Personal Farming Up Amid Bunjo Doubts

While the North Korean authorities continue
to push the bunjo [cooperative farm production unit] system,
residents, on the other hand, are largely focusing on cultivating individual
plots. According to sources within the country, this is because after failing
to see the increased allotment of production under the nascent system,
discontent with the state’s hollow promises has spread rapidly among the
population.

As preparations for spring cultivation are
in full swing, people feel that individual farming is far more of a priority
than collective farming. It’s a major shift from last year,
a source from Yangkang Province reported to Daily NK on April 13th.
With spring upon us, more households are facing
decreased food supplies, so groups of residents have been gathering together to
commiserate and mull over the matter together.
 

North Korea stipulated in its June 28th Measures, announced in 2012,
plans for the state to establish a
new economic
management system in its own style.
Under the new
system, production units on cooperative farms shrank from groups of 10
to 25, to smaller factions [pojeon] of 4 to 6 members. The state
receives 70% of the target production, with farmers taking 30% and any surplus
if targets are exceeded.

However, the source asserted that
collective farm workers feel that
nothing has changed, despite toiling under the bunjo system in anticipation of
more food to take home. Many point out that the state exploited the
concentrated efforts by
taking a larger portion of the
harvest for itself.
This unfortunate conclusion, then,
has compelled many to focus their efforts on yielding the best harvest possible
through individual farming instead.

Two consecutive years of shortcomings
underpin this movement. Allotment per worker on a collective farm last year in
Yangkang Province should have been 187kg of the harvest; the actual allocation,
however, came to merely 90kg — less than half of the promised amount. In 2013,
the government had announced that workers were to receive 174kg, but each
person received only 60kg.

As the state fails year after year to
distribute a fare share to the workers, motivation among collective
farmers continues to decline,
he explained, adding
that the high hopes the bunjo system once instilled in people have largely
fizzled out, only to be replaced with more misgivings.

He went on to say that the state’s failures
have given way to a population that “no longer believes in state
policies,” and is fully aware that the state “simply hides behind
excuses of ‘aid to the military, shortfalls of production targets, and
purchasing seeds for the next harvest'” to explain away its broken
promises. “We’re not going to be fooled again this year,” the source
noted.

Even the Party members who are categorized
as the the farms
core members are encouraging personal
farming, saying,
You have to be able to make ends meet
before you show loyalty to the Party,'” he said. “Younger people have
joked that the slogan–reading ‘Farming Above All Else!’– plastered on the
front of the agricultural propaganda and management committee facilities– would
be more realistic if it were preceded by ‘individual.'” 

*The content of this article was broadcast to the North Korean people via Unification Media Group.

SHARE
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. Many of her articles are featured in the Jangmadang section of the Daily NK website. She has been interviewed by the New York Times and LA Times, among others, and is a contributor on North Korea issues for TBS and KBS.