North Korea Today No. 148 Jun 2008
Wangjaesan farm in Onsung County, North Hamgyong Province is famous for its good farming not only in the province but also nationwide. Even Kim Il-Sung planned to visit and have a look at the farm during his life. However, the farming is getting worse every year. As of June 3 of this year, they haven't finished even half of transplanting rice seeding. From the time when plowing began, the farmers have been busy irrigating, harrowing, and weeding the banks around rice fields. There has been a shortage of workers and farm machines, but the greatest problem was that they couldn't irrigate the rice fields at the proper time. The county party had mobilized workers for the transplanting from workplaces and public enterprises, but the work progressed slowly. Delays stemmed from the low rate of mobilization from local businesses and public enterprises. With so few workers reporting to the farm, productivity has fallen. The county party was busy preparing for ways to enervate the work environment, notably by bringing business leaders from public enterprises together to have the 'Fight for Ideology meeting' until late at night for two days.
[Special Report] Increasingly Open and Candid Lectures on Agriculture for the Officials and the Public
In April 2008, the North Korean government issued a report nationwide on the farming conditions of the country. One official said that he received a tremendous shock when he saw the report for the first time. According to the official, although many government reports have been issued in North Korea since the founding of the country, there has been no reports as open and candid as this one. The official said that he believed the Central Department of Propaganda and Agitation (???????) was the agency that issued the report, and went on to say that he was able to surmise just how serious the current conditions are after reading the report. He went on to say that the report shows that 'the government already anticipated that people would die from starvation in the spring, and that this lecture was devised in order to enhance the internal congruency. The report contains candid and open references to the current situation's unprecedented nature. The 'North Korea TODAY' will present the government report entitled 'Everyone Needs to Work Together to Ensure a Good Harvest' in the next five issues.
[Special Report Series 3] 'Everyone Needs to Contribute to Ensure a Productive Harvest this Year'
Original Lecture Material
To Increase Grain Production this Year, the Duties of the Officials Must be Increased
The role of the workers is especially important in ensuring a good crop this year. The officials should consider the farming work as part of the revolution and set themselves as the model for others to follow. The situation of the particular farm is shown from the attitudes and behaviour from the farm workers. All officials should, therefore, be focused and obeying all matters to farming work at all times. Farm workers lives have to be settled in their own farms, thus, their well-being have to be looked after in order to concentrate on the farm work. Particularly, the officials have to take a careful work on the economic matters of the area for the workers to work in the farm without disturbances.
In the previous season, there were some officials who have allowed too many social issues for the workers to deal with, that affected the total yield of grain production last year and made farm worker's life more difficult.
(add current cases from the individual farms)
This is the reason that the party continuously emphasis not to have all the social issues to be dealt with the people otherwise this will result in confusion and interrupting farm workers work on the cultivation. The officials should do their utmost to perform their best to ensure what kind of social issues are obstacling the farm workers from concentrating on their work and try to lift such issues.
'Make the lifestyles of farmers secure', Recognition of the Food Shortage Suffered by Farmers
The third policy currently promulgated by the North Korean government says that 'To help farmers, we must promote work that is appropriate to them so that they can give their undivided attention to their farmwork.' Prior to this revealing this specific policy, the government stressed the importance of securing farming goods and the efforts of the workers in order to solve the current food crisis. Outside of these two factors, the third most important goal is to make the lifestyles of farmers secure and stable.
This is the first time that the government has expressed this view and shown an interest in the stability of farmers' lifestyles in one of its nationwide reports. During the Arduous March of the mid-1990's, when large numbers of people were starving to death, there was never a single report issued that expressed this view. Of course, this may be due in part to the fact that more laborers than farmers were affected during the first Arduous March, but this illustrates just how pressing this matter currently is to the government.
According to one official who is an expert on these governmental reports, 'Just by looking at this example, we can see how serious the current food shortage is. Though it is not expressly written that farmers are starving to death, I can clearly see the implicit message. This report was written before there was a great increase in the number of people who starved to death, but the fact that the government wrote this report before this fact means that the government already admits that the start of a great increase in the number of deaths has begun.'
The official went on to say ''North Korea's problems were all handed over to farmers to solve' this is an unprecedented statement. The official said that in reality, the report reveals just how much North Korea's problems were handed over to the farmers, but also, just how dire the lifestyle of farmers currently is.' However, it will prove different to suddenly put an end to the many different social problems that were given to farmers to solve.
Solution to the Farmers' Food Shortage; Beyond the Capabilities of the Government
The North Korean government expressed its interest in the welfare of farmers for the first time ever in the nationwide report it recently issued. The farmers, who had hitherto never received any attention, should be moved by this fact alone. However, the farmers are only receiving this attention because they are in such a dire situation
'Try to restore stability to the lives of the farmers, and don't raise the social issues' is certainly a strong statement, but a fundamental plan to do this has not been specified and is unclear. How ordinary laborers will accomplish this goal when even the government was not able to do so is difficult to ascertain just by reading this declaration. The only thing that can be gleaned from the declaration for certain is that the government formally has requested that cooperation from all levels are needed in order to resolve the food shortages.
This is not a sign of the government's lack of will in trying to address this problem, but rather, an indication of the size and scope of the problems currently faced by farmers, as well as a sign that the current problems are beyond the capabilities of the government to solve. An official of the central party said that, 'there is no things like fertilizer or farming materials such as plastic sheets. The food supply has already reached the bottom. If food aid does not come in from other countries, it will be impossible to avoid deaths from starvation during the farm hardship period.' The official went on and said that 'all theworkers will have to tighten their belts and save farm production. From this, it is clear just how limited the North Korean government's options are.