I met Choi, a 45-year-old North Korean resident in my recent trip to northeast China, in a border area in Changbai County.
Choi said that not only the number of beggar children [spiked after the July and August floods in North Korea] but also adult vagabonds increased, as it did in 1997 at the peak of the Great Famine.
The number of young wanderers, called ‘kotjebi’ (begging children), had been anticipated [but] it was the unprecedented that adult wanders appeared in such a large scale.
Choi concluded that being a wanderer is better, if not only the only way to survive, abandoning homes and occupations [in the trade-off].
Choi stated, “Although the state has never declared that it will not provide food rationing, people no longer believe in state rationing. Workers don’t expect salaries from their companies. Nobody asks for overdue payment. They just gave up any hope on that. Since there is no ration and no salary, there is no need to keep homes and jobs.”
[Excerpt of article by Choi Jeon Ho, Defector from North Pyongan province, writing in Daily NK]