Members of the Socialist Women’s Union of Korea (SWUK) in Yanggang Province have recently been tasked with finding new arable land. A Daily NK source in the country said the orders were handed down as part of an effort to get all citizens involved in producing more food. 

The source, who is based in North Hamgyong Province, told Daily NK on Friday that the country’s Workers’ Party has continuously encouraged people to “find new land [to cultivate]” and that “this year, each work unit was given a task [to do so].” 

According to the source, members of the SWUK were told this “issue” would be discussed with great importance during the “annual evaluation” at the end of the year.

The communist party’s demand for people to “find new land” is part of broader efforts to expand the country’s arable land by turning unused land into agricultural plots. In essence, North Korea is searching for various ways to overcome economic difficulties brought on by COVID-19, international sanctions and damage from recent monsoons and typhoons. 

North Korean authorities appear to believe that asking members of the Socialist Women’s Union of Korea to help will lead to reasonable returns.

“During recent meetings of the Socialist Women’s Union of Korea, [officials] are stressing that members ‘must find new land anywhere they can’ and that ‘the more they look, the more prospective sites there will be,’” said the source. “More specifically, they are saying new land can be found anywhere, including highland areas and rivers, along major roads and waterways, the ridges between rice paddies, and even the spaces between vegetable gardens.” 

Farmer harvest Sariwon
North Korean farmers conducting the fall harvest in Sariwon, North Hwanghae Province. / Image: Rodong Sinmun

The source pointed out, however, that union members continue to be told that they are “not allowed to harm forests.” “Model work units” are apparently being introduced at the meetings to add a competitive edge to the campaign.

The source said people generally feel that the effort “won’t be as easy as they say” because ordinary people’s financial situations “are not as good as previous years.” According to him, union members are simply “farming their own small plots of land while looking for new arable land nearby.” 

“With little time available because of their livelihoods, union members are trying to identify new land mainly by narrowing the boundaries between their small plots or by clearing rocks along or in their fields,” the source said. 

“Farms and companies have been assigned specific amounts of new land to identify, but members of the union can carry out this task in other ways,” said the source. “The union’s national committee or local branches can find new land, but [members] can just offer up what they have produced from land nearby their own fields.”

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

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Kang Mi Jin
Kang Mi Jin is a North Korean defector turned journalist who fled North Korea in 2009. She has a degree in economics and writes largely on marketization and economy-related issues for Daily NK. Questions about her articles can be directed to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.