North Korean authorities recently launched a crackdown on “homemade” alcohol production in food processing companies and among “individual manufacturers.” The crackdown reportedly aims to eradicate the diversion of grain for commercial purposes following damage to the country’s breadbasket by typhoons earlier this year.

In a phone call with Daily NK on Monday, a source in Yanggang Province said an order had recently been issued that bans brewing alcohol in workplaces and that “the measure was handed down as the expected grain harvest in places such as [North and South] Hwanghae provinces have fallen due to typhoon damage.”

“News is also going around that the corn harvest in North Hwanghae Province did not meet plan[ned quotas],” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Outside the breadbasket as well, this year’s harvest of potatoes in the country’s northern regions was not as good as last year’s, so local government bodies [including party committees, people’s councils, and administrative committees] are preparing measures [to deal with the bad harvests], too.”

The source added that “the Socialist Women’s Union of Korea is stressing through lectures that one mustn’t waste food.” This is apparently because housewives often make the home brewed alcohol.

A photo showing the tools North Koreans use to brew alcohol. / Image: Daily NK

North Korea appears to be doing all it can to secure grain after North and South Hwanghae provinces, the nation’s breadbasket, suffered damage due to heavy rains this summer and a series of typhoons. The authorities are mobilizing state-run media such as Rodong Sinmun to warn against wasting grain when threshing it.

Facing a food crisis, North Korea has begun cracking down on homemade alcohol manufacturing, but speculation is emerging that authorities will be unable to completely eradicate the practice. 

Daily NK’s source said that while the home production of alcohol was subject to severe control for several years in the early 2000s, “some people continued to make it” and “[the authorities] will likewise be unable to completely eradicate it this year, either.” 

According to him, “If you look at our state of affairs, alcohol production has been more prevalent in years when the food situation was poor, so we’ll see something similar this year as well.”

Moreover, the source noted that homemade alcohol production is inevitably more prevalent in rural communities than in cities.

“People living in rural communities who raise livestock have to brew alcohol…because they use the dregs of alcohol brewed from grain as feed for pigs,” he explained. 

“In rural communities in Bochon, Yanggang Province, nearly half of households brew alcohol,” he said, adding, “Even in the potato growing areas of Baekam and Daehongdan counties, more households are brewing alcohol compared to last year.”

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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