Kim Jong-un’s letter to participants in the National Conference of Agricultural Subworkteam Leaders

UPDATE (2014-2-26): 38 North has posted an article on Kim’s agriculture speech here.

ORIGINAL POST (2014-2-7): You can download an English-language PDF of the letter here (copied directly from Rodong Sinmun). The bold/underlining was added by me as I read the article. Here is coverage by KCNA.

The speech does not really refer to any “paradigm-changes” in agricultural policy. As usual the emphasis is on raising output by increasing technology inputs and fortifying ideological strength. That being said, the letter does refer to a new policy intended to improve land management:

The subworkteam management system created by the President is an excellent form of production organization and a superior method of management, in that it encourages farmers to take part in production and management as befitting masters with the feeling of attachment to the collective economy. Its advantages have clearly been proved through practice.

By operating the system efficiently as required by the developing reality, the agricultural sector should bring the sense of responsibility and creative zeal of farmers into full play. It should give farmers clear-cut tasks related with soil management, farming operations and production plan and review their results in time and in a substantial way, thus encouraging them all to work in a responsible manner with consciousness and high enthusiasm as befitting masters. Recently a measure has been taken to introduce a field-responsibility-system within the framework of the subworkteam management system so as to inspire farmers with enthusiasm for production. By applying the system correctly in conformity with their actual conditions, cooperative farms should make it prove effective in agricultural production.

I am not the most qualified person to divine meaning from official pronouncements (particularly from the English translation) but this does seem to indicate that efforts have been made to introduce a new “field-responsibility-system”. This appears to be a change in the measurements by which members if a work team are evaluated. Rather than being rewarded for simple output quotas, there are now measurements for soil management and farming operations–coupled with timely and accurate measurement by work team leaders. There is no specific mention of reducing the number of individuals in a work team or other supposed policies associated with the nebulous 6.28 measures.

Interestingly in the very next paragraph, Kim Jong-un highlights one of the most persistent problems in socialist economics: poor labor incentives. He correctly notes that equal distributions to the workers irrespective of effort and quality will create unmotivated workers and production will fall. He notes that hard/effective work should be rewarded:

What is important in operating the subworkteam management system is to strictly abide by the socialist principle of distribution. Equalitarianism in distribution has nothing to do with the socialist principle of distribution and has a harmful effect of diminishing farmers’ enthusiasm for production. Subworkteams should assess the daily work-points of their members accurately and in good time according to the quantity and quality of the work they have done. And they should, as required by the socialist principle of distribution, share out their grain yields to their members mainly in kind according to their work-points after counting out the amounts set by the state. The state should define reasonable amounts of grains for compulsory delivery on the basis of accurate calculation of the country’s demand for grains, interests of farmers and their demands for living, thereby ensuring that they make redoubled efforts with confidence.

This, however, is basically a restatement of official policy. The state gets first claim on the output, the farmers fight for the leftovers….

Here is coverage in the Daily NK.

Addendum: Here is KCNA (2014-2-11) on the origins of subworkteam units:

Subworkteam Management System in DPRK

Pyongyang, February 11 (KCNA) — The national conference of subworkteam leaders in the agricultural sector was held successfully in the DPRK.

The conference underscored the need for the subworkteam leaders to bring into full play the advantages of the subworkteam management system, in order to carry out the theses on the socialist rural question in the country.

The subworkteam management system created by President Kim Il Sung is an excellent form of production organization and a good method of management which encourages farmers to take part in production and management in a responsible manner, attaching themselves to the collective economy.

One day in May Juche 54 (1965), Kim Il Sung went to Phochon-ri, Hoeyang County, Kangwon Province.

There he acquainted himself with farming, living conditions and management situation of workteams and subworkteams of the farm.

As workteam leaders had many people to deal with and many things to do, they were unable to properly manage manpower and production of their workteams.

Evaluation on labor was mostly done in an equal way, failing to enhance farmers’ production zeal.

That was the reason for low grain yield in the farm.

The same was true for other farms.

On the basis of deep analysis of the farm’s situation, he found out that the subworkteam management system was suitable for group’s working, instead of the workteam management system.

He saw to it that the subworkteam management system was introduced first in some co-op farms in Kangwon and other provinces.

Then, at the 12th Plenary Meeting of the 4th Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea held in November Juche 54 (1965), he took measures to apply it to all other co-op farms throughout the country.

With the introduction of the system, the guidance and management system over the socialist rural communities was orderly established from grassroots units to state-level organs, which served as an impetus to bringing about upsurge in agricultural production.

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