North Korea’s agricultural sector has been in serious decline for years. Among the reasons commonly cited are a lack of fuel and parts for machinery and poor weather conditions. However, the country also suffers a shortage of able farm workers in rural areas. Not only that; those young adults who are working the farms have been stunted by years of undernourishment.
A North Hamkyung Province source told Daily NK today about comments he heard in conversation with a farm manager in recent weeks. According to the man, “It is not something new that only the elderly and infirm are left in the rural areas of North Korea, but it is annoying that in recent years those young adults designated to work here have not only decreased in number but also do not even work properly.”
“At this time people are needed to sow seeds, organize the rice fields and plow; however, because people are mandatorily dispatched to workplaces they just spend their time doing as little as possible and can even be a headache because they steal corn,” he went on.
According to the source, in the past exemplary high school students volunteered to go out and join farm projects; however, now farms are maintained by the labor of the remaining small number of students who either cannot go to college or enter the military, cannot bribe their way out of it and have not run off to urban areas.
The source said, “For a while younger adults were ‘the rocks of the farm’ and ‘farming shock troops’ but now they are a nuisance. In the past, the young adults threw up slogans such as ‘serve the Party with rice’, but it is hard to expect anything from people who have not been educated properly.”
Not only are they lazy, but young laborers between 17 and 30 arriving on the farm are also precisely those effected most by the economic crisis; born in the mid 90s or infants at the time, they spent their childhood then and are now between 120cm and 130cm in height, far, far below average.
The source concluded, “These people are nearly 30, yet they look like little children who have been put to work.”