How Reliable is the Good Harvest Year in North Korea?

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In regards to the North Korean demand for no more international relief aid but to switch it to “development assistance,” the North Korean trade workers whom The DailyNK met in China said, “it is due to the good harvest year in North Korea.”

Kang Young Man, a trade worker from China met in Dandong of China said, “farm situation this year is pretty good for the first time in the last twenty years.”

“It is thanks to the fertilizers from South Korea,” added Kang.

In North Korea, study on statistics on production of grain is conducted around mid-August. This is because ears of grain mature in August, so the Agriculture Department and the Food Policy Department send supervisors to the fields for studies on estimated amount of grain production. Also, by mid-August, there is no threat of loss of grain production due to the natural disasters such as monsoon.

According to Kang’s testimony, with the help of the 500,000tons of fertilizers from South Korea, North Korean farming improved incomparable to the previous years.

The North Korean grain production in 2003-2004 was 4,156,000tons (WFP report), which leaves 890,000tons still in short. North Korean government provided people what was left from the total amount of food available minus the amount of food for the military set by the Agriculture Department and the Food Policy Department .

Has the amount of grain production really increased so that North Korea does no longer need international food aid?

This May, Richard Reagan, the representative of the WFP-Pyongyang office predicted without further international food aid, North Korea will suffer another mass death by hunger. With such diagnosis, South Korea 500,000tons, US 50,000tons, China 150,000tons and the international society 100,000tons of food was to North Korea.

With International Monitoring, North Korea Chooses Self-Isolation Again

North Korea has been receiving international food aid but expressed dissatisfaction on monitoring and screening by the WFP agents. This is because the government of North Korea considers the WFP agents’ visit to local places across the nation for monitoring food distribution does not only have to do with securing transparency but to reveal real side of the long closed society.

Until now, North Korea “tolerated” monitoring “against its interests” was to relieve food crisis and the prevent regime collapse. There were many who fled to China and other countries due to hunger.

The food crisis in the mid-1990s was led to the worst possible situation by trying to maintain the national dignity. It is believed that only if North Korea left that “dignity” and had requested for international food promptly, it would have decreased the casualties by half.

The ceaseless international food aid to North Korea proved the North Korean people “superiority of capitalism” rather than “superiority of socialism.” They ended up proving falsity of the government propaganda, which differs much from the reality.

As the international aid and the international monitoring continue, the North Korean people will increasingly distrust their government unconcerned of their lives and the cooperate farms that tend to fail to feed them every time. For this reason, the government of North Korea is trying to cut of the international food aid and turn the nation into Kim Jong Il – centered society.

False Reports by the Workers Can be a Problem

The most important question to be raised is whether or not North Korea produced enough of food this year to provide people without the international food aid.

It has become a tradition for the North Korean officials to submit false reports to the higher offices. One of the causes of mass death during the mid-1990s crisis too was false reports to the central government by the government officials while they demanded people to tighten their belts.

If North Korea cuts off the international food aid under the assertion of “good harvest of this year,” by the false reports by the government officials, the people will suffer tremendously once again. This is the reason why we must be worried about sudden rejection of food aid by the North Korean government.

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