With North Korean authorities already preparing for farming next year to expand food production, even students at a military tank training school are producing compost. 

A Daily NK source in North Korea said Monday that students at Unit 2734, a Korean People’s Army tank training school, have been producing compost since Dec. 14. Each cadet is tasked with producing 10 kilograms of compost a day from 2 PM to 7 PM, with mornings dedicated to training and cleaning weapons.

Despite criticism that students cannot focus on their training, the school has responded that it has little choice since it owns over 397,000 square meters of land.

Located in Yonghung-ri, Kaechon, South Pyongan Province, Unit 2734 is a military training body tasked with training tank drivers. The unit operates directly under the General Staff Department.

Some 600 to 700 students graduate from the center a year. They undergo three months of basic training, followed by a year of learning tank and armored vehicle theory and field training before they are deployed to mechanized and armored units.

Thus, many young soldiers are basically wasting their time doing agricultural work such as producing compost instead of learning how to drive tanks.

compost
This undated file photo shows a North Korean compost tractor / Image: Daily NK

According to the source, this phenomenon has been going on for a while.

Late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il reportedly gave the unit high grades for farming, livestock raising, and mushroom cultivation when he visited in October of 2004. This means the unit responded to Kim’s praise by focusing on its side projects instead of training.

This focus has continued to the present day. Current North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reportedly praised the unit as a model of self-reliant production for harvesting dozens of tons of soybeans and corn this year and last.

The situation is growing increasingly excessive. After evening inspection, soldiers who were unable to fulfill their daily quota of compost reportedly steal compost from local farms and homes.

The source said because of this, when local residents see soldiers from the tank school, they openly tell them, “Don’t touch my compost.”

Locals and soldiers alike are criticizing the government’s policies. 

The source said the soldiers came to the school to learn how to drive tanks, but feel like they are learning how to steal human feces and animal manure instead. Meanwhile, locals sarcastically say the base trains agricultural experts rather than soldiers for mechanized units.

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

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Kim Chae Hwan is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. He can be contacted at dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.