Never miss a story

Get subscribed to our newsletter

Children hold flowers as they pay their respects before the giant bronze statues of late North Korean leaders Kim Il Sung and his son Kim Jong Il during the anniversary of the end of World War II and liberation from Japanese colonial rule in Pyongyang, North Korea on Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018. North Korea has marked the anniversary with a series of ceremonies ahead of what is expected to be a much bigger event next month, the 70th anniversary of its national foundation day. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)RFERL

North Korean teenagers in some areas of the country are giving up their studies to take menial jobs because their parents cannot adequately provide for them, while authorities who know about the problem aren’t taking any steps to help, sources in affected areas said.

A source from South Pyongan province told RFA’s Korean Service in an interview Thursday that hungry teens are turning to peddling charcoal used for cooking to support themselves.

“Recently in provincial cities, including Pyongsong, there has been a sudden increase in the number of teenagers selling charcoal for a living,” the source said.

“With the money their parents make, eating three meals a day is difficult, so they become street peddlers.”

Peddling charcoal is a fairly easy business to get into, because it can be done by practically everyone and it requires no seed money, the source explained.

“Kids who sell the charcoals are mostly middle school and high school students. Some of them are elementary school students who are not even 10 years old,” the source said.

But the source noted that although getting into the business is easy, the job itself is not.

“They carry bags of charcoal much bigger than they are, on their back, and they start selling it from dawn,” the source said, adding, “Then they will walk more than 4 kilometers (about 2.5 miles) to get more charcoal so they can sell it the next day, then walk back home. It’s really hard work,” said the source.

“You can see the teenagers selling charcoal very early in the morning in residential areas of the rural communities near Ryongchon town,” said the source. Pixabay

“These kids have to sell all the charcoal they have if they want to buy food for the next day, so even before dawn they are walking around the densely populated neighborhood with their charcoal bags on their back,” the source said. According to the source the kids can sell the charcoal for 1,500 North Korean won (19 cents) per kilo.

The source said that the best time to sell charcoal is in the morning, because this is when housewives need to start preparing food for the day before they go to the local market.

“They walk around shouting “Charcoal for sale!” in the neighborhoods at 5am, breaking the silence of apartments and residences, and stirring up sympathy.”

While charcoal is a needed commodity, it is the sympathy for the children that most likely drives sales.

“People in the neighborhood feel pity, so they come down from their apartment to buy charcoal from these children,” said a second source from North Pyongan province.

“You can see the teenagers selling charcoal very early in the morning in residential areas of the rural communities near Ryongchon town,” said the source.

The source said that the locals are amazed at the work ethic of the charcoal-selling teens.

“The children are so diligent and determined. People are astonished because they are out on the streets even before the roosters have crowed, shouting ‘charcoal for sale!” said the source.

“When a customer lives on a high floor of an apartment building, the children tell them they will deliver it to their door. Even for customers who buy only a kilogram, the children will walk up all the stairs,” the source said, adding “They’ll do anything for the money.”

“They walk around shouting “Charcoal for sale!” in the neighborhoods at 5am, breaking the silence of apartments and residences, and stirring up sympathy.” Pixabay

But as impressed as the people might be with the enterprising youth, they are angry that economic conditions are forcing the youth to work so hard just to eat.

Also Read: Micro-blogging Site Twitter Now Lets You Re-tweet with GIFS, Images and Videos

“People are resentful against the government because these are children who need to [be at school] trying to achieve their dreams, but here they are selling charcoal or doing other kinds of day-to-day labor,” the source said.

“Meanwhile the government makes false propaganda that North Korean children are living healthy happy lives.” (RFA)



When you're pregnant, the immune system is seeing the placenta for the first time in decades.

The US researchers have discovered a class of immune cells that plays a role in miscarriage, which affects about a quarter of pregnancies.

Researchers at the University of California-San Francisco found that the recently discovered subset of cells known as extrathymic Aire-expressing cells in the immune system may prevent the mother's immune system from attacking the placenta and fetus.

The researchers showed that pregnant mice who did not have this subset of cells were twice as likely to miscarry, and in many of these pregnancies fetal growth was severely restricted.

ALSO READ: Can You Drink Coffee While You're Pregnant?

"When you're pregnant, the immune system is seeing the placenta for the first time in decades -- not since the mother made a placenta when she herself was a fetus," said Eva Gillis-Buck, from UCSF.

"Our research suggests that this subset of immune cells is carrying out a sort of 'secondary education' -- sometimes many years after the better-known population of the educator cells have carried out the primary education in the thymus -- teaching T cells not to attack the fetus, the placenta and other tissues involved in pregnancy," she added. The findings are published in the journal Science Immunology.

Keep Reading Show less

It's not surprising that over half of those surveyed feel more comfortable using emojis than talking on the phone or in person.

The tiny emojis being shared on billions of devices worldwide can play a major role in digital communication, with most people saying that emoji compels them to feel more empathy towards others, according to an Adobe report.

Adobe's global emoji study found that emoji even helps people overcome language barriers and form connections that would otherwise be difficult to do.

"We were surprised and delighted by the discoveries made in the survey, most notably how enthusiastic respondents were for emoji as a means to express themselves," the company said in a statement.

ALSO READ: Emoji- A Choice for Interracial Couple

Emojis sometimes get criticized for being overly saccharine, but this sweetness is key when it comes to diffusing some of the heaviness of online communication.

"Many of the emoji are focused on positive emotions, so it's easy to insert them into our conversations and lighten the mood," the Adobe study said.

Keep Reading Show less
Wikimedia Commons

Jeff Bezos at the ENCORE awards.

Following the grand Richard Branson show where he carried Andhra Pradesh-born Sirisha Bandla and fellow space travelers on his shoulders after successfully flying to the edge of space, it is time for Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos to applaud Sanjal Gavande, one of the key engineers who designed the New Shephard rocket set to take Bezos and the crew to space on July 20.

Billionaire Bezos is set to fly to the edge of space aboard what is touted as the world's first unpiloted suborbital flight. Born in Kalyan, Maharashtra, Gavande is a systems engineer at Blue Origin who always dreamt of designing aerospace rockets.

ALSO READ: Jeff Bezos Used To Review Products On Amazon

After completing Bachelor's in mechanical engineering from the University of Mumbai, she flew to the US in 2011 to pursue a Master's in mechanical engineering from the Michigan Technological University. She also applied for an engineering job at the US space agency NASA but finally landed her dream job at Blue Origin

Keep reading... Show less