The North Korean authorities have mobilized residents living in mountainous regions en masse to pick fruits and mushrooms, multiple sources have reported.
The mobilization order was handed down in early October as a “task of the Party” and affects those living in farming communities close to hills and all those near mountainous regions throughout the country.
Adult residents who are subject to the order must pick at least 10 kilograms of fruits, nuts and berries (including mountain delicacies like wild grapes, gooseberries, and acorns) growing in the mountains and submit their pickings to the local Party organization. Teenage students are required to pick at least 5 kilograms. The quota for dried products like mushrooms and medicinal herbs is half the berry, fruit, and nut quota.
Party officials affiliated with most county organizations, enterprises and district offices in the mountainous areas have been encouraging local residents to achieve the set quotas, calling the mobilization order a “major Party task” and telling them that it is more important than their work unit quotas.
DPRK Today, a magazine geared towards Koreans living overseas, reported on October 8 that the Changsong County (North Pyongan Province) Party Committee had mobilized all local residents and collected several hundred tons of mountain fruits, nuts and berries.
Some 95% of Changsong County is mountainous and Kim Il Sung previously built factories and work sites in the region that produced farming machinery and equipment to set an example for provincial industrial development. The employees of these factories have been mobilized to pick tons of fruits, nuts and berries every day in the nearby hills and mountains.
“The authorities have been emphasizing to employees of local schools, equipment supply centers, textile factories and furniture factories that the mass mobilization order to pick fruits, nuts and berries in the mountain regions needs to be completed quickly to avoid “missing the right time [for gathering],” said a North Pyongan Province-based source. “Even farmers from cooperative farms, who should be harvesting right now, have been dragged out to the mountains to gather fruits, nuts and berries.”
“We are almost at the end of the harvest season, but the authorities are mobilizing all the farmers to pick various mushrooms like honey fungus and pine mushrooms,” a North Hamgyong Province-based source told Daily NK. “Each family must provide 5 kilograms of dried mushrooms picked from the mountains.” Honey fungus mushrooms are preferred by Chinese traders and one kilo sells for 30 Chinese yuan.
“Gathering and preparing 5 kilos of dried honey fungus mushrooms is not an easy task,” said the North Hamgyong-based source. “People also have their own farming activities to attend to, so many are complaining about being sent out to the mountains.”
The mass mobilization order appears to be part of an attempt by the authorities to make up for the poor corn harvest this year, the source said.
“The harvest [of corn] this year does not look very good compared to last year, so [the authorities] aim to get as many fruits, nuts and berries as possible to prepare [for the winter]. That’s all well and good, but the people are the ones suffering and they won’t benefit from the gathering of all this food,” an additional source in North Hamgyong Province reported.
“The government collects all of the food from the mountains using free labor and gives it to food factories. The factories manufacture the raw ingredients into food products and supply them to Pyongyang or military bases and sell the rest to vendors for sale in the general markets.”