Scholar makes use of trash as treasure to review life in North Korea | Health and Health

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — When the waves wash trash onto the seashores of front-line South Korean islands, Kang Dong Wan can typically be discovered looking for what he calls his “treasure” — garbage from North Korea that gives a peek into a spot that’s shut all the way down to most outsiders.

“This can be very important material because we can learn what products are manufactured in North Korea and what goods people use there,” Kang, 48, a professor at South Korea’s Dong-A University, instructed The Associated Press in a latest interview.

He was pressured to show to the fragile information-gathering technique as a result of COVID-19 has made it a lot more durable for outsiders to seek out out what’s happening inside North Korea, one of many world’s most cloistered nations even with out pandemic border closures.

The selection, quantity and growing sophistication of the trash, he believes, confirms North Korean state media stories that chief Kim Jong Un is pushing for the manufacturing of assorted sorts of shopper items and a much bigger industrial design sector to satisfy the calls for of his folks and enhance their livelihoods.

People are additionally studying…

Kim, regardless of his authoritarian rule, can not ignore the tastes of shoppers who now purchase merchandise at capitalist-style markets as a result of the nation’s socialist public rationing system is damaged and its financial woes have worsened in the course of the pandemic.

“Current North Korean residents are a generation of people who’ve come to realize what the market and economy are. Kim can’t win their support if he only suppresses and controls them while sticking to a nuclear development program,” Kang stated. “He needs to show there are some changes in his era.”

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Kang usually visited Chinese border cities to satisfy North Koreans staying there. He additionally purchased North Korean merchandise and photographed North Korean villages throughout the river border. He can’t go there anymore, nonetheless, as a result of China’s anti-virus restrictions restrict international vacationers.

Since September 2020, Kang has visited 5 South Korean border islands off the nation’s west coast and picked up about 2,000 items of North Korean trash together with snack luggage, juice pouches, sweet wrappers and drink bottles.

Kang stated he was amazed to see dozens of various varieties of colourful packaging supplies, every for sure merchandise like seasonings, ice cream bars, snack muffins and milk and yogurt merchandise. Many carry quite a lot of graphic parts, cartoon characters and lettering fonts. Some nonetheless can appear outdated by Western requirements and are obvious copycats of South Korean and Japanese designs.

Kang just lately revealed a e book primarily based on his work titled “Picking up North Korean Trash on the Five West Sea Islands.” He stated he’s now additionally began to scour japanese South Korean front-line seashores.

Other specialists research the variety of products and packaging designs in North Korea by state media broadcasts and publications, however Kang’s trash assortment permits a extra thorough evaluation, stated Ahn Kyung-su, head of DPRKHEALTH.ORG, an internet site specializing in well being points in North Korea.

Kang’s work additionally opens up an interesting window into North Korea.

Ingredient data on some juice pouches, as an example, reveals North Korea makes use of tree leaves as a sugar substitute. Kang suspects that’s due to an absence of sugar and sugar-processing gear.

He stated the invention of greater than 30 sorts of synthetic taste enhancer packets might imply that North Korean households can not afford costlier pure elements like meat and fish to prepare dinner Korean soups and stews. Many South Koreans have stopped utilizing them at house over well being issues.

Plastic luggage for detergents have phrases like “the friend of housewives” or “accommodating women.” Because the belief is that solely ladies do such work, it may very well be a mirrored image of the low standing of ladies in male-dominated North Korean society.

Some wrappers show extraordinarily exaggerated claims. One says {that a} walnut-flavored snack cake is a greater supply of protein than meat. Another says that collagen ice cream makes youngsters develop taller and enhances pores and skin elasticity. And one more claims {that a} snack cake made with a sure type of microalgae prevents diabetes, coronary heart illness and getting older.

Kang has been unable to confirm the standard of former contents inside his trash.

North Korean snacks and cookies have typically change into a lot softer and tastier lately, although their high quality nonetheless lags behind that of South Korea’s internationally aggressive merchandise, in line with Jeon Young-sun, a analysis professor at Seoul’s Konkuk University.

Noh Hyun-jeong, a North Korean defector, stated she was “ecstatic” concerning the South Korean bread and muffins that she ate after her arrival right here in 2007. She stated the confectionaries and candies she had within the North had been typically bitter and “as hard as a rock.”

Kang Mi-Jin, one other defector who runs an organization analyzing North Korea’s economic system, stated that when she had South Koreans strive new North Korean cookies and candies in blind style checks, they thought they had been South Korean. But Ahn, the web site head, stated the North Korean cookie he obtained in 2019 was “tasteless.”

Kang stated his trash assortment is an try to higher perceive the North Korean folks and research methods to bridge the hole between the divided Koreas within the occasion of future unification.

In 2019, Kang stated he was denied entry at Shanghai’s airport, apparently due to his earlier, largely unauthorized work alongside the China-North Korea border. During a earlier interval of inter-Korean detente that led to 2008, Kang stated he visited North Korea greater than 10 instances however might solely purchase restricted items that didn’t assist him perceive the nation.

Picking up trash on the islands, about 4-20 kilometers (2.5-12 miles) from North Korean territory, is a troublesome job. He most frequently visits Yeonpyeong, an island shelled by North Korea in an assault that killed 4 South Koreans in 2010.

On some journeys, South Korean marines quizzed Kang as a result of residents who noticed him accumulating trash thought he was doing one thing suspicious. He was generally stranded when ferry companies had been canceled due to unhealthy climate. Kang stated he sometimes cried in frustration on the seaside when he failed to seek out North Korean trash or acquired calls from acquaintances jeering or doubting his work.

“But I was heartened after collecting more and more trash … and I determined that I must find out how many goods are in a country where we can’t go and what we can find from that trash,” Kang stated. “When the wind blew and the waves ran high, something always washed ashore and I was so happy because I could find something new.”

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