GoodFriends: Research Institute For North Korean Society

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North Korea Today No. 374 (Priority Release) November 2010

[“Good Friends” aims to help the North Korean people from a humanistic point of view and publishes “North Korea Today” describing the way the North Korean people live as accurately as possible. We at Good Friends also hope to be a bridge between the North Korean people and the world.]
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Central Party Orders to Stop Collecting Rice for Military Provision
Sound of Hailing at Farms at the News of No More Collection of Rice for Military Provision
“Finally They Think of People”
Meat Support Obligation to the Military Also Lifted
“At least now we can fill our bellies with potatoes.”
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Central Party Orders to Stop Collecting Rice for Military Provision
Every year when the harvest season approaches there were big conflicts at each regional farm between the military which tries to secure rice for military provision and farmers who refuse to hand over the rice they grew for the past one year. The conflicts are especially severe this year as the yields of harvest decrease because of the cold weather in the spring and the flood in the summer. In the case of North Hamgyong province it was reported that the level of discontent among farmers was serious enough to make the authorities worry. As the damage from flooding was so severe in the granary regions of North and South Hwanghae Provinces and North Pyongan Province it was decided that North Hamgyong Province was to provide rice for military provision first since it had better harvest. The level of dissatisfaction in the farms of North Hamgyong Province was at its peak at the news saying that “The allotment of rice left for farmers will be only 10 days worth if the military provision is taken first.”

To their surprise the Central Party announced on October 30th that it will stop collecting rice for military provision which was done annually as a priority business and notified each region throughout the country beginning November 1st. The farmers in such regions as Baekam and Deahongdan Counties in Ryanggang Province and Musan in North Hamgyong Province are all jubilant at the news. Every year the food shortage problems suffered by farmers were aggravated even further by taking of rice for military provision, and the hardship the farmers had to endure was enormous in the event they are unable to provide rice for military provision as the problem escalates to a party problem or political problem with the label of “a criminal who disobeys the order of Military First given by the Dear Leader.” Kim Jeong-hak (Alias) who heard the news in Daehongdan County, Ryanggang Province said, “Many people have been falsely accused and politically persecuted and countless farmers had to suffer from hunger because they had not much rice left after giving rice for military provision.” He commented that the news of lifting the obligation for rice for military provision is the most epoch-making event.

Sound of Hailing at Farms at the News of No More Collection of Rice for Military Provision
According to the farmers in Musan, North Hamgyong Province the rice collection for military provision was something nobody dared to object to because it was an obligation everybody has to contribute even in the face of starvation as it is a campaign driven by the Party in the name of Military First policy. A farm member, Park Gwang-chul (Alias) expressed his grief saying, “Who would dare to challenge when they say the nation cannot exist without the military? We were armed with the ideology of “we cannot exist with the nation.” Since you cannot live without giving rice to the military we had no choice but to give up the rice. I had to give rice to the military even though my daughter was unable to walk or crawl due to malnutrition.” Like Mr. Park, people are still in disbelief even at the news of no more giving rice for the military provision. Son Young-sun, a farm member in Baekam County, Ryanggang Province, said, “People clamored saying if the news was really true and hailed out of joy.” An official of Baekam County Ryanggang Province also confirmed people’s joy over the news saying, “I heard the sound of people hailing from several places at the farm when the news of no more rice collection for the military was announced.”

“Finally They Think of People”
Residents are thrilled at the news of ending the army provision and busy sharing the news full of hope. They have been quite discouraged by the fact that nothing has changed in their lives despite the political festivity of the convening of the Party Representatives after 44 years and the appointment of the new leader.

People are saying, “The government finally care about us” and anticipate more positive changes to come. They have been in so much distrust of the government, but now they see hope with the new announcement. Choi InHo (alias) from HyeSan City in RyangGang Province shares his thoughts: “The measure must be drawn from the fact that this year’s yield has dropped so much. If they continue prioritizing the army provision, there will be no way for people to live on with the left over. Wouldn’t that be the reason?” He positively interprets that this incident shows the government actually cares about the people.

Meat Support Obligation to the Military Also Lifted
It has been confirmed that the recent central party directive lifted the obligation to remit not only the grains but also the meat for the military. For the farmers who had, in the past, remitted additional crops to fulfill their responsibility to contribute to the cost of buying meat for the military, this recent relief would mean more food for them. This means that they now would have enough food to last them through next year’s lean months. Every year in March and April, the farmers would suffer because they would have run out of food already, and the collective farms would consequently experience a serious lack of workers because the farmers would all be out foraging for food. People might wonder that relieving the farmers of the meat support burden would make that much of a difference. But to the farmers, who had to always worry about what they would eat the next year, even one grain saved is a cause for happiness. “Usually, once we are done remitting our grain and meat obligations to the military, we would be less three months’ worth of food for our family,” said the farmers, unable to hide their joy. “This now means that we have three more months’ worth of food left.”

“At least now we can fill our bellies with potatoes.”
In Daehongdan County of Ryanggang Province, which traditionally produces lots of potatoes, the farmers would remit the equivalent of state-mandated amount of military grain and meat in potatoes. Since pork was expensive compared to the much cheaper potatoes, the already small allotment that each farmer was entitled to became that much smaller. Potatoes are 50 won per 1 kg, but pork is 4,000 won per 1 kg. This means that you needed 80kg of potatoes for just 1 kg of pork. To remit 14kg pork equivalent in potatoes, you needed one ton. As such, the 720kg of potatoes that a farmer receives for six months ended up being much less when the amount for the military meat support was taken out. It’s not for nothing that you hear that people hadn’t been able to fill their stomachs for the last ten years even with the plentiful potatoes. That’s why you are hearing the local residents shout with joy that, “At least, we can fill our bellies with potatoes.”

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