North Korea is emphasizing the importance of science and technology in the agricultural sector.
The Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), recently featured an article written by Ri Yong Gu, director of the Ministry of Agriculture, titled “Key Issues to Pay Attention for Introducing Technology Products in Farming Operations.” The article emphasized the importance of science and technology in the WPK’s policies and claimed technology products, such as farm machineries, fertilizer, pesticides, and soil conditioners must be introduced to promote agricultural production.
In addition, the article called for accurate assessment of economic benefits to be gained by introduction of technology products and for evaluation of scientists, technicians, and farmers to mobilize the public and to integrate science and technology with production in all units of the agricultural sector.
Technology products were explained as an important factor for reducing agricultural production costs, making crucial the selection of appropriate technology based on the experience and skill level of farmers and soil conditions of each farm.
Choson Sinbo, the Japan-based pro-North Korean newspaper, featured an article on February 27 that scientific farming methods were incorporated in the Samji River Collaborative Farm that linked with the Center for Agricultural and Technology Dissemination through a computer network.
It is not new for North Korea to emphasize the use of science and technology in agriculture; however, in recent years, more emphasis is being placed on this factor.
In the 2013 New Year’s speech by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, agricultural and light industries were named as the frontline industries for economic construction. In the speech, Kim stressed that “incorporating science and technology into agricultural production and increasing the level of integration must be accomplished in order to reach wheat production target for this year.”
In time for rice planting season in May, North Korea is hoping to increase fertilizer production and to promote agricultural technology in order to boost production countrywide.
This emphasis is in line with the successful launch of the long-range rocket launch last December, preferential atmosphere toward scientists, and promotion of science and technology in the economic sector.
Increased grain production last year may be due to improved fertilizer supply. Production is expected to improve this year as scientific farming continues to be emphasized.
News of a cabinet reshuffle being slowly and indirectly revealed by the North Korean state media is generating interest in analytical circles.
On the 17th, Chosun Central News Agency, in the process of unveiling the newly completed Tongil Street Fitness Center, revealed that the Minister of Sport has been removed, with Ri Jong Moo being cited instead of former incumbent Park Myung Cheol.
This is the third such change revealed in recent days. On October 4th, former Minister of Agriculture Ri Kyung Sik was revealed to have been replaced by Hwang Min, while on the 15th it was Kim Jae Seong’s turn to replace former Minister for the Electronics Industry Han Gwang Bok.
All three of the incumbents had been in-post for a number of years, adding intrigue to the news. 71-year old Park was made Minister of Sport in 1998, while 66-year old Han had been covering the electronics industry brief since 2009. 64-year old Ri, meanwhile, was made Minister of Agriculture in 2003, relieved of his duties in 2009 and then returned to post in 2011.
Read the full story here:
Cabinet Reshuffle as 3 Ministers Replaced Daily NK
Park Seong Guk
Pictured above (Google Earth): The DPRK’s State Planning Commission (국가계획위원회) in Pyongyang
UPDATE 21 (2012-11-15): Writing in 38 North, Randall Ireson offers a succinct, comprehensive assessment of the DPRK agriculture system and offers policy advice moving forward. See the full article here.
UPDATE 20 (2012-11-12):Chris Green at the Daily NK points out anecdotal evidence that economic policy changes are still underway in the DPRK:
As noted by Yonhap in an article yesterday, recent days have seen multiple uses of phrases including “new management method” in the North Korean media, lending weight to the suggestion that a number of new economic measures have already been put into practice.
For example, last week on the 7th, state domestic and international radio broadcaster Chosun Central Broadcast ran a recording of a meeting of forestry workers at the People’s Palace of Culture in Pyongyang.
During the event, which was attended by high regime officials including Cabinet Prime Minister Choi Young Rim, the manager of a wooden goods manufacturer in Hamheung declared, “I will keep updating our industrial strategy and tactics in accordance with the demands of the new economic management method and give our management substance in order that we may secure the greatest possible profit and raise the productivity of investment.”
The words raise the question of whether factories such as that of the manager in question are actually acting autonomously in terms of management decisions, rather than simply taking orders from agencies higher up the food chain. If so, it would imply the implementation of new economic rules.
On a similar note, a November 9th article carried as part of a series by the Chongryon publication Choson Shinbo under the title ‘The Road to Our-style Economic Revival’ noted the introduction of a “new management method” in a piece on how Pyongyang’s No.1 Department Store has been changing in order to improve customer service.
Choson Shinbo has a history of reporting North Korean economic changes first, including the July 1st Economic Management Improvement Measures of 2001, making it one outlet for North Korea news worth keeping an eye on.
Reviewing the anecdotal evidence for the introduction of new measures, Cho Bong Hyun of Industrial Bank of Korea’s research arm told Yonhap, “The phrase ‘new economic management method’ shows that the new economic management measures that they never officially revealed have already been implemented. If their confidence in the new economic system grows, they will doubtless begin to present them as the achievements of Kim Jong Eun.”
