North Korean leader Kim Jong Un recently issued an order to the military to review the status of farmland it manages and for the farmland to be managed jointly by the military and the country’s Cabinet, Daily NK has learned. 

Daily NK military sources told Daily NK on Wednesday that the order is part of the regime’s efforts to tighten control over economic activities run by the military. 

Kim Jong Un emphasized the establishment of a “Cabinet-centered economic system” at the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) Central Committee’s plenary meeting at the end of last year. 

Kim reportedly issued the order during an on-the-spot visit to a Korean People’s Army (KPA) unit while hearing about various KPA initiatives, including the management of farmland.

Each branch of the KPA has logistics departments that manage livestock and farmland for military consumption. Military officials working in these military logistics departments are reportedly reacting with dismay over the new – and sudden – orders. They are concerned that the military’s farmland land and harvests will be shared outside of the military. 

Daily NK sources also indicated that Kim’s new order is part of an attempt to eliminate corruption involving KPA-run farmland. 

Corruption has long been a problem for KPA-managed farms. Harvests from farmland tilled by soldiers have been preyed about by powerful military officials. 

The military has also been involved in farmland “privatization” schemes, where military units provide plots of land to individuals in exchange for 30% of the crop yields. In these cases, military officials keep two separate ledgers: an official one and secret one showing the real flow of money and distribution of crops. 

“The authorities will examine all ledgers concerning military-owned farmland over the past eight years, including crop yields and how harvests were distributed,” the source said. 

“Starting in April, logistics departments attached to the Ministry of Land and Environment Conservation and the Ministry of Land and Environment Conservation and the Ministry of People’s Armed Forces will work together over two months to investigate military-owned farmland,” he added. 

Military officials are reportedly worried about blowback stemming from past corruption, particularly given that Kim Jong Un-style punishment tends to involve mass purges of military leaders. 

The military acquired large swathes of farms during the Kim Jong Il era, which allowed it to feed its soldiers during the “Arduous March” period of the mid- to late 1990s. 

Kim’s order also included instructions for the government to further invest in basic infrastructure such as reservoirs and ensure that military-run farmland continues to be managed properly.

*Translated by Violet Kim

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

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Jeong Tae Joo is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. He focuses on North Korean military matters. Please direct any questions about his articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.