Authorities warn residents of theft during the harvest season

Farmers on the Chilgol Vegetable Farm in Mangyongdae District, Pyongyang. Image: Yonhap News Agency

Amidst a sluggish grain harvest this year due to damage from severe drought and typhoons, the North Korean authorities are delivering lectures warning the general public of the potential for grain theft, Daily NK sources reported.

“It was emphasized in these lectures for citizens to take special precautions during the fall harvest season this year, cautioning that anyone caught stealing would be subject to harsh punishment,” a source from Ryanggang Province said.

The North Korean authorities appear to be bracing for an increased risk of grain theft that may occur in conjunction with the low grain yield this year.

“Large farms and individual farmers alike are at risk of losing their harvest that they spent the entire year preparing for. Farmers need to take increased measures to secure their crops before someone tries to rob them,” a source in North Hamgyong Province reported.

“It is a common saying in North Korea that, ‘it is difficult for even 10 guards to stop one thief,'” he continued, further elaborating on how difficult it is to prevent theft in North Korea.

“This is especially true when you have guards that will coordinate with thieves in exchange for a part of the score.”   

In response,most farms are employing young male armed guards to protect their crops until the fall harvest season is over, according to an additional source in Ryanggang Province.

“Although I sincerely hope that we can put an end to the rampant theft going on at farms in North Korea and that the harvest season this year goes off without a hitch, it is difficult to have high expectations when the food situation is in such dire straits,” he said.

“While someone stealing a few grains here and there is certainly a bad thing to do, I wonder if the bigger thief isn’t the military who come and take the food away by the truckload.”

*Translated by Brian Boyle

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Kang Mi Jin is a North Korean defector turned journalist who fled North Korea in 2009. She has a degree in economics and writes largely on marketization and economy-related issues for Daily NK. Many of her articles are featured in the Jangmadang section of the Daily NK website. She has been interviewed by the New York Times and LA Times, among others, and is a contributor on North Korea issues for TBS and KBS.