UPDATE 19 (2012-10-19): Contrary to other claims (below), CCTV (China) reports that the agriculture policy changes have been implemented:
North Korea’s new economic policy, otherwise known as the ‘June 28 Measure,’ was to go into effect from October 1, 2012 but it is reported that enforcement of various educational and action plans related to the new economic management measure was halted.
According to the Internet news agency, Daily NK, its sources inside North Korea informed that, “From this month, the authorities in charge of implementing various plans preparing for the new economic measures, suddenly stopped educational and other related programs without any notice.”
Starting this July, North Korea began to make announcement through the Third Broadcast, to educate and inform specific plans related to the new economic measure to the North Korean residents. The Third Broadcast is an internal cable broadcasting system usually used to deliver important message to its residents.
The main objectives for the new economic management improvement measures are to improve autonomy in the factories and cooperative farms and the food distribution system. However, speculations began to surface that the new economic policy will be postponed after the Supreme People’s Assembly was convened on September 25, with no mentioning of economic measures or laws, contrary to expectations.
Since the plans for the new economic policy was announced to the public, exchange rates and market prices began to soar, creating hyperinflation phenomenon.
If North Korea continues to postpone the economic improvement plan, is likely to lead to adverse consequences as it can amplify the anxiety amongst the residents and the market, as many were already skeptical of the new economic measures.
On the other hand, production units reveal of its preparatory actions toward the new economic policy. Each factories and companies are submitting production indexes to the senior departments under the Cabinet and receiving evaluations according to its reports. Some factories are switching operations after obtaining outside capital, while other insolvent companies were closed down.
One example is Chongjin chemical factory. After forming a joint venture company with China, it was renamed to Chongjin Paper Production Factory. With over 3,000 employees, it will become one of the top three companies in the Chongjin area — after Chongjin Steel Works and Kim Chaek Iron Works.
UPDATE 17 (2012-10-15): The Daily NK offers a scenario for why an adjustment in agricultural production incentives have not been implemented: a bad harvest has forced policy makers to reconsider allowing the cooperative farms to keep so much of their produce. According to the article:
A Hyesan-based source explained today, “Cooperative farm cadres are saying that none of the experimental farms will be given 30% of their production this year because it has become difficult to meet the target. They are saying that the harvest is not good and they need to feed the military as a matter of priority, so first they’ll guarantee the military rice then give the rest to the farmers.”
A Shinuiju source corroborated the story, saying that the authorities “haven’t said they are going to take all the production from the farms, but nobody actually thinks they are going to get very much. People who trusted the official words are feeling quite stupid, and nobody is working very hard.”
Back in July, each province designated a number of ‘model farms’ that were to be used to test the policy. These farms were supposed to receive their initial inputs of fertilizer and machinery from the state, and then be given 30% of their production in return.
“They are saying that the state does not have enough rice right now and that there is no choice but to give it to the military, so please try to understand,” the source said. “Farm workers, many of whom had been buoyed by talk of food distribution, are really disappointed, especially since prices are sky high in the market these days.”
However, the Hyesan source also said that a lot of people are prepared to wait and see until at least mid December, when harvest processing concludes and distribution can be finalized. “People assume that Kim Jong Eun won’t want to disappoint the people in his first year in power,” he explained.
UPDATE 16 (2012-101-9): The Daily NK reports that North Koreans are confused about what has happened to the new economic policies that were under discussion:
The North Korean authorities originally began to announce news of the new economic system domestically in July, outlining increasing managerial autonomy, changes to payment systems and new farm procurement regulations. There were even some less detailed announcements on North Korea’s fixed line ‘3rd Broadcast’ system, which is used to disseminate propaganda handed down from the very top of the Party.
However, late last month signs of abnormality began to appear. Although few local people thought the measures would be publicly adopted at the extraordinary session of the Supreme People’s Assembly on September 25th, the source said they didn’t expect all references to the policy to disappear.
According to the source, cadres suspect that the authorities are not yet prepared to roll out the policy in practice. Many are not surprised; they say it was impractical to expect the policy to be executed in just three months, given that the July 1st Economic Management Improvement Measures of 2002 took nine months to come to fruition after a policy statement was first issued by Kim Jong Il on October 4th, 2001.
The surrounding economic conditions are far from ideal, also. Since the announcement of the new economic measures, North Korea’s markets have been facing hyperinflation conditions rooted in a sky-high Chinese Yuan exchange rate.
However, it is still considered unlikely that the policy has been cancelled altogether, since that would carry heavy consequences for regime legitimacy. Also, the authorities have advertised the policy to the international community in a number of stories (though not in the state media), and it would not serve the regime’s purposes to lie openly about this particular issue.
