GoodFriends: Research Institute For North Korean Society

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North Korea Today No. 428 November 9, 2011

[“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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[Intro] There is a way to prevent loss of grains
Station 3 Focuses on the Issue of Threshing
Grain Losses While Threshing
Despite Asking Farmers to have a sense of ownership…
With Stricter Border Controls, Chinese Villages Lack Farmhands
Hard to Cross the Boarder with No Cellular Phones

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[Intro] There is a way to prevent loss of grains
A significant loss of grains in the process of threshing is said to be present. The effort to minimize grain loss has started in the context of reduced crop prospects due to the damages from the flood that hit rice producing areas. However, questions remain over how effective an effort that’s limited only to ideological disciplining of the workers could be. Station 3, which exposes in detail and sternly criticizes who did what wrong in which farm focuses on heightening the sense of ownership among farmers in order to halt the loss of grains. Farmers, in turn, ask the government why electricity is not provided. While criticizing workers for not demonstrating enough sense of ownership, the government is failing to fulfill its own responsibility. Working on their own private plots on a priority basis in order to avoid hunger is the reality faced by farm workers. If farming on private plots is banned, there will be more stealing and smuggling of grains from the threshing process. A fundamental solution for ensuring the supply of food is needed. There is a way: permitting private farming will do it. The South Korean government and the international community, seeing the willingness on the part of the North Korean government to resolve the food shortage, will provide agricultural supplies and technology. The food shortage in North Korea can only be resolved by a fundamental restructuring of the society aimed for an increased food production.


Station 3 Focuses on the Issue of Threshing
With the harvest season coming to an end, the threshing process has started. Not only is the significant reduction in crop from the last year’s worrisome, but also posing a problem is the loss of grains in the period between harvest and threshing. Farm workers, regular citizens mobilized for agricultural production, soldiers – everyone in the sight is fighting tooth and nail to pilfer and smuggle as much rice as possible. To move sheaves of rice, cars are a necessity, and farms that cannot afford vehicles or shipping charges resort to using ox carts. Using an ox cart means rice sheaves are left in the field for days and stolen easily as a result. Even when there are guards on watch for the rice day and night, the rice gets stolen in any case by the guards themselves. When it rains, the situation is even worse, and it is not uncommon that rice gets wet from rain and goes bad.

The North Korean government has emphasized the importance of threshing via Station 3, and made pointed criticism toward specific cases, making a focused effort to warn people. Station 3 is the cable radio broadcast, which deals with internal propagandas with special importance, national issues that the government does not want to be revealed to the outside world, and foreign affairs explained to North Korean citizens. In contrast to the Korean Central Broadcasting Station (Station 1) and Radio Pyongyang (Station 2) directed mostly toward South Korean audience, Station 3 is only for the North Korean audience. The following is an excerpt from Station 3’s criticism on Dong-am Cooperative Farm in Sunchon, South Pyong-an Province, where sheaves of rice that did not get moved to the threshing floor got wet from rain, causing loss of grains:

“A few days ago, at Dong-am Collective Farm in Sunchon City, we were surprised to see the amount of crops harvested by the work unit 4. It had rained since the night before in the field, and we saw all rice paddies filled with water to ankle level. The rice plants, with or without supports, were flooded and destroyed from the wind and rain. The situation at the threshing floor was far worse. The threshing machines were outside under the rain, disabling threshing altogether despite the fact that electricity was available. The lack of a plan for preparation caused the rain to flood the rice plants. When we asked the managers of the threshing floor about where the workers were, they said that the workers were given a break since there was no work to be done because of the rain. The rain had already stopped at that point, and it was well after 3 p.m., but there were no workers on the site except for two security men. It was clear to us that at Unit 4, there was no one who cared about the fact that the rice sheaves were drowned in rice paddies, and the threshing machines and harvested rice were wet from rain.

We would like to question Lee Chansil, the head of the work unit 4 at Dong-am Collective Farm, for his actions. We citizens are harvesting with our minds set on the goal of making a strong and prosperous country; why aren’t those workers doing the same? Neither the lack of workers nor distance was a problem in this case.

We have inspected four work units at Dong-am Collective Farm in Sunchon city. At the nearby 6th Ryonpo Collective Farm, sheaves of rice were already moved to the side of the road to avoid getting wet from rain, and they were stacked up and covered. Also, they applied a double plastic thin film in order to keep the rain in the field of threshing. The different attitudes of Mr. Lee Chansil at Unit 4 at Dong-am Collective Farm in Sunchon, and Mr. Chun Sangbong at the Unit 6 at Ryonpo, make a striking contrast. It is not even the case that they are in different cities. They are located next to each other, but the difference is huge. The difference between the two work units shows that Mr. Lee and the workers at Unit 4 at Dong-am are working unwillingly not with a sense of ownership. This is the time when we need to put forth our best efforts, but some people regard their labor as a burden, and not with a revolutionary fervor, and thus they lost our hard-earned grains from rain without feeling any remorse.

