Putting the Squeeze on Farmers

The North Korean authorities are punishing transgressions that were once ignored as they prepare to bring new economic measures into effect, a source reported to Daily NK today.

“People who don’t go to work on their farm for unexplained reasons are facing labor reeducation sentences alongside regular internal disciplinary measures,” the inside source explained. “The Ministry of People’s Safety (MPS) is going into places of work and checking on attendance lists personally. Missing work for just a couple of days is enough to get a person a warning from the MPS.”

“Two farm laborers who went to Musan County for five days to sell vegetables got three months of labor reeducation,” the source went on to note. “The authorities are doing all this even though it is not the busy season, so farm workers are pretty uncomfortable.”

The source hypothesized that the reason behind the enhanced controls is the enforcement of societal discipline in advance of the introduction of agricultural system changes later on. Workers have been caught off-guard by it, since acquiescence to nominally illegal absences from farm labor has been commonplace ever since diminishing state grain stores meant that farm workers didn’t get a large enough share of farm production to feed themselves year round.

“The NSA guys are currently out there working to control the state of popular perceptions of Kim Jong Eun’s policies, while the MPS officers are punishing worker absenteeism,” the source said. “Even the prosecutors’ office is out there checking on products and appropriate fertilizer use.”

It is assumed that the goal of the latest measures is to tie people more closely to farms and thus to reduce the influence of outside employment. However, workers are not impressed.

“They keep telling us that if we work hard on the farm then they can guarantee us a living,” the source said, “but if they stop us doing other work and still don’t give us food, how is that going to work? Everyone knows it; ‘if you trust in the government’s words alone, you’ll die alone’.”

Analyzing the current state of affairs, Seo Jae Pyung of the Committee for Democratization of North Korea gave a gloomy prognostication for change, saying, “Even though the authorities are putting in place these measures and wrapping them in a veneer of reform, the people are already judging their true value. If nothing comes along that really gains the public’s trust, then ultimately there will be no way to get away from the past system of control and mobilization.”