In addition, it is actually extremely rare for the authorities to cancel a policy after it has been announced under any circumstances; in any case, sources continue to report that those agencies charged with preparing the implementation of the new economic measures are still operational. The current status of factories is being assessed by units dispatched by the Party and the Cabinet is issuing new production targets. Some factories are pursuing outside capital, and work to consolidate under-performing enterprises is ongoing.
One example is Chongjin Chemical Works. Recently, the factory entered a partnership with a Chinese firm and changed its name to Chongjin Paper Factory. The factory is one of Chongjin’s three major Level 1 enterprises, and has a workforce of 3,000. However, it had actually been offline since the 1980s.
If history is any guide, a session of the SPA is not a place where new economic policies are declared. Even though there have been some exceptions to this rule, like for instance the promulgation of the 1984 Joint Venture Law. Admittedly, at that time, the SPA was more important because had the job of approving the economic plans of the state. Such plans are a thing of the past now, and economic pronouncements have become significantly less common at SPA sessions.
Over the last three decades, nearly all important economic measures were not introduced at SPA sessions, and as a matter of fact were usually not mentioned at all.
Good examples are provided by what were arguably the two most important economic measures introduced by the North Korean government since the death of Kim Il Sung in 1994 – the economic reforms of 2002, and the currency reform of 2009.
The ‘First of July Economic Management Improvement Measures’ of 2002 were much overrated in the foreign media at the time, but nonetheless constituted the most radical attempt ever undertaken to reform the North Korean economy by Kim Jong Il and his advisors. The reforms legalized many market activities, provided industrial managers with significant autonomy in decision making, and also increased state procurement and consumer prices to levels comparable to the black market at the time (for example, one kilo of rice before the reform was officially priced at 0.08 won, after the reforms the price had been raised to 44 won – a near 500-fold increase).
The 2002 reforms were soon rolled back, but what is important here is the fact that the world was to learn about the reforms not when they were first introduced in July, but some two months later, when some mentions of the reforms began appearing in official publications. This might sound strange to a Western reader, but measures that significantly changed the economic life of the country remained unreported by the official media for a significant amount of time (and indeed were never fully explained).
The currency reform of 2009 presents us with an even more striking example of a well-arranged complete media blackout. The reform itself produced the greatest economic and social upheaval in North Korea since the famine of the 1990s. The North Korean populace was suddenly told that the currency they held was now null and void, and could be exchanged for new notes in limited amounts (usually only to the equivalent of few months of official salaries). At the same time, the use of foreign currencies was banned, and markets and state-run shops were closed. For a few months in early 2010, even members of the Pyongyang elite experienced difficulties in getting their daily rice. According to foreign observers in Pyongyang, popular discontent was palpable and for a brief while, a violent collapse of law and order appeared possible.
This dramatic upheaval of course was completely ignored by the North Korean media; TV, radio and newspapers failed to mention the fact that retail trade was at a complete standstill and the fact that a currency reform was underway. All information was provided to the average North Korea through the cable radio network – officially known as ‘radio number 3’, as well as through confidential letters sent to petty officials and bank clerks. North Korean media outlets also sometimes mentioned the currency reform – of course whilst extolling its alleged virtues – but in the domestic media references to the reform were a complete taboo.
UPDATE 14 (2012-9-28): The Daily NK reports that in addition to agriculture and industrial policy adjustments, it appears that the DPRK is planning to reorganize, “rationalize”, and possibly close, many state owned enterprises:
The central authorities are planning to merge uncompetitive factories and enterprises with stronger ones as North Korea prepares to embark on the full implementation of the so-called ‘June 28th Policy’, Daily NK has learned.
This process is being undertaken to give those enterprises that remain the best chance of competing under the new rules that are due to enter force in the coming days.
An overseas Chinese trader explained the situation to Daily NK on the 27th, saying, “A whole bunch of traders who were in China on business trips started rushing back to North Korea. They had heard that the authorities planned to rationalize the number of small and medium size enterprises so they headed back in a hurry to investigate for themselves.”
“The word is that they are going to get rid of those enterprises that don’t turn a profit for the people and aren’t helpful to the development of the country. A lot of these workers are getting calls from their companies and going back,” the source went on. “It’s meant to be about getting rid of weak and loss-making enterprises in advance of bringing in the new economic improvement measures.”
The latest moves form part of a process that began in mid-July, when Central Party teams made up of personnel from the department of the State Planning Commission responsible for production facilities, their provincial equivalents and the Central Prosecutors Office were dispatched to the regions to assess the state of existing production facilities. At that time, Daily NK reported that “Because it’s an inspection of production facilities, managers in charge of those facilities have also been called in [by the inspection teams].”
