The Daily NK are running a series of interviews they did with North Korean citizens in China. Here's Kim Eun Hye, a woman in her late thirties. She provides a fascinating insight into the way North Koreans now see the world. The old unwavering faith in the Dear Leader and the Great Socialist Nation is gone forever. They watch South Koreans movies. They see poverty and starvation to which the elite in Pyongyang are immune.
- What was the effect of the currency redenomination?
I managed to save little by little before that. I sent my son to college, maintained the household and still saved up about $2500. I was planning on buying a house with it. After the redenomination, less than $200 was left. Everybody suffered the same way. People with bigger businesses lost more. Many people attempted to commit suicide because of that.
Also, many traders suffered. The money men were ok, but all the small businessmen lost out. They exchanged our money at a 100:1 rate up to 100,000 won, and said we would be living well within a month. They said not to burn the money, that national commerce would flourish, and department stores would open. Traders trusted them and went ahead and lowered their prices.
After a month, Pyongyang No. 1 Department Store was open, but their prices were not marked at the 100:1 rate. They were close to the original prices. All the vendors were watching the department store; they realized it was wrong and quickly raised their own prices.
My hometown is Shinuiju. After my husband died, I sold everything I had and brought the money with me to Pyongsung, but it all turned into scrap paper.
After the redenomination, the people harbored a bitter grudge and should have protested, but North Korea is not that kind of place. People can’t protest in North Korea. Park Nam Ki was shot for rebelling against the Party. But people are not stupid, and now we don’t trust the state.
- Since the currency redenomination, what do people thing about the Party or the state?
They don’t trust them. The people were even afraid of the word ‘dictatorship’ in the past but now they talk. The redenomination was nothing but a hoax. Now people don’t even believe it when they tell us tofu is made with beans. People have to look after themselves. They say foreign currency cannot be used and the market will be controlled, but the people don’t go along with it. We go our own way.
An interesting read. It would be premature to see this as a prelude to revolution though. The main mood, perhaps inevitably, is one of nostalgia for the old days:
We often reminisce about the period under Kim Il Sung. Things were good back then.