In August of 2010, North Korea’s Kim Jong Il and Chinese President Hu Jintao met for a summit in Changchun, the capital city of China’s northeast Jilin Province. During the meeting, numerous suggestions were exchanged as how to best revive North Korea’s unused agricultural land. Kim Jong Eun now plans to implement these new farmland cultivation techniques.
An internal source told Daily NK “During Kim Jong Il’s lifetime, business promotion was passed along to provincial party cadres, but was later suspended due to the leader’s death.” However, the source also added, “lately, Kim Jong Eun has issued orders regarding agricultural operations and dispatching agricultural laborers.”
At the time of the Kim Jong Il-Hu Jintao summit, the leaders reached a long-term agreement that China would supply North Korea unused agricultural land in Heilongjiang Province free of charge with the understanding that North Korea would adhere to the agricultural production, procurement, and labor techniques that the two sides had agreed upon.
Most of the food assistance that comes to North Korea from China is the grain from the Heilongjiang Province, the “breadbasket” of China. Kim Jong Il requested large scale food aid in his visit to China in April 2010 and China agreed to provide leasing of unused land in Heilongjiang Province. The details were agreed upon following Kim Jong Il’s visit in August. The People’s Republic of China has sought out solutions of how best to facilitate the development of Heilongjiang Province since last year.
Kim Jong Il’s visit to China also served to encourage a positive perception of North Korea’s upcoming hereditary succession by making Kim Il Sung’s revolutionary historic sites the main site for travelers, although it was mainly for the Heilongjiang agricultural development, sources said.
At that time, Kim Jong Il visited Harbin of Heilongjiang Province and met with key cadres of the party. Eleven executive secretaries from each cities in the province visited Heilongjang Province in September, a month after Kim Jong Il’s visit, making it very likely that they were there to discuss the loan of agricultural farmland.
If approximately six to seven tons of rice is produced in 2.5 acres of farmland on average, then China’s 500,000 acres of idle agricultural farmland is calculated to produce about 120-140 tons of rice per year, creating one possible solution to North Korea’s chronic food shortages.
Now all that is left is to see whether Kim Jong Eun can provide the necessary funding and labor. Kim Jong Eun has emphasized North Korea’s food problems in his past statements. Meanwhile, Kim Jong Eun published his first economic management reform, the ‘6.28 policy,’ which has raised anticipation of improving the food situation. However, there are still initial costs and management of resources that are left unresolved.