In North Korea, printed calendars separate rich from poor – Radio Free Asia

Inflation in North Korea has skyrocketed the price of even government-issued calendars, to the point where they have become a status symbol separating the rich and the poor in the isolated country, sources told RFA .

It was once customary that each December the government gave each household an official one-page calendar marking the Gregorian and Perched dates, the latter named after the self-reliance ideology of national founder Kim Il Sung and counting the number of years since his birth in April 1912.

But in recent years, people have had to be self-sufficient and pay their annual donation. Several types of calendars have also become available.

Six-page double-sided calendars with color photos that dedicate an individual page for each month, printed in the capital Pyongyang, cost the most. Each province also has several locally printed ones that are cheaper but of lower quality.

RFA reported last year that the 2021 timetables have been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The closure of the border with China and the suspension of trade made imported paper and ink scarce, and as of mid-January, people still had not received their calendars.

In 2022, the same problems as last year persist. A second year without imports has ruined the North Korean economy and worsened food shortages. Under these conditions, the price of calendars has quadrupled, and only those lucky enough not to worry about their next meal can even think about which “government gifted” calendar they wish to purchase.

“A change is noticeable in the New Year’s calendar. They added another slogan, beyond the usual “Our great comrades, Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, are with us forever,” “said a resident of northeastern North Hamgyong province in Korean service from RFA on December 27.

“The new calendar also says, ‘We wish the well-being of the secretary-general,” the source said, referring to current leader Kim Jong Un by his official title.

In northwestern North Pyongan Province, calendars printed in Pyongyang are popular, but expensive, a resident of North Pyongan Province told RFA on the same day.

“The New Year’s calendars have been released and they are being sold on market stalls in every region,” the source said.

“But the calendars with color photos that were printed in Pyongyang, are so expensive that ordinary citizens cannot afford to buy them,” said the source from north Pyongan, who requested anonymity. ‘express freely.

In addition to the Pyongyang calendars, there are a couple of locally printed calendars available to residents of northern Pyongan.

“The six-page national calendars are popular because (…) they use better-quality paper and show beautiful landscape photos,” the source from north Pyongan said.

A six-page calendar from Pyongyang last year cost 10 yuan (US $ 1.57), but this year they cost between 30 and 40 yuan, the cost of several dozen kilograms of corn, according to the north source. from Pyongan.

“Who else but the super-rich would be willing to buy a calendar so far?” The source from North Pyongan said.

Calendar production has been further delayed than last year in northeastern North Hamgyong Province, said a resident of that province.

“A simple one-page calendar, with all 12 months printed on one sheet, and a six-page illustrated calendar appeared on the market just a few days ago,” the North Hamgyong source said.

“The official national calendar, with a separate month on each page, has a government-imposed price of 3,000 won (US $ 0.60). Limited copies of this calendar are distributed to each of the state-run enterprises and units. These calendars are smuggled out and traded in the market for the ridiculously high price of 30-40 yuan ($ 4.70-6.30), the North Hamgyong source said.

Some still receive the calendars as a gift, according to the source from North Hamgyong.

“This year, the giveaway was limited to honored veterans, leaving most ordinary residents to go the whole year without a schedule.”

Translated by Claire Lee. Written in English by Eugene Whong.

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