GoodFriends: Research Institute For North Korean Society

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North Korea Today No. 243

RESEARCH INSTITUTE FOR NORTH KOREAN SOCIETY
http://www.goodfriends.or.kr/eng
No.243 October 2008

People are Worried at the Rumor of “Selling Food only at Grain Policy Division”
Restore the Mountains and Fields of the Country by 2012
“We Were Able To Survive Thanks To Small Patch Lot Farming”
Bitter Harvest, Farmers Barely Manage To Live with Porridge
Young Boy Is Great Estate in Fall Harvest
[Opinion] Assurance of People’s Livelihood Is More Urgent Than Restoration of Forest

People are Worried at the Rumor of “Selling Food only at Grain Policy Division”
A rumor is around that beginning January 1 next year, food will be sold only at Grain Policy Division (량정사업소) in each region including Pyongyang. People are expressing concerns by saying that "Grain Policy Division will not raise the price of food, but we do not know whether sufficient quantities will be sold." People will find it very inconvenient if buying and selling of food is no longer allowed in the market. Banning the sale of rice in the market has been tried several times in the past, but it has never been successful so far.

Restore the Mountains and Fields of the Country by 2012
On September 29, the Central Party issued a policy that 'by 2012 all the mountains and fields of the country will have to be restored so that there will be no desolate mountains and fields.’ According to this policy, the farms on the slopes of the foothills will be confiscated and trees will be in place in every region. In some areas, this policy has already been executed. People who make living out of small lot farming say, "Not allowing small lot farming from next year is literary telling us to die." This is a disaster, they exclaimed.

“We Were Able To Survive Thanks To Small Patch Lot Farming”
People in Booryong, North Hamgyong Province say in consensus that they were able to survive this year because of small patch lot farming (소토지농사). They say that although the soil is not as good as farmland they planted crops such as corns, potatoes, soybeans, and millets in the small lots in the mountain slopes. Mr. Shim Pahn-Seok (61 years old) said, "We ate only grass porridge in the spring this year, but I really worked hard on the small patch lot farm. I earnestly worked hard this year too because if you cultivate small lot farm well you can secure at least 3 to 6 months quantity of food.” He shook his head at the news that “Small patch lot farming will be banned altogether from next year in order to restore the mountains and fields.” He said, "Then we’re all going to die."

Bitter Harvest, Farmers Barely Manage To Live with Porridge
People who have suffered from the worst food shortage in recent years tend to be stingy with food even during the harvesting season. In the past, many families used to have steamed rice in the fall as it is the harvesting season. However, this year, except some wealthy families, most people have lowered their standard by having corn mixed with grain or eating corn porridge. Goh Eun-bok (41 years) of Sariwon in North Hwanghae Province says “I heard that we shall have a bumper harvest this year, but nobody really knows until the crops are harvested. There will be no guarantee that after the collection of army provisions, there will be anything left for us. In order to buy some necessities such as clothes, soap and shoes, we need money. To make money, the only way we can make it is by selling our food at the market. We need money to send our kids to school, to pay for electric bills, water bills, rents, and firewoods in winter. Even so, people are very reluctant to sell their food unless they have an extremely urgent matter. Because we had such a hard time this spring, we feel that without the food supplies we are going to die.” She asked that would anybody have the guts to use rice only under the circumstances.

Young Boy Is Great Estate in Fall Harvest
Small patch lot owners of Seoheung County in North Hwanghae Province make every effort to safekeep their harvest. They are determined to safeguard the harvest because these harvests are all they have to feed themselves this winter and next spring. While they try hard to guard their own, they try harder to pick up anything found and to steal someone else’s. People say that boys are great fortune at times like this. Boys help family farming, guard their farm produce against thefts, but sometimes they also steal grains from neighboring farms. Although police officers strengthen the patrol, it is not easy to catch the boys because the boys are too fast. On the other hand, girls help their families’ living by picking-up some loose grains in the fields with their grandparents all day long, or dry cabbage leaves found in the farm.

[Opinion] Assurance of People’s Livelihood Is More Urgent Than Restoration of Forest
On September 29, North Korean authorities issued an order that ‘by 2012 the country's mountains and fields to be green without any desolate spot.’ If you think of the barren mountains and rivers of North Korea you cannot stress enough the importance of creating forest. However, forest recovery policy is unrealistic and not easy to achieve, as it tends to focus on enforcing the confiscating of small lots.

In order to make the mountains and the fields green the problems with fuel for heating and cooking should be resolved, and food problems of the people will also have to be dealt with. Ever since food shortage problem began most people are making livelihood by holding on to small patch lot farming. Regardless whether it was hard rock field, rough hill mountain, or steep slope, people used their bare hands to cultivate the field. In some regions, a slash-and-burn field was created from time to time. No matter how difficult it is people had no choice but to cultivate small patch lot farm field because they can secure at least 3 to 6 months’ food supply. You have to cultivate even the smallest size of field if you do not want to starve to death.

However, if there is no reduction in people’s demand for firewood and small patch lot farming, no matter how strongly the forest protection and development policy is applied there will be no effect. We welcome North Korean government’s declaration of its will to restore the forest, but a higher priority should be given to sufficient consideration on the food situation and livelihood of people.
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