North Korea forces residents to buy photos of recent satellite rocket launch
North Korea is forcing its citizens to buy large decorative photos depicting a recent rocket launch to display in their homes as a sign of patriotism. But the people are pushing back, saying the launches and the photos themselves are a waste of money that could be better spent on feeding the people, residents in the country told Radio Free Asia.
“On Jan. 28, each neighborhood-watch unit distributed decorative photos to each household which show scenes from the satellite launch,” a resident of the northeastern province of North Hamgyong, who requested anonymity for personal safety, told RFA Korean. “Residents who refused to receive the photo were forced to take them, saying it was an order from the Party.”
The vinyl-coated photo placards depict the night-time rocket launch of the country’s first military reconnaissance satellite, the Manrikyong-1, which was successfully launched into orbit in November, after failed launches in May and August, said a resident of the northeastern province of Ryanggang.
It’s rather large for a photo, 29 centimeters (11 inches) long and 19 centimeters (7.5 inches) wide, and is being sold for 1,500 won (18 US cents), a resident from the northern province of Ryanggang said. In the past, the government gave away more items for free to its people, but now it is struggling financially.
This is the first time that the government is distributing photos of satellite and missile launches.
The North Hamgyong resident said that people are complaining that they have seen enough news about the satellite in state-run TV and newspapers, and that posting them in their homes seems excessive.
“But the head of the neighborhood watch unit threatened the residents, saying ‘If the Party orders you to post them at home, you will follow the order at all costs,’” he said.
The war-like images on the placards also rubbed some residents the wrong way, the resident said.
“They dislike seeing missile launches because they believe that every time a missile or satellite is launched, several years’ worth of food for the people is thrown into the sky,” he said. “Launching missiles or satellites is an action that increases hunger among residents.”
For some of the poorer residents, the photos are expensive,” the North Hamgyong resident said.
“People would refuse them even if they were offered money to take the placards, but the authorities are going door to door asking us to pay for them,” he said. “Poor residents do not have even 1,000 won (12 cents). Some people are explicitly saying that they would rather receive food than satellite launch photos.”
People are not thinking about rockets, though, the Ryanggang resident said.
“For residents who urgently need to make a living, the military situation between North and South Korea must take a backseat,” he said.“No matter how much the Party emphasizes the military standoff and instills a warlike atmosphere, most people show no response or interest.”
Translated by Claire S. Lee. Edited by Eugene Whong.