North Korean officials working for the Ministry of Agriculture are reportedly vying for dispatch to the Manjongbo collective farm in Ryanggang Province, which has been designated as a “potato revolution region” by the authorities. Officials are increasingly preferring dispatch to posts in the provincial areas rather than in the capital, which brings them close to the nexus of power and the danger posed by Central Party cadres.
“Every year, the Ministry of Agriculture dispatches instructors to the Manjongbo Farm and there is fierce competition for this position. The ministry cadres consider the dispatch to be a sort of ‘vacation’ and covet the position,” a source in Ryanggang Province told Daily NK on February 14.
“If dispatched to the farm, cadres can demand the best treatment, emphasizing that they are sent by the central authorities. They can eat pork whenever they want, while ordinary farm workers only eat it on the holidays. They can also enjoy various kinds of canned food, adding to their luxurious life on the farm.”
North Korea has been attempting to increase potato production in Paekam County, Ryanggang Province for nearly a decade by dispatching large groups of discharged soldiers and guaranteeing the provision of agricultural machinery. At the same time, the regime sends instructors from the Ministry of Agriculture to the farm to oversee the workers.
However, the dispatched officials tend to focus more on their own interests rather than resolving issues at the farm, which has led to these posts in the provinces becoming more desirable. The attractiveness of a provincial dispatch has also increased since Kim Jong Un came to power, due to his affinity for fearpolitik and purging high-ranking officials.
“The dispatched cadres act like they are the ‘Highest Dignity’ [a title reserved for Kim Jong Un] at their post. The Ministry of Agriculture changes instructors every year, but most of the officials regret that they are only out there for a year,” the source said.
As the end of their dispatch period approaches, the officials pressure the farmers to contribute food and gifts to be given to senior cadres back in Pyongyang.
“The cadres take hundreds of kilograms of potato starch and rice produced in Paekam County along with large volumes of kidney beans, red peppers, and bracken. They are only interested in preparing these gifts for senior cadres while ignoring the fact that the produce is taken from the farmers’ own provisions,” a separate source in Ryanggang Province said.
“The farmers complain, ‘In reality, we must acquiesce to the cadres to avoid punishment for failing to achieve the production goals. But it’s the workers who have to pay for the gifts that are sent to Pyongyang.'”