North Koreans farming in North Hamgyong Province in early June 2019 ban loans farms fertilizer
In this file photo from early June 2019, North Koreans can be seen farming in North Hamgyong Province. (Daily NK)

North Hamgyong Province is in the process of reclaiming land that has long been used for part-time farming activities by various companies and organizations, Daily NK has learned.

“In early May, the provincial party committee conducted an investigation into all farm plots held by various companies and orgnizations that have been producing raw materials for cooking oil and paper. They then decided to turn some of this land over to farms,” a source in the province reported last Friday.

According to the source, these plots of land had been distributed by the provincial government many years ago to produce raw materials for paper along with sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and beans to resolve the province’s shortage of cooking oil.

Following recent government orders to both double the country’s farmland and increase grain productin through double-cropping, the provincial government has been placed in a position where it must report to the leadership an increase in farmland and, this fall, inform its superiors about efforts to increase agricultural production. This situation pushed the provincial government to begin efforts to confiscate half of the available plots of land and return them to farms.

“The provincial government ultimately decided to leave about half of the plots with the companies and organizations,” the source said. “That’s because [these plots of land] must still be used to produce raw materials for cooking oil and paper.”

According to the source, the companies and organizations in charge of the land are unhappy, complaining: “These plots of land were originally owned by the state, but we need that land, too. We don’t understand why they are taking it away.” They are also complaining that the government’s policies “keep changing by the day, so we don’t know what the authorities want us to do.”

From the perspective of the organizations and companies managing the land, they have used the crops produced through the farming plots to help support national construction projects and contribute to supplies of goods handed out during holidays. They have done all this while the government has been unable to provide much support to their industries, including the distribution of rations. As a result, they find it ridiculous that the government would take the land away.

In fact, the various organizations and companies having their land taken away have strived to create new farmland from barren land in surrounding areas. They are upset in part because the government is taking away all the good quality land, leaving only poor quality plots left, the source said.

“The provincial government is strongly pushing ahead with its land confiscation efforts, saying that it plans to take the land away right when it is time to place late-planted corn into the ground,” he explained.

The source further reported that some locals who have watched what the government is doing have expressed criticism.

“It’s good for the government and party to focus on farming to resolve the food [shortages], but taking away plots of land needed by factories and allotting them to farms without even giving rations to factories is a neglectful attitude to take toward industry,” they have said, adding, “Are they supposed to make the raw materials with their hands?”

The translator requested anonymity. Edited by Robert Lauler. 

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Jong So Yong is one of Daily NK's freelance reporters. Questions about her articles can be directed to