More signs of desperation (or economic reality) up north. Party officials have been sent around to visit known entrepreneurs (visibly rich people who do not work for the government) and asking them to donate rice to the government. Now you would think the North Korean government would just send troops around to seize private rice stocks. But the northern leadership has come to realize that the new entrepreneur class are not seeking to overthrow the government and are willing to support the current rulers. So the entrepreneurs are being offered “letters of appreciation” for rice donations. These letters can later be used as “get out of jail” cards if the entrepreneur gets into trouble with one government official or another. This is a fact of life and cost of doing business for the entrepreneurs and they can understand the deal they are being offered. But the fact that the government is coming to them for basic items like rice indicates that the food situation must be even worse than most people think. The reason so many entrepreneurs have their own stockpiles of rice is because the price of rice keeps going up on the free markets and “investing” in rice is a good way to make idle cash productive. Rice would also be a useful “currency” if there were ever a major political crises.
I'm not even sure how to quantify all the wrong/stupid/evil in that single paragraph. Not much has changed since 2003, except for the increased desperation.