As drought in western areas of the Korean Peninsula persists and threatens to decimate the autumn harvest, North Korea’s annual, nationwide period of mass mobilization for farming activities is being extended for a month to make up for labor shortages in rural areas, internal sources have revealed. The extended mobilization period has also been handed a customarily militaristic title, the ’70-day Battle’.
A Shinuiju source informed Daily NK of the news on the 10th, saying, “To try and avoid damage caused by extreme drought, People’s Units are working to irrigate the fields for two hours from 5AM and then for three more hours from 5PM to 8PM. Even elementary school students are not exempt.”
The source revealed, “The orders are that all the people who eat have to come forward and participate in the irrigation effort, so even 10-year old kids are out there with water buckets on their shoulders. They’re really tired and their lips are all dried out.”
“The forecast says there will not be rain and the crops in the fields are dry, so Party cadres are starting to prepare for the one month extension ’70-day Battle’,” the source went on.
North Korea usually sets aside 40 days during spring for the mass farming mobilization of students, enterprise employees and members of the Union of Democratic Women. This year, the effort began on May 10th, so if it lasts for 70 days then it will actually last until well into July.
According to the North Korean media, Pyongyang and the provinces of Hwanghae and Pyongan have all recorded their lowest rainfall in 50 years this spring. According to the source, the North Korean media is keen to deflect any suggestion of blame for the situation, focusing daily on global food shortages and pointing out that Thailand, Myanmar and others are continuing to suffer drought and natural disasters.
The source revealed also that the presence of farm support from elsewhere actually has the effect of allowing ordinary farm workers to engage in other tasks, in many cases decreasing the overall effectiveness of the farming effort.
“There are 15 to 20 actual farm workers on one farm,” she explained. “When the support workers come, these farm workers leave the work to them and go out to the local town to sell garlic, cabbage and other things. At most, 3 to 5 people come out and tell the support workers what to do.”