According to a second source, employees from companies slated for elimination are to be reassigned to the company merging with them. He explained, “Rather than simply get rid of enterprises and factories, they are trying to either merge them with bigger companies or with companies in the same sector.”
Although workers assigned to unproductive enterprises are understandably keen to move to a company with even a modest amount of potential, the state of the broader North Korean economy has nevertheless put most in a state of ‘50% anticipation, 50% fear’ over what will come next. At the time of writing, the price of rice has reached an outlandish 6700 won/kg even in Pyongyang itself, while also arriving at 7000 won in Onsung County and 6500 won in Hyesan, putting those people without foreign currency in a very difficult situation.
Another major problem is that while the official aim of the policy is to retain only those enterprises that are capable of implementing the tenets of the June 28th Policy effectively, only around 30% of North Korean enterprises are fully functioning, which means that there are around 70% in an uncompetitive condition. Therefore, it seems inevitable that some uncompetitive enterprises will have to be kept, and these are likely to be a drain on the economy in the short to medium term.
Not only that. In the words of the source, “For the workers from weak companies the opportunity to work for a bigger company in a better atmosphere is pleasing, but they also know that economic changes have never succeeded in North Korea, and in fact have periodically made things worse.”
UPDATE 13 (2012-9-23): The Associated Press (via Washington Post) offers on-the-record accounts by farmers in the DPRK talking about agriculture reforms:
North Korean farmers who have long been required to turn most of their crops over to the state may now be allowed to keep their surplus food to sell or barter in what could be the most significant economic change enacted by young leader Kim Jong Un since he came to power nine months ago.
The proposed directive appears aimed at boosting productivity at collective farms that have struggled for decades to provide for the country’s 24 million people. By giving farmers such an incentive to grow more food, North Korea could be starting down the same path as China when it first began experimenting with a market-based economy.
Two workers at a farm south of Pyongyang told The Associated Press about the new rules on Sunday, saying they were informed of the proposed changes during meetings last month and that they should take effect with this year’s upcoming fall harvest. The Ministry of Agriculture has not announced the changes, some of which have been widely rumored abroad but never previously made public outside North Korea’s farms.
Farmers currently must turn everything over to the state beyond what they are allowed to keep for their families. Under the new rules, they would be able to keep any surplus after they have fulfilled state-mandated quotas — improving morale and giving farmers more of a chance to manage their plots and use the crops as a commodity.
“We expect a good harvest this year,” said O Yong Ae, who works at Migok Cooperative Farm, one of the largest and most productive farms in South Hwanghae Province in southwestern North Korea. “I’m happy because we can keep the crops we worked so hard to grow.”
At cooperative farms across the country, the government doles out fuel, seeds and fertilizer, and farmers pay the government back for the supplies, said Kang Su Ik, a professor at Wonsan Agricultural University.
The farmers’ crops go into the Public Distribution System, which aims to provide North Koreans with 600 to 700 grams of rice or cornmeal a day. However, a persistent shortfall of more than 400,000 tons a year in staple grains has meant lower rations all around, according to the United Nations, which has appealed for donations to help North Korea make up for the shortage.
Under the previous system, each farmer could keep as much as 360 kilos of corn or rice a year to consume or sell at the market, in addition to what they grow in their own courtyards. The rest was turned over to the state to distribute as rations, Kang said.
The proposed changes would reverse the equation, challenging farmers to meet a state quota and then allowing them to do as they wish with the rest, including saving it for themselves, selling it at the local farmer’s market or bartering it for other goods.
Farmers also would have more control over tending their plots. At Migok, 1,780 farmers work in teams of about 100. In the future, sub-teams of about 20 to 30 farmers are expected to have more say in how to tend their crops, said Kim Yong Ae, who oversees the visitor’s center at Migok, where a patchwork of rice paddies stretches as far as the eye can see.
O, who lives with her rice farmer husband and two young sons in Migok’s Apricot Village, brightened up when she said the family expects a surplus this year. Migok was unaffected by the summer rains that destroyed farmland elsewhere in the country, and their private garden is bursting with fruit trees, vegetables and marigolds.
Still, she said they would probably donate their extra rice to the state anyway — an offering known in North Korea as “patriotic rice.”
UPDATE 12 (2012-9-19): The Korea Herald reports that Pyongyang is planning to loosen its control over some state-owned enterprises.
North Korea is moving to introduce a full-scale cash-payment system for transactions among light-industry state firms in the latest apparent move to revamp its planned economy, a source in the communist state said.
The measure, seen as aimed at boosting industrial efficiency by ensuring greater autonomy for non-backbone businesses, could pose risks by loosening the long-standing state control, analysts say.
The adoption of cash transactions marks a departure from the long-held “scriptural-money” system in which each firm uses an account in the central bank when it transacts with others to secure raw materials, electricity, machines and other means of production.