In the end, the leader of the work unit, Mr. Lee, did not have any sense of ownership for the grains and the threshing floor, and thus had no interest in saving the grains from getting wet from rain and mud. On the other hand, we think the problem also lies in the management at Dong-am, including its head manager, Mr. Moon Hyangsik. If managers at each work unit could have been extremely careful and prepared for the rain, things would have been different. In particular, Unit 4 is very noticeable being located right beside the road, so it is obvious that workers did not even give it a glimpse at the field while it was raining heavily.

Workers at Dong-am collective farm at Sunchon city should renew their resolve. A powerful nation can be only achieved victoriously through the mind power and patriotic resolution from workers to be the owners of the country. Farm workers must consider themselves as problem solvers, so they need to do their best. We need to attain victory through grain production as one with high spirit and resolution.


Grain Losses While Threshing
Grain losses continue even after the sheaves are moved to the threshing floor from the field. Although farming villages are supposed to have priority in getting electricity during the threshing season, the lack of machines and poor supply of electricity slows down the threshing process. During the slow threshing process, there are many who steal rice by sheave. On Station 3, listeners were reminded of the importance of the threshing process with Anheung Farm and Daeyang Farm of Pyongyang’s Sunan district pointed out as bad examples.

“One way the lack of ownership manifests itself in Unit 3 of Anheung Farm is the rough treatment of rice sheaves during threshing. Because of negligence in picking out the ears of rice from straw stacks after threshing, 10 to 12 ears of rice gets left on average on a stack of straws. Despite such a big loss of grains, the workers in this unit, without any remorse, proceeded to use the straw stack with ears of rice still on it for other purposes, and piles it on top of manure for composting. In Daeyang Farm, the process of threshing was equally rough. Unit 2 at Daeyang also had more than ten ears of rice left on a stack of straws, which the unit nevertheless sent to the livestock and the vegetable farming unit.

This phenomenon at Anheung and Daeyang demonstrates how the members of these farms are not trying their hardest at filling up out nation’s rice reserve. Could you say that those workers at Anheung Farm, who do nothing about more than ten ears of rice being left on a straw stack, are working patriotically to ensure the supply of rice for our nation? There is no loss of grains more regrettable than to lose them from the negligence during harvest after long and hard spring and summer days of raising rice plants. However, at Anheung and Daeyang, such a loss does not seem to be minded, which casts doubt on the prospect of making this year’s harvest into a success. The failings at Anheung and Daeyang is partly to be blamed on the unit workers not fulfilling their duty, but a more fundamental problem lies in the shortcomings of the managers at the farm. If the managers made sure to take a proactive role for the harvest, and prepared the farm workers mentally with good planning and leadership, a disaster as such would not have happened. In other words, if the managers had set a good example, the harvest would not have been the way it is now (...)”


Despite Asking Farmers to have a sense of ownership…
The North Korean government is also having trouble with farmers who have no sense of ownership in its collective farms. Through Station 3, the government has fiercely criticized the farmers winding up their workday on their own before the end of a work shift at a collective farm in Rajinpo, Yonan County, South Hwanghae Province, in the peak of the threshing season. The government made a resentful statement: “How can all farmers possibly leave their working place before the end of their shift? What could they have possibly been thinking?” The government also stated with anger that the farmers should have stayed at work until the electricity was back, rather than just leaving, risking missing the chance of utilizing the threshing machine when the power comes back. The bottom line was that every worker should work with a sense of responsibility in collective farms. The government delivered a warning that the farmers will have to use a treadle thresher if they continue not to put in their best effort.

Whenever criticized as such by the government, workers express their agony. “We know that there is nothing wrong in what the government says, but with everyone suffering from hunger pangs, who is going to use all their energy up in collective farms instead of tending their own private plots? Even though the government promises a preferential supply of electricity to the threshing floors, we have more days without electricity than with electricity. Nobody knows when the electricity is going to come back. In such uncertain circumstances, who will just stay and wait for the electricity? Don’t you think that it makes sense that we work in our own private plots if there is no electricity instead of just waiting for it to come back?” The workers would give their best effort if they get to keep whatever they harvested themselves at collective farms, but the ration that they get usually isn’t even sufficient for half a year’s food, and using that to pay back the food debt incurred during the spring season, there is not much to be left. Naturally, people put most of their energy and time into cultivating their private plots. One collective farm worker says that the best that the government can do is to allow private plots for the farm members, and that no amount of criticism and disciplining through Station 3 would change anything. The following is quoted from Station 3:

“Those who threshed grain beforehand should have worked with a determination to keep threshing until the rotational shift arrives. Nevertheless, the farm members’ state of mind has been so lackadaisical to the point that the entire members of the threshing group just stopped their work and went home. Currently, every worker in the country is greatly helping and leading each other in order to fully open the gate of the strong and prosperous nation for those who come after them; in such a circumstance, how can Rajinpo Collective Farm in Yonan County show such a pathetic attitude with their terrible teamwork, and by going home carelessly even though the next shift did not come and not coming to work on time for their shift? Furthermore, even though we are in a difficult situation with the power shortage, the state is trying to secure electricity in the farming areas by all means these days to ensure that this year’s crop will be harvested as soon as possible; under such circumstance, how can they do such a pathetic job on threshing floors? How can you act so nonchalantly about threshing, instead of trying to maximize the use of the limited time when electricity is available? Have you already forgotten about the times when we toiled using the treadle thresher during the Arduous March? Also, you can still using the treadle thresher while waiting for electricity, and try to make a more efficient use of time to get as much threshing done as you can.

