Monsoon rains have led to growing concerns among locals in North Hamgyong Province about the upcoming fall harvest of vegetables, Daily NK has learned. 

“Fields producing vegetables to be harvested in the fall are still waterlogged after the recent downpours,” a source in North Hamgyong Province told Daily NK on Aug. 18. “Members of nearby inminban and the women’s union [Socialist Women’s Union of Korea] have been mobilized to build drains near and around the edges of fields, but a lot of vegetables have already rotted at the roots.” 

Based on the source’s report, monsoon rains that hit the country beginning in mid-July have led to crop damage and an increasing level of anxiety among locals about the coming harvest.

The fact that Sino-North Korean trade and even smuggling activities across the border have been completely halted due to COVID-19 is adding to their concerns.

We have faced similar situations in the past, but people were not so concerned about [getting] vegetables for making kimchi because you could always buy them from China during the autumn, even though they were expensive,” the source said. “With the border closed earlier this year because of COVID-19, people are more worried [about getting vegetables] this year.”

vegetables
In this undated photo, a vegetable plot in Musan County, North Hamgyong Province, can be seen circled in yellow. / Image: Daily NK

Laborers at Musan Mine are reportedly feeling the pressure from the lack of vegetables, even more so than ordinary farmers. While farm workers are able to receive handouts even if the fall harvest is poor, there is a high likelihood that miners will not receive anything at all. 

“Miners used to get supplies [of vegetables] from farms [near the mine], but that won’t happen because of the monsoon rains,” the source explained. “In some cases, they had received vegetables from China, but many are saying that this will be difficult this year.” 

Musan Mine laborers recently received food rations from the authorities, but they, along with many ordinary people, are planning to fend for themselves rather than pin their hopes on the authorities for assistance, according to the source. 

Even though it is late in the season, there are families planting seeds in some fields damaged by the floods to harvest as much as they can [to make] putjoli [a type of North Korean-style kimchi],” the source said. “Some farms may end up planting black mustard seeds and radish.”

In 2016, torrential rain in Musan County caused flooding across 80% of the region, sweeping away a large amount of land. North Korean authorities later artificially reinforced the land; however, local residents believe the soil remains low quality and is prone to being washed away by even light showers. 

“People are saying that the foundations have become much weaker after the flooding a few years ago,” the source said, adding, “The soil turns to mud after even a small amount of rain, so they think it will be difficult to rectify the monsoon damage until basic measures [to prevent floods] are put into place.”

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

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Kang Mi Jin
Kang Mi Jin is a North Korean defector turned journalist who fled North Korea in 2009. She has a degree in economics and writes largely on marketization and economy-related issues for Daily NK. Questions about her articles can be directed to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.