[imText1]Facing the harvest season, the government of North Korea is collecting all the harvested food including privately farmed. Although it has officially permitted private farming to be considered as private production, but it has ordered to collect the private harvests as “cooperative farm production.”
Kim Mi Soon (pseudo name, age 39. Buryeong, North Hamkyong province) whom The DailyNK met on September 24 explained the farming area situation as the following. “This is the first time they (the government) suddenly changed the policy and deceived the people.”
“In the spring, because they state was unable to provide us food, they told us to plant corns for ourselves, now they have prohibited harvesting, so all can be turned into the cooperative farms. In Huiryeong, one family was expelled from the region for having taken six corns from the plant, and in Buryeong, one person was taken to the labor detention camp for having cut off a corn stem.”
Kim, who is occupied with clothes business going back and forth between China and North Korea, said she came to China though Huiryeong Customs on September 19th.
According to Kim, the North Korean government emphasized in the beginning of this year in March that “there must be good farming and solve the food problem” and ordered the pensioners, receivers from social security fund and their families to cultivate private farming land and that it allows them to harvest the food they produce.
However, entering September, the government order, “the government prohibits all the corn harvest to solve the food problem” came down and the people cannot even get near to their farmlands.
Such a change in the government policy goes hand in hand with the Restarting of the Food Distribution System. People are naturally drawn to doubt whether the state is firmly determined to monopolize all the food sales and control of it. In the past, under Kim Il Sung, the state prohibited all the production of private farms (backyards and as such) to be controlled by individuals.
Furthermore, the North Korean government recently requested the WFP and food providing international organization in North Korea to leave, which prospects the state tightly controlling all the food while it cuts itself off from the international aid for the better control of the state monopoly system.
Double Surveillance by Security Officers and Cooperative Farm Guards
According to Kim, in the farming areas of North Hankyong province, only the pensioners, receivers from social security fund who do not receive state subsidiaries were permitted to cultivate land for private farming. They are the seniors of age 60 and above and those who have physical injuries or handicapped from railway, shipment or other state owned work. Although originally they are subjects for the state food distribution, but since the government is unable to provide them food, they were allowed to farm.
“This spring, the Forestry Protection Department estimated and divided the land even documented and allotted to the people. For example, my mother who lives in Huiryeong is considered as “national contributor” who had participated in the Korean War, is entitled for 700g of food a day from the state. That means she is to receive 19kg of food a month, which is enough for 27 days a months. They calculated as such and distributed land for farming accordingly. They promised that the all the production will be for the individuals themselves and they documented as though they have provided 19kg of corn only by letting to farm.”
The following is the interview with Kim.
– The recent decree was from the Central Party or the North Hamkyong provincial party?
“I do not know the details, but what I know for sure is that the same things is occurring in Buryeong-gun, Huiryeong city, and Onsung-gun.”
– How do people who have their productions forfeited make a living?
“They only curse inside their hearts but they cannot do anything. Most of the people who had their food forfeited are seniors, families of handicapped, women and children. I and my brother have been supporting my mother. In fact, whether they have their production or not, the situation is pretty much the same. But thinking how my old mother would have climbed the mountain and farmed with bare hands to produce food for herself even if it would have been little, it makes me mad.”
– How is the general sentiment in the farming area?
“It is very heavy. Until this summer the general mood was pretty positive looking forward to the good harvest this year, but because of the new order starting this September, there is a heavy mood created and the people disappointed by much.”
– Who controls the private plantations?
“The agricultural party offices. The security officials as well as the cooperative farm guards are all out to control the people from taking the food from the farms. They have made guards stand in each of the farms. We do not know who or when they will be harvested.”
Food Prices in Janagmadang Dropped
– Do you know about control of rice salves in Jangmadang?
“I have not heard of any official statement about it. However, there is a rumor about it among the rice sellers in the Jangmadang. There is no change made yet.”
– How about the food price in Jangmadang?
“I visited Huiryeong Market just before I made my way to China, and the price of rice dropped by much. Before the Chusuk (Korean traditional holidays), rice from South Korea was 800Won($0.4) per kilo and from China, 700Won($0.35) per Kilo. I was surprised at how much the price of corn fell. It was 200Won($0.1) per kilo. It was the lowest price since the 7.1 Economic Management Measure. I heard that it had fell down to 180Won($0.09) in the end of August.”
– What the reason for the sudden drop of food price?
“Originally, September is the period for the highest corn price. This is the time when the people have eaten all the food they have bought and wait for the new food to be harvested. Starting July, the food sellers start buying in food and sell them in high price from mid-September. However, the price of corn fell down this year, and the sellers made a big loss. Even the sellers do not understand what happened. In Jangmadang, there is a rumor that the state had been storing the food it received from South Korea and distributed (circulated) it in the most expensive period, and that the state profited the most from food sales this September.”
– Do you know about the state restarting the food distribution for the factory workers and their families this October?
“I know about it. I heard it when I left Buryeong. How we may have to watch what happens. Nobody is expecting much from it. 70% of the factories in North Korea are not in work. Would the state give the workers 700g of food per day to the workers who do not work? Most of the people hear about it but do not believe it.”
Life of the Pyongyang Residents, Similar to Yanbian Residents
– Have you ever been to Pyongyang? How is it different from local places? Their clothes styles?
“I visited Pyongyang this June, and the life of the Pyongyang residents are similar to those of Yanbian residents. In North Korea 60% of all the people who go out to foreign countries are chosen from Pyongyang. The Commander ordered elevated the living standard of the Pyongyang City. Most of the people who go to foreign countries from local places are those who provide labor services. I was very surprised to see the living standard in Pyongyang.”
– Is it not difficult to go to Pyongyang as a resident from North Hankyong province? Do you have relatives in Pyongyang?
“Those people who live so far away from Pyongyang like North Hamkyong province must have agreement (invitation) from their relatives living in Pyongyang. You have to have a permission issued too, and the permission must have a permission serial number. It also takes a long time. There are two ways for the person like me, who does not have any relatives residing in Pyongyang, to visit Pyongyang.
One way is to buy the permission number and put my name on the list.
Second way is to guy train tickets to cities such as Sariwon, Sunchon, and Pyongsung, which pass by Pyongyang, and just get off at the Pyongyang station. Since there is only one railway to Pyongyang, if you have the train ticket, you can pass through the “Pyongyang Capital Security Guard”. Then you get off at the Pyongyang station. There is another military guard to enter the city from the city and the station, and there you give some money to the people who can let you though and enter the city. Once you are in the city, nobody controls people going out of the city. If you have connections and money, you can visit Pyongyang.”