A photo of North Korean farmers spraying pesticides published by North Korean media on May 5. (Rodong Sinmun - News1)

Even though North Korea is mobilizing soldiers to support agricultural villages during the rice planting season, the soldiers are providing little help to agricultural areas because they are so undernourished. 

According to a Daily NK source in North Korea last Thursday, the military’s supreme command issued an order in May pertaining to the mobilization of soldiers to agricultural communities. 

Specifically, the order called on soldiers to remember that completing rice planting in a timely manner is an important factor determining how this year’s farming will go, urging soldiers to take part in agricultural support activities “both materially and morally.”

North Korea has recently raised military tensions on the Korean Peninsula and internationally by launching ICBMs and other missiles. Domestically, however, the authorities have eased battle readiness somewhat, beginning full-scale mobilizations of soldiers for farming work.

The military’s order called on units to avoid meetings or gatherings unrelated to agricultural support that could hinder activities during the mobilization period. In particular, it warned against workers at military units making excuses to get out of agricultural support activities.

In response to the order, units of the army’s Fourth Corps in South Hwanghae Province are helping plant rice and pick weeds at local farms after their morning political and ideological lectures.

However, Daily NK’s source said since many of the soldiers have been unable to eat and suffer malnourishment as a result, they have been unable to speed up rice planting efforts in agricultural areas. 

In the case of one battalion of new recruits with the Fourth Corps, most of the troops heading into the fields suffer from malnutrition.

The soldiers must work at least six hours a day or more at local farms helping to plant rice or pick weeds, but many are so weak that they cannot move. All they do is pass the time sitting in the shade before returning to their units.

“We thought there’d be no agricultural mobilizations this year because of the spread of COVID-19, but they are fully mobilizing soldiers to work at farms suffering from labor shortages during the rice-planting season to resolve pressing food shortages,” said the source. “Some locals welcome the soldiers’ help, but others are complaining about frequent burglaries by hungry soldiers.”

Translated by David Black. Edited by Robert Lauler.

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

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Kim Chae Hwan is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. He can be contacted at dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.