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About The Asian reporter. (Portland, Or.) 1991-current | View Entire Issue (Feb. 6, 2017)
ASIA / PACIFIC
Page 16 n THE ASIAN REPORTER
February 6, 2017
Silk, steam, and slogans:
Inside a North Korean factory
By Wong Maye-E
The Associated Press
YONGYANG, North Korea
— As the morning light
windows, women wearing olive-
colored overalls, pink aprons, and
headscarves stood at stations where
silkworms were being boiled. Some
used their bare hands to pull silk
thread from the boilers and winced as
the steam rose toward their faces.
But the heat didn’t seem to slow them
The Kim Jong Suk Silk Mill,
named after North Korean leader
Kim Jong Un’s grandmother, is
where 1,600 workers — mostly
women — sort and process silk-
worms. The worms, from the country-
side in South Pyongan province,
ultimately produce silk thread that
officials at the Pyongyang factory say
is made into roughly 200 tons of silk a
red-and-white sign hanging above a
main corridor was a propaganda
slogan: “Let us step up the victorious
advancement of socialism through
walkway were names of supervisors
and workers that were leading teams,
placed as a form of encouragement for
In his New Year’s address, leader
Kim Jong Un called on the North
Korean people to step up production
STAPLE SNACK. Owner Leung Kin-kung tastes chicken feet at his
snack shop in Hong Kong. January 28 marked the start of the lunar Year
of the Rooster and families in China reunited for festivities, fireworks, and
food. While tradition calls for feasting on “auspicious” foods, many also
munched on staple snacks like “phoenix claws,” the Chinese name for
chicken feet. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
‘Phoenix claws’ grace
menus welcoming the
Year of the Rooster
By Kelvin Chan
The Associated Press
ONG KONG — January 28 marked the start of
the lunar Year of the Rooster and families in
China reunited for festivities, fireworks, and
food. While tradition calls for feasting on “auspicious”
foods, many also munched on staple snacks like “phoenix
claws,” the Chinese name for chicken feet.
With reptilian looks and lowly status from scratching
around farmyards and coops, humble chicken paws are
considered a throwaway in the west, where farmers often
grind them into feed for pets and livestock. But across
much of Asia, where diners prefer eating meat on the
bone, they’re considered a delicacy.
“Not only are they tasty, but it’s believed they have a lot
of collagen so if you eat them it’s good for your skin and
makes you look beautiful,” said Liza Chu, author of a
guidebook to Hong Kong dim sum dishes including
At this time of year, Chinese like to eat foods considered
lucky, like dumplings and fish. Chicken feet don’t actually
have any special meaning for the Year of the Rooster,
though that doesn’t mean it’s not a good excuse to eat
them, Chu said.
“We all need some rooster energy. Roosters are
energetic. They can be very aggressive. They are not shy,”
said Chu. Those born in the Year of the Rooster are “very
Chicken feet are of such culinary importance in China
that they have even played a role in trade tensions
between the U.S. and China, which imports poultry
because of production shortfalls. In 2009, the Obama
administration slapped tariffs on Chinese tires and
Beijing retaliated by imposing taxes of up to 105 percent
on U.S. chicken feet.
Two years ago, China banned poultry imports from the
U.S. over bird flu, sending chicken-paw producers in other
countries racing to fill the gap.
For the uninitiated, chicken feet have a chewy, fatty,
and succulent texture, bordering on the gelatinous.
In Hong Kong, they’re served at dim sum teahouses
with garlic, chili, and black bean sauce.
Or they can be paired with a beer while watching
football matches, said Leung Kin-keung, who runs a
chicken feet stall.
“I grew up eating chicken feet,” said Leung. “We were
not wealthy,” so the family used every part of the chicken,
In Manila, the Philippines, street vendors grill skewers
of them over charcoal.
“They taste different from ordinary chicken parts. I like
eating the bony parts,” said Jacklyn Sun. “Chicken feet
are delicious to eat.”
Associated Press video journalists Josie Wong in Hong Kong and
Joeal Calupitan in Manila, the Philippines contributed to this report.
SILK, STEAM & SLOGANS. A North Korean woman sorts silkworm cocoons to be boiled
later at the Kim Jong Suk Silk Mill in Pyongyang, North Korea. In his New Year’s address, leader Kim
Jong Un called on the North Korean people to step up production in order to raise the nation’s stan-
dard of living, which is among the lowest in Asia. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
in order to raise the nation’s standard before heavy machinery along the
of living, which is among the lowest in processing
Asia. Kim himself visited the silk mill silkworms as they were washed and
in early January.
later boiled. In another room, women
The Associated Press also toured examined sheets of unfinished silk
the factory in early January. Though with tweezers, looking for impurities
the temperature outside was minus as a glowing tabletop illuminated
6º Celsius (21º Fahrenheit), there was their faces.
little heating in the high-ceilinged
The mill was proud to showcase its
building. And though it was noisy — “sci-tech center,” where workers
both from the machinery and from could take classes conducted via an
loudspeakers blasting propaganda intranet system. It also boasted a
music — no one seemed to be wearing childcare facility where 200 children
are enrolled while their mothers work
Groups of eight to 10 women stood at the factory.
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