A key North Korean agricultural reform measure, the field responsibility system (FRS), is encountering difficulties with wider implementation due to broken government promises, Daily NK sources have reported.

“The system is being implemented on a trial basis among selected farmers in two farms per county,” a North Hamgyong Province-based source told Daily NK on Oct. 24. “Examples of the system being implemented properly are few and far between. Farmers have gone back to their old ways of farming because they have not received their promised shares from the government.”


North Korean agriculture has traditionally been based on the socialist collective management system. In other words, ownership has been possessed by the collective, but no autonomy has been permitted among the farmers because agricultural management has been centered on collective farm business committees.

The FRS, which was introduced in 2012 and implemented in only select areas of the country, was designed to increase the productivity of farming across the nation by reducing collective farming units to the individual family level. The agricultural reform measure assigns selected families a small sized plot of land to till and allows them to keep a percentage of their crop yield. 

The FRS has been hailed by North Korea as one of the model reform measures of the Kim Jong Un era.

The FRS differs from the more recently implemented “individual field responsibility system,” which is considered an “upgrade” to the FRS. The individual field responsibility system places the full brunt of responsibility for farming on the heads of farmers and has also been implemented in select areas of the country.

Daily NK recently reported that the newer system has experienced some success in Ryanggang Province. 


Daily NK sources pointed out that the FRS has not been a runaway success mainly because of broken government promises. 

“The FRS was [initially] widely popular among farmers and in fact raised crop production by 20%. People generally think that if the state could just keep its promise of distributing crops, then the system would be a huge success,” the North Hamgyong Province-based source told Daily NK. 

Enthusiasm among farmers motivated by the prospect of receiving a portion of the harvest and exercising autonomy in farming wore off when the government forced farmers to given an even greater share of their crop than what had been previously agreed upon, Daily NK sources explained. 

“It’s hard enough being a farmer, so more and more people are deciding to try their hand in the market, using their profits to purchase food instead of growing it. Most people don’t see a big difference between the FRS and collective farming,” another Daily NK source in North Hamgyong Province said.

“Farmers have unanimously voiced a desire to give farming their best effort if the government would follow through with its end of the deal,” he added. 

*Translated by Brian Boyle

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