As North Korea swelters under a prolonged heatwave, North Hwanghae Province authorities have mobilized locals for an “irrigation struggle” to prevent crop losses due to drought.

A source in North Hwanghae Province told Daily NK on Monday that crops such as corn were drying up and dying in their terraced fields due to the heat. “Within the province, the authorities are calling for efforts to prevent drought damage and fully mobilizing residents for an irrigation struggle, feeling they couldn’t just sit on their hands and fill out reports,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity. 

According to the source, the provincial agricultural management committee held an onsite emergency meeting last Friday. With more and more corn burning or drying up due to drought amid the continued heat wave, the authorities issued an appeal for the province to come together to fight this, even if it meant “dropping all other efforts.”

From last Friday, provincial authorities have been assigning farms to local organizations, government bodies, and schools, and have been fully mobilizing locals into irrigation efforts into two shifts, from 4 AM to 7 AM and from 6 PM to 8 PM. 

The source said everyone “from 11-year-old children to 60-year-old elderly people” are taking part in the watering effort, “basin and bucket in hand.” “Powerful government bodies are struggling to prevent damage [to the fields by the drought], watering the fields using water tanks attached to trucks,” he said.

Rodong Sinmun published this photo on July 26 of North Korean farmers trying to water their fields. / Image: Rodong Sinmun – News 1

In particular, the provincial people’s committee and agricultural management committee are reportedly even making timetables following an order by the provincial branch of the ruling party to prevent people from congregating at the same time for watering efforts.

North Korean authorities are stressing that workers in the agricultural sector as well as party and administrative officials must wage a desperate struggle “at the risk of being revolutionized [forced labor in mines or other difficult places]” if they fail to produce agricultural results this year. This is why local officials are making people work so hard to avoid drought damage, the source said. 

The source further reported that the authorities have brought together twice the amount of manpower that had been mobilized for seeding and weeding the fields earlier this year. However, because human strength can only go so far in watering the fields, these recent efforts are reportedly proving ineffective and corn continues to dry up. Accordingly, locals are even saying their efforts amount to trying to fill a bottomless jar with water.

“If you have a good irrigation system, all you need to do is bring the water from the river, but because of the floods last year, the authorities only cared about building levies. They did not create a proper irrigation system, so they’re dragging everyone into the effort,” said the source. “Locals pressed into the irrigation struggle with famished bodies – because they’ve been unable to eat – complain that the work is so hard it’s killing them.

“Young students from Sariwon Middle School and even old people mobilized for irrigation efforts when it’s hot and painfully sunny are collapsing in the fields due to heat stroke. That’s why doctors are being mobilized, too,” he added. 

The Rodong Sinmun, in an article published on July 26, reported that collective farm workers in North Hwanghae Province are “waging a full-out assault” to prevent crop damage due to drought.

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