Teenager fights pine nut farm guards, killing one 

Pine Nuts
Pine nuts / Image: Stuart Webster, Flickr, Creative Commons

After entering a pine nut farm illegally, a teenager in Ryanggang Province defended himself from the farm’s guards with a knife, causing one fatality and several injuries, Daily NK has learned. 

“A 15-year-old student in Kimjongsuk County (Sinpa County) secretly entered the pine nut farm and was beaten by guards after being discovered. The student used a knife to fight back against them,” a Ryanggang Province-based source told Daily NK on September 6. 

The student killed one guard in his 40s and wounded five others. He is now being investigated by local police. 

North Korea’s criminal code states that those aged 14 years of age and above can be charged with a crime, meaning that the 15-year-old student will likely be punished under criminal law. He faces harsh punishment given that he harmed others after illegally entering the forest. 

Pine nuts are generally harvested in August and September in Kimjongsuk County, the site of huge groves of the trees. Many of the forests owned by state-run businesses are guarded to prevent individuals from stealing the produce. 

Most pine nut groves are managed by local forestry management offices, which hand over the rights to harvest pine nuts in a particular area to state-run enterprises. Locals will harvest pine nuts from areas deep in the mountains outside of these designated sites to sell in local markets. Conflicts have arisen between locals and state-run businesses because the seeds are not restricted under international sanctions, which makes them prime money-making material for cash-starved state-run companies. 

Following a trend where forestry management officials have begun allowing state enterprises to “take over” the harvest of pine nuts outside of their designated harvest sites, locals have faced a drastic fall in the amount of pine nuts they can harvest and make money from. There has been a rise in the number of incidents of locals breaking into the pine nut harvest sites, and physical fights have broken out between thieves and guards.

Just last month, a man in his 40s was beaten into a coma by guards at a pine nut farm in the mountains. 

Following the incident involving the student, the county party committee called on all local labor organizations to hold lectures for their members focused on “overcoming anti-Socialist behavior” and “raising children the right way.” 

“After hearing the lectures, locals expressed concern over the incident with the student, along with disappointment about the student’s use of a knife to harm others,” another source in the province told the Daily NK.

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Ha Yoon Ah is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about her articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.