N.Korean Protesters Demand Food and Electricity

Small pockets of unrest are appearing in North Korea as the repressive regime staggers under international sanctions and the fallout from a botched currency reform, sources say. On Feb. 14, two days before leader Kim Jong-il's birthday, scores of people in Jongju, Yongchon and Sonchon in North Pyongan Province caused a commotion, shouting, "Give us fire [electricity] and rice! "

A North Korean source said people fashioned makeshift megaphones out of newspapers and shouted, "We can't live! Give us fire! Give us rice!" "At first, there were only one or two people, but as time went by more and more came out of their houses and joined in the shouting," the source added.

The State Security Department investigated this incident but failed to identify the people who started the commotion when they met with a wall of silence.

"When such an incident took place in the past, people used to report their neighbors to the security forces, but now they're covering for each other," the source said.

The commotion started because the North Korean regime had diverted sparse electricity from the Jongju and Yongchon area to Pyongyang to light up the night there to mark Kim's birthday on Feb. 16.

"Discontent erupted because the regime cut off electricity that had been supplied to them only a few hours a day, and they had hard time putting food on the table due to soaring rice prices."

A North Korean defector said the Jongju and Yongchon area "has long been a headache to the regime due to the spirit of defiance of the people there."

In April 2004, a massive explosion occurred at Yongchon Station right after a train carrying Kim Jong-il passed.

englishnews@chosun.com / Feb. 23, 2011 07:52 KST