North Koreans pushed to extremes in a difficult economic situation

Photo of a collective farm in South Hwanghae Province taken in 2009 (Flickr, Creative Commons)

The Daily NK has learned that the number of North Koreans dying of illness or taking their own lives due to depression in the midst of extreme hardship is rising sharply.

A source in North Pyongan Province told Daily NK on Sept. 19 that a couple in their 50s committed suicide in early September.

The couple lived with their 20-something daughter who began experiencing symptoms similar to COVID-19. However, when she visited her doctor, she was not prescribed any medication or received any treatment, only to be told she did not have COVID-19.

The family, who could barely put food on the table, let alone buy medicine, had in the past relied on food and money borrowed from neighbors. could not lend.

The couple’s daughter died last month, and the couple took their own lives at the beginning of the month, sources said.

In another incident, members of six families who lived in a harmonica house (a common type of housing in North Korea) in Pihyeon County, North Pyongan Province died of illness or committed suicide after being forced into hardships.

A family of six who worked in a bearing factory in the Yanchek Workers’ District all suffered from low wages and extreme hardships.

According to sources, two families lost their children to fever and another husband lost his wife to illness. Two of her remaining three families died of lack of food, and the husband of the sixth family died of depression.

With good nutrition and timely medical care, these people could have survived. However, their immunity was weakened by years of malnutrition, which eventually led to their death, sources said.

In the past, families of North Korean farmers and factory workers (with little if any rations) often ran out of food. Many homes seem to be in a similar predicament.

According to sources in Pyongyang, the bereaved family of the shipowner and merchant (Mr. A) could not endure any more hardships and quietly took his own life.

Mr. A earned enough income from his trade with China to buy two apartments. But earlier this year, he was retrained for trade law violations and had his assets confiscated. The family was eventually forced to sell the furniture to make ends meet, sources said.

Last month, the leader of the NGO visited Mr. A’s house several times to distribute circulars, but no one came out. When the squad leader finally went inside, he found his entire family already dead.

A man in his 40s from Gangwon Province (Mr. B) and his wife were unable to work due to the effects of the new coronavirus infection, and finally decided to end their lives, shocking the local community.

Mr. B was a long-distance merchant who traveled from Wonsan to several areas to do business. He was famous among Wonsan merchants because he often lent money to other merchants, but he had to close his business after the pandemic restricted travel.

His income was cut off and he was unable to recoup the loan he had taken out, leaving him saddled with debt. died with his family.

It is said that starvation was the number one cause of death during the 1990s “March of Hardships,” but today there are many infections, such as weakened immune systems due to malnutrition and suicides driven by hardships. It seems that more and more people are dying from the disease. .

A North Ping An source told Daily NK, “Just a few years ago, I would have never imagined that so many businesses and smuggling entrepreneurs would take their lives driven by suffering.” . “But even among the once wealthy, so many people are facing unbearable hardships, and behind closed doors critics of governments are growing for political missteps costing their lives. I have.”

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