Cashless transactions were a useful tool for the authoritarian regime to keep track of the currency flow and companies’ business activities. Cash payments risk weakening state oversight, experts noted.
In its economic reform of July 2002, Pyongyang partially introduced cash transactions among companies in a controlled production-material exchange market. But the new measure seeks a full-scale adoption of cash payments, the source said.
“The change means a collapse of the long-held system in which the authorities provide all means of production to each firm. Kim Jong-un has no other option but to push for the urgent task of reviving the economy.”
The North is expected to apply the cash-payment system mostly to provincial firms that produce consumer goods, while keeping the old system for military, heavy-industry and chemical firms to keep its control over the strategically vital ones, the source said.
News reports suggest that the North will offer to each firm an “initial investment” to cover their production costs and allow each to determine its production items, price and selling methods.
The seemingly greater autonomy, however, reflects the degree of the North Korean authorities’ inability to sustain the planned economic mechanism with sources of external assistance seriously limited amid deepening isolation.
Experts are skeptical of the measures to give more autonomy to companies whose overall operation rate is said to stand at around 20-30 percent because of the regime’s failure to provide necessary means of production.
“At any rate, companies in the North are suffering with their operation almost at a standstill. The North, through the measure, aims to normalize their production function by offering more autonomy in their management,” said Kwon Young-kyong, professor at the state-run Institute for Unification Education.
“But the state has little cash (for the initial provision of capital to kick-start the firms). We still have to wait and see how the measure will unfold.”
Kim Joong-ho, senior researcher at the Export-Import Bank of Korea, also painted a negative outlook for the cash-payment scheme, underscoring that the North should first establish the necessary financial and monetary infrastructure.
“North Korea’s currency is now seen as a scrap of paper (due to a poorly managed currency value). Using cash is workable when there is trustable, stable financial, currency management apparatus. Thus there remain problems of practicality and efficiency,” he said.
“As evidenced in the 2009 devaluation of its currency, North Korea’s cash has lost its function to store fiduciary value. Meanwhile, people have also experienced the benefit and power of foreign currency, particularly Chinese yuan.”
The devastating currency reform three years ago was aimed at stemming the spread of marketplaces, which became rampant as the food rationing system failed to function following the severe famine, dubbed the “Arduous March,” in the mid-1990s.
Like other socialist states, North Korea has maintained a dual payment system ― cash in the form of monthly wage for regular people and scriptural money for inter-company transactions.
Scriptural money is aimed at preventing the state’s non-cash resources allotted for each firm from turning into cash, flowing into the household sector and complicating its control of the currency and overall economic activities.
The dual system has been crumbling as more firms use cash to secure means of production while the overall economic system is on the verge of collapse with the regime running out of monetary and material resources to maintain the planned mechanism.
What is crucial for its economic reestablishment, experts say, is that the North first establish a banking system, through which people can confidently store their wealth, with companies benefitting from the financial system through stable investment and other methods.
The North is set to hold a rare session of the rubber-stamp Supreme People’s Assembly next Tuesday during which some observers expect Pyongyang to announce new laws for its overall economic reform.
The level of the North’s possible reform is hard to predict, experts say, stressing that Pyongyang has repeated a pattern of employing what appear to be reform measures only to retract them when they were deemed to pose a threat to the dynastic regime.
Pyongyang’s desire for economic reform has been detected in a flurry of recent media reports and academic documents.
The front page of the Tuesday edition of the Rodong Sinmun, the daily of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party, was filled with economy-related articles while pushing the article on Kim Jong-un, first secretary of the party, to the second page ― an exceptionally unusual article arrangement.
Last month, the North introduced a set of research papers by its scholars concerning topics ranging from the state control over the financial sector to the importance of currency circulation. They raised the prospect for possible financial reform.
The paper by Kim Un-chol, professor at Kim Il-sung University, said, “The country should strengthen state control over the financial sector to achieve a more stable economic development.”
Pictured above (Google Earth) is Changsong Town in North Pyongan Province.
There has been a lot of talk about economic reform in the DPRK in recent weeks (see here). One of the aspects of these reforms has been greater local/regional control over economic policies and outcomes.
On August 9, the Daily NKreported that Changsong is “again being put forward as a model for the spontaneous economic development of regional cities and counties as the regime works to foster a different mindset prior to impending economic changes”. According to the article:
On the 8th, Rodong Shinmun published an editorial entitled, ‘Let Our Country Be Prosperous in the Spirit of the Changsung Joint Session’ in an edition that also featured seven other related articles. The articles served as a timely reminder of the joint session of central cadres, their provincial counterparts and economic sector officials held on August 7th and 8th in Changsung County.
Utilizing the history lesson, Rodong Shinmun emphasized, “The fundamental essence of the Changsung Joint Session was increasing the role of the county in developing regional industry and agricultural accounting, and enhanced the people’s lives by the strength of our household itself.”
