DPRK holds national meeting of agricultural workers

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
NK Brief No. 10-3-4-1
3/4/2010

As the failure of North Korea’s currency reform drives the country’s food woes to even greater depths, DPRK authorities and farmers from around the country met on February 25 for two days of meetings under the theme, “Let’s Focus All Efforts on Farming and Resolve the Food Problem!”

It has been four years since North Korean authorities called for a nationwide meeting of agricultural workers, with the last meeting in February 2006. From 1974 to 1994, meetings were held annually in January or February, when farmers had a chance to rest between the fall harvest and the spring planting season. However, after the famine in 1995, in which millions starved to death, no meetings were held for twelve years.

This year’s New Year’s Joint Editorial called for North Koreans to revolutionize the light industrial and agricultural sectors in order to improve the lives of the people, and for them to struggle to resolve the country’s ‘eating issues’. However, in the aftermath of last December’s failed currency reform, the North’s food problems actually worsened to the point that people are starving to death. This led authorities to hold a nationwide agricultural meeting in order to show their determination to focus efforts on resolving food shortages and to encourage farmers and other residents to focus on agriculture.

According to the (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the meetings were attended by “[Cabinet Premier] Kim Young Il, [National Defense Commission Vice-Chairman] Ri Yong Mu, and [Supreme People’s Assembly Chairman] Choe Tae Bok, leading officials of ministries and national institutions, party and people”s committees and agricultural guidance organs in provinces, cities and counties, officials of farm primary organizations, model farmers, scientists and technicians in the field of agriculture and officials of relevant industrial establishments.”

Vice-Premier Kwak Pom Gi presented a report, stressing, “On the agricultural front this year, marking the 65th anniversary of the founding of the Party, we must decisively ease the country’s food issue, [and] the people’s eating issue, charging forward with the improvement of the lives of the people and the construction of a strong and prosperous nation.” He also called for assistance to agricultural communities and related sectors, and for the prioritization of agricultural goods and materials.

According to a source in North Korea reporting to the South Korean organization Good Friends, deaths due to starvation in South Hamgyong Province’s Danchon city and South Pyongan Province’s Pyongsong city were reported to central Party authorities. This led to meetings on January 27 and February 1 of central Party members, cabinet officials and People’s Security authorities at which emergency measures to stave off famine were discussed.

Results of a survey of living conditions in Danchon and North Hamgyong Province’s Chongjin reported to central Party authorities revealed many deaths due to starvation, while currently, the most deaths due to lack of food appear to be occurring in South Pyongan Province’s Sunchon and Pyongsong cities. Last year, Party authorities in these cities turned over approximately 65 percent of harvests to the military, while farmers were only issued, on average, five months worth of rations.

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