MY MOTHER KNOWS BEST


harsh PICKINGS from my NORTH KOREAN DIARY 11.-21. April 2011

I ask our guide as often as possible about personal issues: When do you marry? We get married between 25 and 28 years. So you are 24? You will marry soon? Yes. Who will choose your husband, you or your parents? My mother knows best she will recommend the right partner to me.

You live with your parents? Yes, my mom is cooking for me. Will you move out when you get married? Maybe not, certainly not in the beginning. Is it difficult to find an apartment? No, not so difficult. I write to the district officer and he will allocate one to me. How much does it cost? Nothing. I repeat: “NOTHING“? Why do you ask? Apartments are free. So you cannot buy an apartment? Why should I buy one? This is not necessary! I only pay for electricity, water and heating. How much is that per month? In Euro it is 20 cents. Did I hear right?

My Dear Leader KIM JONG IL

Everything belongs to the government, we don’t have to worry. And what about healthcare? It is free. Sometimes the hospitals have too many patients and we have to wait to get treatment some weeks. So you have to pay the doctor extra money to get good treatment? She doesn’t understand. Extra money? No! We wait till it’s our turn.

I hear from another source that people in Pyongyang have to pay around 3 Euro/month for an apartment. My guide told me that he paid 7 Euro for his suit made by a tailor. He said it was expensive. As I calculate the numbers I collect, I figure out that monthly income in the capital Pyongyang is probably between 20-50 Euro. High earners make 200 to 300 Euro. In the countryside it’s ten times less if they get money at all, most likely they get food, a place to sleep and clothing.

It’s difficult to get real numbers and impossible to verify them. Job, income, living conditions – it all depends on communist party connections and on people with a link to the inner power circle of “My Dear Leader“ Kim Jong Il.



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