Random passersby forced to work on farms in North Korea

Irrigation on South Hwanghae Province farm
Irrigation on South Hwanghae Province farm. Image: DPRK Today

North Korea’s severe drought has led to a myriad of agricultural issues and the country is now in the midst of a “drought battle” to combat the effects of the dry spell. The country is also facing a lack of farm labor and the authorities are reportedly resorting to apprehending people on the streets and sending them to the farms, in what amounts to state-sanctioned forced labor.

“A temporary sentry post was established on the road near a farm recently and the guards are stopping passersby and forcing them to work on the farm,” a South Pyongan Province-based source told Daily NK.

While the “drought battle” began a little more than a month ago as part of efforts to encourage more factory workers to work on the farms, a severe shortage of labor persists. Officials now appear to be hauling random people off the street to work on irrigation projects on the farms.

“The county People’s Committee and local police station worked together to establish the sentry post,” said the source. “People’s Committee cadres and local police are manning it.” The central government has lauded those sites taking the initiative to complete their agricultural duties despite the drought and local officials appear to be thinking creatively as a result.

In an article entitled “Taking Action to Prevent Drought-induced Crop Damage,” the state-run Rodong Sinmun reported on June 15 that municipal and county organizations and farming authorities must “beat the drought” by mobilizing everything at their disposal.

“The local police ask passersby to show their ID cards to confirm where they work,” a source in North Pyongan Province reported.

“They force people who appear to be not where they’re supposed to be into the fields.” Many random people have been “caught” this way and sent to the fields.”

Each person sent to the fields in this manner are given the task of “providing water to five furrows on a farm field,” he continued, adding that “people have to complete this task before they are allowed to leave. If they fail to get a certificate saying they completed the task, they may be forced to repeat the task at another sentry post.”

A former North Korean agricultural official told Daily NK that in his experience the authorities “would pull random people off the streets and send them to work on cooperative farms or construction projects quite frequently in the past [..] The lack of fuel means that the water pumps don’t work.”

In an article entitled “Fighting with Determination Against Nature,” the Rodong Sinmun reported on June 5 , “The severe lack of water in South Hwanghae Province has led reservoirs in the area to have just 40% of their normal capacity” and that “Officials and workers in each area of the province are using everything at their disposal to overcome this situation.”

The article further emphasized the order from Kim Jong Un to “take into our own hands as one people and in line with the call by the Party to create miracles such as moving mountains and filling seas.”