North Korean authorities are stressing strict management of grain supplies ahead of the autumn harvest and have been engaging in political education efforts at the regional work unit level to eradicate the illegal syphoning off of grain during the harvest or distribution process.

Daily NK obtained documents recently distributed by the Yanggang Province branch of the ruling party to subordinate organizations. Entitled “Let’s Conduct More Responsibly Activities to Handle Grain, which Contains the Sublime Love of Our Party,” the materials call on officials overseeing efforts to take care that no problems arise in the management of grain supplies, including the theft or disappearance of grain.

The materials were apparently written in late July, just after the authorities issued a provision of food through state-run food shops earlier that month.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un noted public concern regarding food during the Third Plenary Meeting of the Eighth Central Committee in mid-June. Afterwards, North Korean authorities sold rice and corn at lower-than-market prices through state-run food shops, issuing it to residents of Pyongyang and workers at major enterprises throughout the country.

The introduction to the materials acknowledge the country’s food shortages, noting that authorities carried out the “serious measure” of supplying large amounts of freed-up grain despite “the difficult conditions” confronted by the nation to “overcome the food crisis faced by the party and the state.” 

This language appears aimed at instilling a sense of crisis in grain managers, to whom the materials are addressed.

The documents accuse “some officials and workers” handling grain distribution efforts “tinged with the love of the party” of engaging in “irregular phenomena” such as illegally handling, stealing or misplacing grain.

The materials recount the case of an official in Pungso County who was busted for stealing about 100 kilograms of the grain he was entrusted with transporting. They also point to a case in Hyesan in which 250 kilograms of grain was stolen as it was being shipped.

One page from the documents recently acquired by Daily NK / Image: Daily NK

The documents condemn the behavior, intentional or not, as “anti-party, anti-people acts” that tarnish the good name of the communist party and divide the people from the party.

The materials also threaten tough punishments for shoddy grain management and grain-related illegal behavior.

The documents further call on “all officials and workers” to help and control one another and generate an “atmosphere of mass struggle” in which people report illegal behavior. Demanding that officials handle grain in a more responsible manner, the materials warn that “irregular phenomena” in handling grain, no matter how trivial, would be regarded as “serious acts” and punished “according to war-time law.”

Going forward, North Korean authorities will likely strengthen their system of mutual surveillance and bolster state crackdowns and punishments to prevent the loss of grain during the grain distribution and circulation process.

North Korea also distributed educational materials to locals in mid-July in a bid to keep them silent, calling on them to be “thankful” for party and state measures “related to the sale of grain” and to exercise “the spirit of collectivism” by helping and leading one another.

Those documents seem aimed at subduing critical public opinion regarding state food sales, while the latest materials obtained by Daily NK call on officials managing grain supplies to take care that stores are not syphoned off or stolen.

Meanwhile, with the harvest season approaching, North Korean authorities are issuing repeated warnings against letting grain yields fall.

The Rodong Sinmun ran an article on Monday calling on people to come together this harvest season. It called rice “the most precious basis” for Koreans who must “push ahead vigorously towards a new victory in social construction as set out in the party congress, even amid unprecedented harsh challenges and difficulties.” It stressed the importance of choosing the optimal harvest time “to prevent actual harvests from falling below expected yields.”

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

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Seulkee Jang is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about her articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.