the neighborhood military base, and then pull the right strings to allow them to commute from home.
It is even common for affluent children to spend more than three months a year at home by offering peppers for kimchi in winter, livestock or some other form of bribe to the base commanders.
Furthermore, since the authorities can no longer provide schools, hospitals and military bases with food or other necessities, they cannot help relying on individuals. Wealthy families take advantage of this opportunity by offering useful things to such public facilities and getting preferences or privileges for their children in return.