North Korean authorities are switching out older generation researchers for new ones to push forward the country’s “seed revolution,” Daily NK has learned.

“Starting two years ago, new researchers have been brought into the Daehongdan Potato Research Institute,” a source in Yanggang Province told Daily NK yesterday by phone. “The new researchers graduated with good grades from Hyesan University of Agriculture and Forestry and conducted research while working at experimental farms run by the institute.”

According to the source, North Korea’s agricultural sector has been given the “important task” of meeting the country’s demand for food through the domestic production of grains. “Agriculture-related research institutes have responded by beefing up their research staff,” he added.

The source noted that North Korea has “limited space” for farming activities, which means that each agricultural “work unit” is putting a priority on raising their yields in the farmland they manage. “Given this, the seed revolution is a necessity and is something the Workers’ Party continues to emphasize,” he added.

North Korea began highlighting the need for a “seed revolution” among the country’s potato farmers from early 2018 and began focusing attention on developing seeds that could produce massive yields. Research institutes, private and general businesses – and even the military – were corralled to take part in these efforts.

Potato farming field
North Korean farmers are harvesting potatoes in Yanggang Province. / Image: Rodong Sinmun

Broadly speaking, the “seed revolution” refers to “efforts aimed at acquiring new seeds that can handle any type of climate and can produce large yields.” Facing the “triple threats” of sanctions, natural disasters, and COVID-19, North Korean authorities understand the imperative to expand food production and are thus calling on this revolution to continue.

The emphasis on the “seed revolution” lines up with Kim Jong Un-style “self-sufficiency,” which essentially states that the country will never be able to strengthen its “autonomous economy” or move its agricultural sector away from “subjugation” if it continues to import seeds.

“Seeds that have been deemed superior in quality are being supplied to farms after having gone through two or three years of test cultivation,” the source said. “There are several kinds of [new] potato seeds that have been developed in the past year, and I understand that they have all been developed by people from the younger generation.”

There are even signs that the new batch of younger researchers are “improving” the deep-seated problem among older generation researchers of “relying too much on empiricism,” he added.

According to the source, institutes of agricultural science in different areas have established local research centers to study each seed variant that has been developed.

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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