It went on, “In every city and district, we must resolve to decisively raise the productivity of our land to solve issues of food insecurity, and must thoroughly implement the Party’s agricultural revolution.”
On days prior, Rodong Shinmun, KCNA and other state-run media outlets also reported in various forms the idea that ‘all the counties in the country are going to follow the example of Changsung County.’ For example, on the 7th it introduced a new food processing plant in Changsung County itself.
Analyzing these moves, Kwon Tae Jin, a researcher with the Korea Rural Economic Institute told Daily NK, “When it comes to the agricultural sector, the county is at the center of everything. This is a way of passing the center’s role to the regions at a time when the center (the Ministry of Agriculture) cannot play its role properly.”
“The purpose of emphasizing the responsibility of the Cabinet and the counties at the same time is to readjust the system,” Kwon added, while the head of North Korea Strategy Center, Kim Kwang In added, “Since the center cannot do what it needs to, they want the regions to deal with survival.”
The move is also intended to raise the likelihood of the 6.28 Policy succeeding. In Kim’s words, “The regime is pushing regional self-reliance prior to the announcement of the new policy.”
Interestingly, this narrative paints the 6.28 policy as an effort to decentralize economic production because Pyongyang can no longer afford the old policies, yet for propaganda purposes, it is being portrayed as the continuation of a movement personally launched by Kim Il-sung 50 years ago!
Changsong has indeed seen a lot of recent construction. According to KCNA (2012-8-4):
County, Model in Local Economic Development
Pyongyang, August 4 (KCNA) — Changsong County, North Phyongan Province of the DPRK, has become a model in the development of local economy in the new century. Great changes have taken place in all aspects of production and construction in a matter of little over one year.
Local industrial factories have been placed on a modern and scientific basis to lay a firm foundation for reenergizing production and improving the standard of people’s living. The county seat has taken on a new appearance to suit the specific features of a county.
President Kim Il Sung provided field guidance of devotion to the county, once known as remote mountainous county, more than a hundred times in his lifetime with a noble intention to turn it into a model to be followed by all other counties.
There began a new history of mountains of treasures in the county under his care. As a result, the Changsong joint meeting of local party and economic officials was held in the county in August 1962.
Leader Kim Jong Il made sure that the spirit of the joint meeting was fully displayed generation after generation. He gave an instruction to the county to raise a new torch for effecting a dramatic turn in the local industry in November 2010.
The dear respected Marshal Kim Jong Un has led a drive to face-lift the county as required by the building of a thriving nation so that the year 2012, the 50th anniversary of the joint meeting, may shine as a proud year and a year of new changes in the development of local industry.
All local industrial establishments in the county have undergone dramatic changes as required by the new century in a matter of little over one year.
All production processes at the foodstuff factory ranging from feeding of raw materials to packing and forwarding have been automated and its overall processes sterilized to ensure high quality and hygienic safety of products.
Its textile mill has installed new type machines. Technological updating has made brisk headway at all industrial establishments in the county including paper, furniture and chemical and daily necessities factories.
There has sprung up a new food processing factory. All its processes computerized, the factory mass-produces processed meat and vegetables, varieties of soft drink, and confectionary.
A garment factory with big capacity has been built to meet the county’s need for school uniforms and solve the issue of clothing by itself.
The appearance of the county has changed beyond recognition.
The county erected a mosaic depicting the portraits of the smiling peerlessly great persons. The Changsong revolutionary museum and the county hall of culture have been successfully renovated as centers for the education in the revolutionary history and people’s cultural and emotional life.
The Changsong Restaurant and a noodle restaurant built with Korean style roofs in the center of the county seat add to the beautiful landscape of the township.
There sprang up the Undok Health Complex with all welfare and service facilities, a children’s hall, kindergarten and nursery.
The library, county people’s hospital, sanatorium, commercial and catering network, public buildings and dwelling houses have also been renovated as required by the new century.
A great success has been made in the land management.
The eye-opening changes in the county promise a socialist land of bliss where all varieties of consumer goods are mass-produced at the local industrial factories and the people enjoy happiness in their modern houses.
On 2012-8-7, the KCTV evening news broadcast images of some of the new construction:
And on August 8, KCNA reported that Choe Yong-rim visited the town:
Senior DPRK Party and State Officials Visit Changsong County
Pyongyang, August 8 (KCNA) — Senior party and state officials including Choe Yong Rim and officials of party, ministries, national institutions and local party, power and economic bodies visited various places of Changsong County, North Phyongan Province on Wednesday on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Changsong joint conference of local party and economic officials.
Changsong County is associated with the leadership feats of President Kim Il Sung and leader Kim Jong Il who opened up a wide road of developing local economy and improving the people’s living standard by increasing the role of county as a regional base.
