Citing two unnamed local sources, the outlet reported towards the end of last year that the governments were ‘scrambling to make candies in preparation for a nationwide celebration of leader Kim Jong-un’s birthday in January’, but are ‘forcing hungry citizens to pay for it’.
The huge-scale project – which sees the sweets handed out to children across the country – has led to shortages in flour and sugar supplies, in turn doubling prices.
One resident in Unsan, South Pyongan province, north of the capital Pyongyang, told RFA: “Since yesterday, the price of one kilogram of flour has jumped from 12,000 won (U.S. $2.40) to 30,000 won ($6). The price of sugar has also jumped from 13,000 won to 25,000 won.”
The source, who requested to remain anonymous for security reasons, added: “It’s all because the central government has ordered that each province must produce and supply confections as gifts for children from Kim Jong Un for his birthday on January 8.”
According to RFA, the gift of sweets to children on or around the birthday of the country’s leader is a tradition in North Korea dating back to Kim’s grandfather, national founder Kim Il Sung.
When Kim Jong-un – who turns 38, 39 or 40 today, depending on who you ask – first assumed office, sweets were given to expectant mothers and children in daycare or elementary schools, but in 2019 the scheme expanded to every child in the country.
With ongoing, widespread food shortages and a struggling economy in North Korea due to the closed border with China, many local governments have been forcing citizens to pay for the ingredients like flour and sugar.
In some regions, people have also been asked to donate an egg – unsurprisingly leading to egg shortages in many areas.
The second source told RFA that the local government had a deadline to finish the sweets by 20 December, saying: “To purchase the raw materials for confections, the county party directly imposed a tax of 5,000 won on each household."
The source added: “They even demanded each house provide one egg for confection production. As people must purchase the eggs for donation at the local marketplace, the market is running out of eggs,” the second source said.
“Residents are angry that the authorities are wiping out the pockets of the people at a time like this to make candy for children, supposedly from Kim Jong Un for his birthday.”
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Topics: Kim Jong-un