Hyesan farmers concerned for winter survival

Satellite image of Kanggu (located below the Amnok River). Image: Daily NK

As temperatures plunge to below 20 degrees Celsius, those living in farming towns in Hyesan are expressing concerns as many were unable to properly prepare for such cold temperatures.

“Entrepreneurs and vendors in Hyesan prepared for the winter to a certain extent by obtaining wood, coal, kimchi and winter clothes, but many of those in the farming towns were unable to,” said a Ryanggang Province-based source.

“This year’s harvest was poor, so most of these families were unable to store even a month’s worth of food. Almost 70% of the families in one farming village in Kanggu District were unable to obtain kimchi and winter clothes.”

Farmers in the area spent the summer working hard to harvest corn and beans but had to return most of it during the farm hardship period (period just prior to the harvest). Consequently, “many are afraid of the ever-deepening winter,” the source said.

The North Korean authorities, moreover, have ordered farmers to sell their grains and animal products and have taken additional resources for use in projects including the Samjiyon modernization project. This has led farmers in the area to complain that “they can’t even buy winter footwear for their kids,” the source reported.

The hardship is not just limited to farmers. A separate source in Ryanggang Province told Daily NK that “soldiers on the border are in a similar situation. The border patrol prepared properly for the winter, but some other military outposts completely failed to do that.”

According to the source, the authorities distributed new winter clothes, shoes, shoe covers, undergarments, and gloves to border patrol officers for the intensely cold winter, but the 12th Corps in Hyesan were not supplied with any such provisions.

The soldiers have to repair the clothes they wore last year, with their garments reportedly so shabby-looking that locals are saying they look homeless.

The 43rd Ski Patrol Corps, which is under the command of the 12th Corps, has received cotton gloves and shoes, according to an additional source in Ryanggang Province. The authorities appear to have provided the winter gear for that particular corps because it conducts a lot of maneuvers in mountainous regions.

“The border patrol didn’t have a great harvest but has enough kimchi and beans to survive the winter. The 12th Corps, however, doesn’t get any food rations nor does it have any food reserves. Military officers have to go to people’s houses to borrow grain for themselves,” he said.

“If the situation for the military officers is that bad, I can only imagine how poor a situation the troops are in.”

Ha Yoon Ah is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about her articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.