The participants laid bunches of flowers before the newly erected mosaic depicting portraits of smiling Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il and made bows to them.
At the Changsong Revolutionary Museum, they looked round historic relics showing the efforts made by the President and Kim Jong Il who ushered in a new history of mountains of treasures, while giving field guidance to the county.
They also went to local industrial factories in Changsong including Foodstuff Factory, Foodstuff Processing Factory, Furniture Factory, Paper Mill, Jute Bag Factory and Okpho Stockbreeding Farm.
They enjoyed a performance given by the art group of the county at its cultural hall.
UPDATE 6 (2011-4-20): The DPRK is experiencing a new wave of foot and mouth outbreaks. According to Yonhap:
A new outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) occurred in four counties in North Korea last month and infected nearly 300 pigs and cows, a news report said Wednesday.
A total of 141 out of 298 animals died after being infected with the disease, the Voice of America said, citing a North Korean report submitted to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) on Monday. The news report said Pyongyang quarantined the infected areas in an apparent attempt to stem the spread of the disease.
The North confirmed its first case of the disease in December, and the virus has since spread to six other cities and provinces, Seoul’s Agriculture Minister Yoo Jeong-bok said in February.
Last month, the World Organization for Animal Health said North Korea urgently needed around US$1 million worth of equipment and vaccines to help stem outbreaks of the deadly disease.
The disease does not pose a direct health threat to humans, but affects cows, sheep, goats and other cloven-hoofed animals, causing blisters on the nose, mouth, hooves and teats.
North Korea has 577,000 heads of cattle, 2.2 million pigs and 3.5 million goats, according to the OIE.
North Korea: FAO says urgent vaccine and equipment needed to contain Foot-and-Mouth Disease
Capacity of national veterinary services to manage animal disease must also be strengthened
24 March 2010, Rome/Paris – Around a million dollars of equipment and vaccines are urgently required to help stem outbreaks of deadly Foot-and-Mouth disease (FMD) in North Korea, followed by a more prolonged and concerted effort to modernize veterinary services in the country.
A joint FAO and World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) mission travelled to North Korea at the government’s request between 27 February and 8 March. The mission found that the country’s capacity and that of veterinary services to detect and contain FMD outbreaks need significant strengthening — in particular as regards implementing best-practices in biosecurity measures and improving laboratory infrastructure and capacity.
Outbreaks of Type-O FMD have been reported in diverse locations in eight of North Korea’s 13 provinces. To bring the situation under control, the team recommended the following steps:
Thorough surveillance to locate and map disease clusters
Protecting unaffected farms through movement controls and biosecurity measures
Adequate sampling in order to correctly identify the virus strain or strains involved
Improving biosecurity measures to prevent further spread of the disease
The strategic use of the appropriate vaccines to contain and isolate disease clusters
FAO estimates around $1 million is required immediately for training, supplies and infrastructure, vaccine acquisition and the setting up of monitoring, reporting and response systems.
The FAO-OIE mission visited several collective farms as well as the national veterinary laboratory and various animal health field stations.
FAO and OIE provided guidance to North Korean veterinary authorities on taking and handling of FMD samples — new samples will be collected by North Korea and sent to an international reference laboratory for testing.
Only by accurately typing the virus or viruses involved in the outbreaks will it be possible to identify the most effective vaccine to use against it.
Food security bulwark
FMD does not pose a direct health threat to humans, but affected animals become too weak to be used to plough the soil or reap harvests, suffer significant weight loss, and produce less milk. Many animals are dying from the disease.
Farm animals are crucial to food security in North Korea. Cows and oxen are primarily used for dairy production and are a key source of draft power in agricultural production. Goats and pigs, also susceptible to FMD, are important source of dairy products and meat.
Current North Korea’s livestock population consists of 577,000 head of cattle, 2.2 million pigs and 3.5 million goats.
FMD affects cattle, buffaloes, sheep, goats, swine and other cloven-hoofed animals. It is highly contagious and spreads through mucus, saliva or body fluids that can contaminate materials such as clothing, crates, truck beds, and hay and be transmitted to other animals.
UPDATE 4 (2011-3-22): Pork prices rising with FMD meat on sale. According to the Daily NK:
With North Korea seemingly unable to bring an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease centered on the Pyongyang region under control, inside sources have revealed that the price of good pork in the markets is skyrocketing as a result of diminishing supplies, while infected meat is being sold on the quiet for lower prices.
Speaking with The Daily NK on the 22nd, a source from North Pyongan Province explained, “Pork is right now selling for 6,000 won per kilo in the market. The price, which was 2,600 won in the market last December, is climbing all the time, and now is at the point where the average person has no chance of being able to buy it.”
According to sources, the situation is similar in Nampo, where pork was selling for 3,500 won in December, but had reached 6,500 won by February. In Sariwon in North Hwanghae Province, the price had hit 5,000 won by the end of February.
