GoodFriends: Research Institute For North Korean Society

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North Korea Today No. 209

RESEARCH INSTITUTE FOR NORTH KOREAN SOCIETY
http://www.goodfriends.or.kr/eng
No. 209 September 2008
Ministry of Agriculture Estimate for 2008 Crop
Granary region in South Hwanghae Province, “This year’s yield rate lower than expected”
Woonsong-ri Area in Ahnju City, 38 Died of Starvation.
Punished After Distributing Ground Corncob That Was Used To Feed Livestock to the People
Military Unit 1 of Division 46 Survives On Eating Grass-Meals During the Spring Famine.
When told “not to rob corn” reply was, “Think of it as support for our nation’s assault group”
Galma-dong, Wonsan City, Gathers Their Corn to Help Poor Neighbors
[Opinion] Lives of Domestic Animals Are Placed Before Human Lives In Order To Maintain the Livestock Industry



Ministry of Agriculture Estimate for 2008 Crop
On August 17, The Ministry of Agriculture(농업성) ordered each county’s and city's Farming Village Management Committee (농촌경영위원회) to estimate the grain yield for 2008. Each farm used to calculate their projected grain yield until two years ago. Now the Department of Agriculture visits each farm annually to record the yield. Despite an attempt to streamline the process, false reports still plague the operation. Since last year, the county and city's farming management Committee has delegated their chief engineer and technical experts to each farm, where they conducted the estimation of grain production. The committee enables the delegate to do their work without permission from the farm. By checking the amount of moisture of grains in one square feet, they can estimate the yield of grain in 2.45 acres. The workers in the farm often try to manipulate the delegates to reduce or increase the estimation.

Granary region in South Hwanghae Province, “This year’s yield rate lower than expected”
The Farming Village Management Committee in South Hwanghae Province reported that harvests in counties with big fields were bad. Jaeryong County, for example, is a granary region that primarily harvests rice. Because of flood damage last year, yield rate was low and people of this county suffered deeply, some dying of starvation. The situation is this county hit an all time low when people started peeling off the skins of trees to eat them. We cannot expect much from this year’s harvests either. Many farmers were simply not able to farm. Further, arid weather condition dried up waters in the farmlands and the heavy rain this July devastated many farmlands. Situation in Yeonahn and Baechun Counties are not that different. Despite the fact that regions with big fields received about 1.5-fold more of fertilizers, the harvest does not look very promising. It is predicted, “Next year will be even tougher because, in the western side of the country, farming was particularly bad in the regions with big fields.”

Woonsong-ri Area in Ahnju City, 38 Died of Starvation.
Thirty eight people have died of starvation during a period of farming hardship (the season of spring poverty) in Woonsong-ri area in Ahnju City, South Pyongan Province. Since the corn and peanut harvest in August, starvation throughout the county has gone down, but there are still a lot of people who do not come to work due to a lack of food. The farm at the Booksong-ri borrowed food from wealthy civilians to overcome the farming hardships of last spring. The poor have had to repay eight to twelve tons of rice this coming fall, and are already concerned they won’t be able to meet the quota.

Punished After Distributing Ground Corncob That Was Used To Feed Livestock to the People
In a farm located near Pyongyang, people have distributed 3kg of ground corncob (옥수수 묵지가루), normally food for livestock, because there were nothing else to eat. This was sort of a last resort option to bring out starving farmers to the workplace. The head of farm management committee (농장관리위원장) has kept saying, “Let’s overcome this hardship and manage our farm well” and encouraged people by visiting each one of the farmers’ houses only to receive cold welcomes. “Even cows and horses have to eat in order to work, let alone humans. How can we work without being fed? Since the farm cannot solve our food problem, we have to find solution ourselves. Isn’t that the only way?” This is typical complaints from the farmers. So, distributing portions ground corncob that were originally supposed to go to the livestock was a last resort option for the Committee. However, even this action was reported to the local police department and the head of farm management committee was suspended from active duty for 6 months.

