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The person who turned North Korea’s waste into a ‘treasure’

When the wave swept trash into the beach located on the frontline islands of Korea, Professor Kang Dong Wan quickly picked it up. These are the garbage that was swept away by the waves North Korea which he considers a “treasure”. Because according to Mr. Kang, from these garbage, many secrets in the most closed country in the world have been discovered.

“These are especially important, because we can understand the products that are made in North Korea and the things that the North Koreans use,” said Kang, 48, a professor at the University of California, San Diego. Korea’s Dong-A school shared with AP news agency.

Due to travel restrictions during the Covid-19 epidemic, Mr. Kang could not go out as usual to collect information about the lives of North Koreans. To continue the research process, Mr. Kang devised a way to collect information from garbage washed ashore by waves.

According to Mr. Kang, among the waste he picked up, there were many types with modern packaging and quality. This proves the statement from the North Korean media that Chairman Kim Jong-un is stepping up the production of consumer goods, as well as expanding the industrial design industry to meet the needs of the people. and improve quality of life.

“Now the people of North Korea are the generation of people who understand the market and the economy very well. Kim cannot win support by simply imposing and controlling the people, and insisting on pursuing a nuclear development program. Mr. Kim needs to show some changes during the ruling period,” Professor Kang said.

Before the Covid-19 epidemic appeared, Mr. Kang often went to China’s border towns to meet with North Korean citizens living and working here. He also buys North Korean-made products and takes photos of Korean villages along the river that divides the Sino-Korean border. But when the Covid-19 epidemic broke out, Mr. Kang could not continue his journey of discovery, because China applied regulations to restrict entry of foreign tourists to prevent the epidemic.

Since September 2020, Mr. Kang decided to visit five South Korean border islands located on the west coast of the country, and has collected about 2,000 pieces of garbage from North Korea including snack packaging, perfume bottles. juices, bags of candy and even bottles of alcoholic beverages.

Mr. Kang admitted that he was surprised when he found dozens of packaging with eye-catching colors and designs such as condiments, ice cream, snacks, drinking milk and yogurt.

Many of the packages are printed with vivid illustrations of cartoon characters. Although technologically outdated by Western standards, it can be seen that North Korea seems to have copied the designs of South Korea and Japan.

Mr. Kang published a book entitled “Picking up North Korea’s trash on the 5 western islands”. Currently, the Korean professor is turning to research garbage washed up on frontline beaches in the east of the country.

According to Mr. Ahn Kyung-Su, head of DPRKHEALTH.ORG, a website dedicated to researching health problems of the Korean people, Professor Kang’s method of research through garbage is particularly useful and open. The door to Korean discovery.

Specifically, on the bottle label of some juices produced by North Korea, it says to use leaves instead of sugar to increase sweetness. According to Kang, this may be due to the fact that North Korea is short of sugar, or does not have sugar production equipment.

In addition, more than 30 types of artificial fragrances are also listed on the packages, indicating that North Koreans cannot afford to buy more expensive natural products such as meat and fish to make soups or stews. Meanwhile, most Koreans have stopped using artificial flavors because of concerns about unsafe health.

Notably, some brands of cleaning products with the words “housewife’s friend” or “suitable for women” have responded to the view of male contempt that still exists in North Korean society. when he thinks that only women do the cleaning work, according to Mr. Kang.

However, the work of collecting garbage on islands on the South Korean border located about 4 – 20 km from North Korean territory is not an easy job. The place Mr. Kang frequented is Yeonpyeong, an island that was bombarded by North Korea in 2010, killing four South Koreans.

On a number of trips, Mr. Kang was questioned by South Korean marines, because locals suspected his act of collecting garbage. Many times bad weather caused the demolition trips to be canceled also disrupted Mr. Kang’s garbage collection activities.

“But I am happy every time I pick up more trash. I was determined to find out how many types of goods North Korea has, and what information can be discovered from them,” Kang said.

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