Choi Youngbin, the Chief of the Management Committee at Gwanyoung Collective Farm in Songhwa County, and Oh Dongsik, the Chief of the Management Committee at Rajinpo Collective Farm in Yonan County, demonstrate poor ideological moral and bad work behavior. We must ask them whether they have any patriotic spirits at all to have a good harvest and resolve the food problem. We must ask whether the people like them who caused disruptions in the threshing work because they cannot even do a single organizational work are worthy to be managers. The reason that Choi Youngbin and Oh Dongsik failed in their leadership is simple. It is because they have a poor ideological moral; harvesting this year’s crop well is an important task in resolving this year’s food problem, but they did not take the matter as that of life and death in supporting the future of Socialsm; instead, they just saw it as routine farm work, and in the hope to do the least amount of work possible, did not even do the organizational work properly. We all must learn the important lesson from these bad examples. The quality of organization and leadership in harvest determines the crop yield. Those whose names were mentioned above must keep in mind that they are in charge of their respective farms and do their hardest to collect the crops into the nation’s grain storage without wasting a single grain, by scrupulous organizational work and a firm sense of ownership. Every worker in the agricultural sector of each region must put effort to improve the farm work organization so that they can contribute to resolving the nation’s food problem by reaping a splendid harvest this year.”


With Stricter Border Controls, Chinese Villages Lack Farmhands
The consequences of stricter border patrols have affected the Chinese farming villages along the border between North Korea and China. Every fall, North Koreans have traditionally sneaked across the border into China to earn wages. However, this year almost all border crossings into China have ended. During the harvest season Chinese farmers usually hired North Koreans to work as farmhands to compensate for the lack of Chinese labor. It is not that no one crossed the border this year, but there was a dramatic reduction in the number of people doing so, less than 20 percent of the previous years. Like China, North Korea is also mobilizing its farmers for border patrol, making the border security much stricter. The Chinese farmers have expressed regret about the lack of North Koreans coming in for work. Jo Jung-geum Jo (alias), an ethnic Korean with Chinese citizenship living in Changbai, said “After working them for a couple of days we paid them a few hundred yuan and they said ‘we’ll be back next year’ and they went back home happily. They were tremendously happy even if we gave them clothes that we no longer wear at home. They worked so enthusiastically that we almost wanted them to stay and continue working for us. This year it has been hard to find laborers to the end of the harvest season. Last year, they came in groups of two or three, or in larger groups of five or six, going from a house to another, working. But this year hardly anyone had North Koreans coming in at all. Many said that they had difficulty finding help for their farms. Choi Sunghee, an ethnic Korean woman who says that she has hired North Koreans many times, said that she had trouble finding them this year. She also said, “If we gave them old clothes, bean paste, red chili paste, or rice, they were so happy that their families would not have to starve, but I don’t know how they’re going to make it through this winter. We were more worried about how those people will survive than the work we have left to do at home. So we often find ourselves glancing over the other side of the river. Over the years, we grew very fond of them. When we think of all the suffering they will have to go through just across the river, we feel sorry for them.”

Now that the harvest season is over, there has been a large decrease in workers. One person who has been helping the North Koreans for a long time said, “There have been more Kottjebis (street beggars from North Korea) this year. The kids cross the river looking like ghosts and their nutrition has gotten visibly worse. I think that these days there are more North Koreans who don’t plan on going back to North Korea after crossing the river. There is so much crackdown and hardship over there these days that no one wants to go back.”


Hard to Cross the Boarder with No Cellular Phones
According to one government official in Hyesan, Ryanggang Province, the main reason for the difficulty in crossing the border to China during the harvest season was due to a complete confiscation of cellular phones from security agents. A strict border security and new security agents who replaced the previous agents made it hard to cross the border, and moreover, seizing cellular phones from agents has eliminated the tool by which border security guards and defectors used to arrange safe times to cross the border, especially when coming back to North Korea. The official said, “Every year many people had gone to China to earn money during the planting season and the harvest season and then came back, but this fall, there weren’t many who did so. I heard from them that they earned 200 Yuan and were able to live through the winter on it. I am not sure how people will survive this winter since they couldn’t go.”

He also said, “The Chinese usually overlook North Koreans working illegally unless someone intentionally reports them to the authoritie so that they wouldn’t have to pay them, but, in most cases, they didn’t report them because they were in need of their labor. However, North Koreans didn’t even try to go to China this fall because of new border security agents and the prospect of severe punishment. I wanted to help them to cross the border, but it was impossible without a cellular phone to find out when the best time to let them cross the border was. People are very upset by the fact that they lost a valuable income source. ”

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