Military Unit 1 of Division 46 Survives On Eating Grass-Meals During the Spring Famine
Because Kangwon Province lacks in the numbers of ancillary work places, the living conditions of families of military officials are very bad. The food that is distributed into the military base is often robbed by the military officials, leaving low-ranked soldiers short on food. Thus, soldiers generally hope to avoid being placed in the Unit 1. An ex-soldier who recently finished his military duty from the Unit 1 says that he survived on eating grass-meals (풀밥) two times a day. If we observe the health conditions of the soldiers in Unit 1 of the Division 46, 40-50 out of 100 people are undernourished. Many of these soldiers were actually told to go back home. Nevertheless, some of them still hesitated to go back because they do not want to show their thin bodies to their parents. Out of concern, some Units have begun segregating undernourished patients for special treatment systems.

When told “not to rob corn” reply was, “Think of it as support for our nation’s assault group”
Dukheung-ri and Eunheung-ri (village) in Taechun County, North Pyongan Province, are where the assault group currently resides to help the construction of water systems. In this summer, the cornfields in these villages looked like battlefields. After hard work and not being fed properly, the soldiers swept through the cornfields that belonged to the farmers. They even took corn that was not ripened yet, destroying the cornfields. The Farm Management Committee visited the commanding unit numerous times to report such incidence and request for countermeasures, but was no use. Instead, what they heard was that “farmers should think of this as support to the nation’s assault group who’s carrying on an important mission right now.” The farmers think of this group as nothing more than thieves.

Galma-dong, Wonsan City, Gathers Their Corn to Help Poor Neighbors
The Neighborhood Unit 23, in Galma-dong, Wonsan City, Kangwon Province, collected corns to send to the neighboring regions where people are suffering from hunger. One of the people who received help was Kim Sungman whose wife died from hunger last May and whose son severely hurt his leg while working in a factory. Kim’s son started working in the factory last July after being denied service in the military because he was physically too weak. Kim is not able to work either because of his own health problems. The foreman of neighborhood unit and the director of the village office, along with the workers at the village office, decided to help Kim’s family when they heard about the unfortunate story. Other families followed by providing at least 200g of corns. The foreman of neighborhood unit said, “We are glad for being able to help, but still worried at the same time because nobody can guarantee how they will survive when we are no longer in position to help others.”

[Opinion] Lives of Domestic Animals Are Placed Before Human Lives In Order To Maintain the Livestock Industry
News broke that a livestock cooperative farm in a neighboring area of Pyongyang had distributed animal fodder to farm workers who were themselves suffering from food shortages. What is striking about this story is not the fact that the farm provided animal fodder to human beings who were starving, but the fact that the head of the farm management committee was given six-month suspension due to his decision. As he had given away fodder to workers, the farm faced a lack of feed for animal livestock, which led to some damage to the livestock farming.

This year, farmers have barely sustained by eating grass, which is far worse than the ground corncob. As summer passes by, the food provided by the U.S. as an aid are running short and a new crop of grain is protected by security guards due to a severe competition (to snatch grain) among soldiers at nearby military bases and construction labors. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Agriculture has sent out a group of officers to farms across the nation in order to estimate this year's harvest but authorities have only received gloomy reports from these officers.

As the current situation continues, with people desperately searching even in trashcans for food, the chief of the farm management committee must have had no choice but to distribute animal fodder to farm workers. Yet, it is also an inevitable reality of North Korea that the managing chief should be responsible for giving fodder away to the workers, which ultimately has led to some damage to the livestock industry by.

In fact, it is difficult to fully understand what psychological conflicts North Korean officers might go through between their duty to protect the livestock industry and the duty to save workers' lives. Still, it is sad and disturbing to look at the reality of the situation forcing officials to put livestock as security for people's lives, and to neglect people's lives in order to save livestock. To re-emphasize, the South Korean government should still provide unconditional food support for North Korea. The South's help, at this moment, is the only way to save people's lives as well as to protect the stock industry in the North.

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