A Japanese broadcaster recently reported that the North Korean government ordered the national agencies and trade agencies to donate farming equipments for free of charge. North Korean farming is on the peak around this time of the year. Not only the national agencies, but factories, state enterprises, women and even children are involved in the farming.
It is quite worrisome how the farming will turn out this year. Although the farmers are able to obtain all the equipments necessary, lacking the fertilizers and seeds, there is no doubt that the amount of agricultural production will decrease.
”Self-Revival” – Would It Be Able to Obtain 50,000 Tons of Fertilizers?
When I was in North Korea, upon the economic collapse, many intelligent people predicted, “Our national economy will not be able to revive even within the next ten years.” Furthermore, when a lot of money was used for the propagation of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, many economists and people involved in the national matters worried, “One person must be in charge of the national fund, since the father and the son both uses the fund, the national pocket of money is emptying.”
Few years after, three million people died of starvation in three years, and thousands of thousands left to China for survival. It has been ten years since the mass death. For the last decade, North Korean somehow managed to sustain itself, thanks to the international and South Korean aids.
North Korea requested South Korea aid of 50,000 tons of fertilizers last year. They said they did not have enough of fertilizers for the year ahead. Currently, the fertilizer is one of the conditions for the North Koreans to resume to the six party talks.
If the negotiations fail, North Korean government will once again shout “Self Revival” to the people. They say they will make themselves what is not there, and find what lacks. It is the people who suffer. Would North Korea able to “find” 50,000 tons of fertilizers though “self-revival”?
North Korea’s annual spending of fertilizers reach to about two million tons. 50,000tons which they have request is about a quarter of their annual need. It is highly doubtful whether North Korea has the rest three quarters of the fertilizer demand.
Currently most of the fertilizer factories ceased production due to the material and energy crises. Unless South Korea provides fertilizers, North Korea has no option but to rely on China, but looking back to the previous years, China is unlikely to provid sufficient amount of aids requested. However, the timing for the seeding has already come. Even if the fertilizers are provided right away, they missed the right timing.
Farming Is Not A Joke
Except for the Western coasts, North Korea is mostly made up of mountainous regions. Especially the areas of Jagang, Yang-gang, and North and South Hamkyung provinces are made up of mountains that they have rice and other foods delivered from other provinces.
The farmlands have long been acidified. Since acidic fertilizers were used for so long, the organic matters dried up and the land is arid. Although they have been saying they had to neutralize the lands, but lacking the slacked lime they could not neutralize them, and they could not increase the land productivity without the organic fertilizers.
They came up with an unsatisfactory solution, which was to cover the land with the neutral soil and mix it with the acidified soil. All the people across the nation took buckets from morning to evening and removed the soil to the farms. Then they worked to layered the soil evenly to be 20cm thick. The people who knew about farming were not happy to see all those people like a crowd of ants on the farms..
They expressed their discontent towards the government’s policy, “covering soil will not do any good, farming is not a joke.”
Furthermore the land was arid and had rocks that the fertilizers would not be absorbed and had low production. In some regions, 1ha of land produced only 0.5tons of corns. Before, even bad land produced used to produce 1.5 tons and good lands up to 10 tons. However, the land unable to absorb fertilizers produced corns, size of a finger.
21st Century Farming Heading Backwards
As has been reported in the beginning of the year, North Korea is concentrating on farming this year. In the cities, announcement trucks drive around and demand workers and women of all level to produce 300kg of fertilizers per person. When they fulfill the amount, they are given rice, so every morning the people go to the public toilets and dig the ground.
However, there is not much human waste since the people do not have much to eat. People take ash mixed with water and make them into lumps to make it look like human waste. Since they have none, they make fake wastes. In the result, the ashes are sprinkled on the farms. The farms with ashes become more desiccated during the dry seasons.
Currently in North Korea, the status of the Cooperative Farm workers is rising. This is because they issue the “fertilizer checks” and many issue them to the people with bribes. The system is stimulating corruption among the people.
Everyone Will Live If Nuclear Weapons Exchanged for Liberalization
There is a saying that natural disaster comes in the cycle of a decade. Due to the global environment problems, floods and draughts can take place repeatedly in North Korea once again. The North Korean people, who survive one day to another are all anxious.
The massive flood in the mid 1990s coincided with the economic crisis. For this reason all the strategic supplies which the North Korean government accumulated for nearly five decades are used up. There are Strategy Storages 1, 2, and 3. Storage 1 stores emergency supplies sufficient for a week for the battle fronts, Storage 2 stores behind battle supplies such as army supplies and food, and Storage 3 stores supplies for Worker and Peasant Red Guard and Pacification corps. During the period of 1995-1997, the government emptied Storage 2 and Storage 3 to fill the Storage 1. Probably the two storages are still empty.
In such a situation, if another massive flood occurs in North Korea, another mass starvation is foreseeable. It has been exactly ten years since the mass deaths. For those of who had experienced the “march of tribulation,” it is such a horrible experience even for reminiscence.
However, Kim Jong Il who is only worried about maintenance of the dictator regime and the nuclear weapons that it is still unwilling to come back to the negotiation table. The people will be able to live if he exchanges the nuclear weapons with liberalization. If he abandons the nuclear weapons, there will be a way for everyone can live together.
I only pray to the heavens that another natural disaster does not take place in North Korea this year.