Among some of the experimental farms in North Korea
operating under policies implemented from the “June 28th Measures,” announced
by the state in 2012, Daily NK has learned that some failing to reach the
state-mandated output goal, even if for reasons out of their control, are
subject to incur a hefty debt as a result.
“From the beginning of last year, in Kim Jong Suk County
[formerly Sinpa County], Yangkang Province, the Sinsang-ri cooperative farm
production unit [bunjo] system began operating on a trial basis,” a source in
Yangkang Province reported to Daily NK on December 4th. “One family–or three,
four close farm workers–operating as a group, receive 3000 pyeong [1 square
meter is equal to 0.3025 pyeong] of land to work.”
North Korea, through the establishment of a “new economic
management system in our own style”, reduced production units on cooperative
farms from groups of 10-25, to smaller factions of 4-6 members as part of the
reforms stipulated in the “June 28th Measures.” The state receives 70% of the
target production, with farmers receiving 30% and any surplus if targets are
Most residents were eager, albeit cautious, about the
policy’s implementation, as the amount of production going to farmers would
rise. The Chosun People’s Army took direct responsibility for the management of
food procurement and distribution during the food insecurity and famine of the
1990s, and this invariably left the farmers themselves with a vastly reduced
In the case of Kim Jong Suk County, production units have
been divided into subdivisions tasked with handling one area: vegetables,
husbandry, grains, etc. Naturally, grains fall under the remit of the largest
number of workers, given their place as staples in the Korean diet. One
cooperative farm production unit is given 1000 pyeong of paddies for rice and
corn, and 2000 pyeong of fields to cultivate, earmarked for specific production
output based on three tiers of soil quality.
However, the system is contingent on the vicissitudes of
domestic conditions. “Because there was no drought last year and a steady
supply of fertilizer, fulfilling the 70% requirement was relatively easy, the
state’s food supply stabilized for the year, and those involved in the units
were pleased,” the source explained.
This year, however, she noted that the devastatingly
protracted drought, combined with a dearth of fertilizer, caused the crop yield
per pyeong to plummet. Cooperative farms, instead of calibrating required allotments
to reflect the changes, are demanding many of the production units to hand over
70% of the harvest, roughly 1.8t in the source’s region. If these units fall
short of the target, they take on a debt to be rectified the following year.
Turning over 70% of the harvest in a year rife with natural
disasters and lack of fertilizer has many of the residents involved overtaxed
and without a viable solution. Many point out among themselves that this
situation makes it implausible to work large plots of land when working even a
small, individual plot proves burdensome.
Despite complaints and the poor conditions, most still
maintain a fairly sanguine outlook on the system and hope it can progressively
evolve. “Opinions on the bunjo system are somewhat mixed, but most just hope it
continually shifts to a more autonomous structure,” she asserted.
Meanwhile, factories and enterprises rent land from collective farms and farm
it as a sideline, then divide a proportion of the yield between workers. In
this case, unlike the cooperative farm system, there is no predetermined output
expectancy relative to pyeong; rather, based on production, the crop output is
distributed under the 70:30 split.