Farmers harvest corn on a farm field. Taken on the Chinese side of the border across from Sakju County, North Pyongan Province, in late September 2023. (ASIAPRESS)

<Inside N. Korea> A recent report on conditions at farms (1) The harvest is better than last year, but lack of materials remains a serious problem (4 recent photos)


◆ Prosecutors and police sent to farms in major investigation

The North Korean authorities have recently sent inspection teams to collective farms that have completed their harvests as part of a major investigation into elementary-level cadres. One farm official was detained by the authorities, causing an uproar at one farm. A reporting partner in North Hamgyung Province provided the following report in late October. (KANG Ji-won)

The reporting partner conducted a survey of an average-sized collective farm producing mainly corn. Following the completion of its harvest activities in late September, prosecutors’ office and police officials have been investigating corruption on the part of cadres in regards to the management of harvested crops. The teams are threatening that any cadres caught committing illegal acts are to be dismissed from their positions and even given punishments of reform through labor.

※ Punishment of reform through labor: Police can hand down this punishment without a trial to people who have caused social disruption or committed light crimes. Those sentenced to punishments of reform through labor face up to one year of forced labor.

◆ Authorities force farmers to submit “secret reports” about corruption

The reporting partner provided a broad summary of the investigation currently underway.

“The inspection team is asking farmers to report corruption on the part of cadres by secretly placing reports into a box, while also conducting interviews with farmers on an individual basis. On the same day, some farmers are having to both submit reports while also undergoing interviews by prosecutors and the police. The authorities are questioning the farmers about corruption in regards to the management of harvested crops and the purchase of fertilizer and other farming supplies. Sub-work unit heads and work-unit leaders on a list are being called in by the authorities for individual interviews.”

※ Collective farms have work units that separately handle the cultivation of rice, corn and vegetables. Work units are made up of sub-work units.

“This year, the authorities have emphasized that the loyalty of farm cadres will be judged by how well they manage harvested crops. In short, they are demanding that the cadres prevent harvested crops from being siphoned off illegally. They are saying that anyone who takes bribes will face harsh punishment, which has struck fear into the hearts of cadres.

The inspection is largely aimed at uncovering instances where donju, or North Korea’s wealthy entrepreneurial class, have colluded with sub-work unit leaders to buy up food from the farm.

In mid-October, one of the farm’s sub-work unit leaders was called in by the inspection team. Two work unit leaders were also detained for selling 500 kilograms of corn in order to cover the cost of tractor parts they had purchased with a promise they would pay for the parts after the fall harvest.”

◆ Farmer detained for just following orders from superiors, leading to uproar

Meanwhile, an uproar occurred at the farm because a farm official was] forced to sell off food for work-related purposes.

Farms are forced to provide food to the military, so one sub-work unit leader purchased pork meat to give to the military in exchange for a promise to pay back the farmer raising the pig after the fall harvest. The sub-work unit leader paid for the pork with some corn from the harvest, but he was interrogated by the authorities because the corn he used to purchase the pork did not match up with the amount of meat he received.

In generally, farmers are ordered by their superiors to provide support to the military. The sub-work unit leader became angry after being called in for the interrogation, even threatening in a loud voice to “quit my job.” This led him to be detained by the authorities.

“The incident caused an uproar at the farm,” the reporting partner said.

Crops from the fall harvest have yet to be distributed to farm workers, and farmers have not been given payment for the amount of production that exceeded state-set quotas. The farmers are very unhappy about the situation. They are also anxious about when they will be given payment.( To 7 >> )

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