A photo of North Korean farmers spraying pesticides published by North Korean media on May 5. (Rodong Sinmun - News1)

Amid the recent start of the rice transplanting season in North Korea, a one month’s supply of food was distributed to certain areas in the major grain-producing regions of North Hwanghae Province, South Hwanghae Province and South Pyongan Province.

“A month’s food was provided as the rice transplanting battle began on May 6 in the plains of Gangso and Pyongwon counties in North Pyongan Province, the wide and flat fields of North Hwanghae Province, and the Jaeryeong plains of South Hwanghae Province,” a source in South Pyongan Province told Daily NK on May 12. 

According to the source, the North Korean government did not hand down specific instructions to release food to people involved in rice transplanting. However, it did order for local authorities to ensure people can eat during the rice planting period rather than just putting them to work. 

The source said that officials in the two Hwanghae provinces and South Pyongan Province held “serious discussions” about distributing food during the rice transplanting period given that mobilizing people for the rice planting would be challenging if they cannot eat properly. The result of these discussions was that food would be distributed to major farming areas in the three provinces. 

In short, the provinces agreed to quickly supply what extra food was available given that people mobilized for the rice transplanting have been weaked so much by their poor diets that they could collapse during the farmwork. 

The source reported that South Pyongan Province supplied a month’s worth of food (based on the criteria of 400g of food per adult and 100g of food per child each day) between May 6 and May 10 to each factory, enterprise, and inminban (people’s unit), with a particular focus on work units mobilized for rice transplanting in major farming areas of the province. 

In North and South Hwanghae provinces, a month’s food (based on the criteria of 600g of food per adult and 250g of food per child each day) was supplied between May 4 and May 8. 

The food was made available for purchase at half the market rate, according to the source. 

“Political organizations and inminban in South Pyongan Province and the two Hwanghae provinces took pains to help people receive the food by offering it at half the market price. That allowed even those without money to receive the food,” the source said. 

“Initially, people believed that the decision to provide a month’s food was just a rumor, but when [the order] actually came down, it was enough to make people so happy that they beamed in happiness, despite the small amount made available,” he added. 

The source went on to say that the food supply to the farming areas of the provinces helped provincial officials save face, and that people who received the food were determined to give all their strength to the “rice transplanting battle.”

However, the food was not supplied to all areas of the provinces, and those who failed to receive the food expressed disappointment: “All over the country people are being mobilized for rice transplanting and the work is the same. What are we, chopped liver?”

The translator requested anonymity. Edited by Robert Lauler. 

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

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Jong So Yong is one of Daily NK's freelance reporters. Questions about her articles can be directed to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.