(FILE PHOTO) Even today, cows are important for farming activities in North Korea. This photo was taken in October 2008 at a farm on the outskirts of Pyongyang. (ASIAPRESS)

North Korea has begun the spring planting season in earnest. On April 4, the Rodong Sinmun called on “all party organizations, especially city and county party committees, to show off their battle prowess and activities” to achieve the country’s grain production goals. What is the real situation inside North Korea? An ASIAPRESS reporting partner recently provided a viewpoint from on-the-ground. (KANG Ji-won / ISHIMARU Jiro)

◆ Mobilize everyone to the farms to increase grain production!

The reporting partner (“A”), who is based in North Hamgyung Province, conducts regular reviews of the situation at a collective farm (Farm “B”) in the province. “The party organization is strongly pressuring the farmers to achieve their grain production goals to the death.”

ASIAPRESS asked “A” about the mass mobilization of people to farming areas. Farm “B” has around 500 farmers and has long cultivated corn; however, an order from Kim Jong-un last year led the farm to start cultivating barley as well. Farm “B” is on the smaller side compared to the average farm in North Hamgyung Province.

Below is an interview with “A.” The interview took place during late March and early April.

◆ The main priority is “finding new land” to farm

―― The Kim Jong-un regime is constantly emphasizing the need to increase grain production.

“A”: The party is demanding that all people be mobilized to the farms to drastically improve production. “Farming Village Labor Brigades” are being organized at factories and companies to take on some of the farming activities at farms. That being said, they are not sending a lot of people; just the necessary number of people who can live in the farming areas and take on a certain amount of farming activities.


―― They are calling it a mass mobilization, but what are people doing?

“A”: First and foremost, they are focusing on “finding new land” to farm. The goal is to find as much land to cultivate crops on as possible, so officials are working with forestry management committees to place the crop fields being tilled by individuals on mountainsides under the remit of collective farms. A Farm “B,” people are being tasked with finding around 10,000 square meters of new land to farm on, and that’s why laborers from city-based companies are being sent there. The party is demanding that farms find new land, even if it is enough just to plant one more head of corn on.

◆ Farmland owned by the military and special government agencies are also being placed under the control of collective farms

―― Is it possible to easy find new farmland to cultivate crops on?

“A”: I’ve heard that this year, the government is conducting a thorough survey of plots of land owned by organizations that are cultivated by employees. This was the case last year as well, but the government has ordered that the plots of land owned by all companies and special government agencies be included in the survey, and that most of this land be managed by collective farms.


―― Even farmland being tilled by the military?

“A”: One anti-aircraft gun base has a corn field that the soldiers farm on, but this year that farmland has been given to a nearby collective farm. A “Farm Village Labor Brigade” made up of people from an urban area has been tasked with farming it.

Starting in February, many poverty-stricken people from the city have migrated to farming areas, so there’s a need to produce food for them given that they have no money and no household items, either. That is one of the reasons why “new land” for farming must be found, I’ve heard.

◆ Cases of people suffering from lack of food are already emerging in farming areas

―― We’ve heard that urban dwellers are starving due to lack of food, but what kind of situation are farmers facing?

“A”: The city life I lead is very difficult, but cases of people lacking food (people who have eaten all the food that was rationed out last year and have no money to buy more) are already emerging at Farm ‘A.’ Farmers have been ordered to provide them with one kilogram of corn. Farmers are very discontented because the government isn’t doing anything (to help them).

※ ASIAPRESS communicates with reporting partners through Chinese cell phones smuggled into North Korea.

Map of North Korea ( ASIAPRESS)