The news of an emerging foot-and-mouth disease problem in North Korea first emerged through sources earlier this year, but the authorities only confirmed it officially and reported control measures via Chosun Central News Agency on February 10th.
According to an official report submitted by the North Korean authorities to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) at around the same time, the outbreak had by then spread to 48 places across much of south and central North Korea, with 15 of those places falling within the Pyongyang administrative region.
The report outlined how North Korea first attempted to combat the outbreak with an indigenously produced vaccine, but this was of limited use. It also noted that official North Korean policy is to bury those animals that die from the disease and quarantine those that are infected.
However, inside sources say that in reality people are digging up buried animals in order to sell the meat in the market at a lower price.
The North Pyongan Province source explained, “Meat infected with foot-and-mouth disease is being sold in the market tacitly; the price of it is somewhat lower. The work of burying pigs with foot-and-mouth disease is being done, he said, but it is said that animals continue to be dug up and are sometimes being sold in the market.”
The source gave the example of a pig farm in Pyongsung, where 6 people dug up previously buried pigs last December to sell in Pyongsung Market. They were selling the meat for 2,000 won/kg, he said, but were caught by the authorities.
The source also revealed that on December 30th, 2010, 500 pigs were buried near Pyongyang, but two days later had disappeared, while in Sinuiju it is said that “If it is buried in the daytime, people say that by that very evening it will appear in the market.”
Of course, the fact is that the North Korean authorities are unable to put in place an efficacious policy to combat the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease or the selling on of infected meat, not least because persons caught for selling infected meat can simply navigate their way out of trouble and go back to their activities.
UPDATE 3 (2011-3-2): A UN FAO team is in the DPRK to inspect the foot-and-mouth outbreak. According to the Joongang Ilbo:
An official at the FAO was quoted by RFA as saying that the scale and variety of the aid would be determined after discussions with North Korean government officials. The exact itinerary of the group was not released.
The UN food agency also said that along with the team that arrived in North Korea last month, additional officials, including an expert on contagious diseases, would be sent to the area.
The South Korean government has said that it has been monitoring the development of the outbreak. However, the South Korean Ministry of Unification said after North Korea’s official report on the disease that Pyongyang has not made any requests for aid nor did Seoul have plans to offer any assistance.
North Korea announced on Feb. 10 that over 10,000 pigs and cattle had been infected with FMD, prompting North Korean officials to alert the UN of the outbreak.
The North struggled with FMD cases in 2007 and 2008, which led to the culling of thousands of pigs and cattle. During those episodes, the FAO and the South Korean government provided aid.
UPDATE 2 (2011-2-27): The Daily NK reports that the OIE report shows animals are not being culled:
Unlike in 2007, when North Korea reacted swiftly to an outbreak of the disease by culling animals, this time the authorities appear to have reacted poorly despite the fact that the disease has now been found at more than 48 locations in Pyongyang City and Pyongan, Hwanghae and Kangwon Provinces.
According to an OiE report derived from the letter, in which the North finally confirmed the rumored outbreak after a month of silence, Pyongyang has apparently tried to address the situation using a combination of disinfection measures and a domestically produced vaccine, but this has met with little success.
“Given the number of livestock which have died of foot-and-mouth disease, it is uncertain just how far the infection has spread,” Korea Rural Economic Institute Vice-President Kwon Tae Jin explained to The Daily NK. “The small number of infected heads of cattle reported by North Korea is also difficult to accept at face value.”
“If the North Korean authorities have not destroyed the infected cows and pigs in the hope that they will recover, then it is a serious problem. It means we have no idea how far the disease has spread,” Kwon added.
15 of the existing locations in which the disease has so far been detected are in Pyongyang and surrounding areas. In order to combat the spread of the disease to other regions, the authorities are said to have implemented across-the-board restrictions on movement into and out of the city.
However, news of the disease has still not been reported officially, and domestic sources have told The Daily NK that they have not heard anything about it to date.
UPDATE 1 (2011-2-18): DPRK report (below) shows extensive damage from foot-and-mouth disease. According to Yonhap:
North Korea has reported to a global animal health agency that it had suffered a total of 48 outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) since Christmas last year.
The impoverished communist state made the report to the Paris-based World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) on Feb. 8, saying about half of 17,522 “susceptible” pigs had died from the disease.
Only 3 percent of 1,403 cows suspected of being infected had died from the disease, according to the report posted on the OIE Web site, while none of the 165 susceptible goats had died.
At the time the report was filed, no livestock were yet culled as a preventive measure, according to the report created by Ri Kyong-gun, a quarantine director for the Ministry of Agriculture. A map of outbreaks showed the disease had spread out over almost half of North Korea.
“Vaccination has been applied with a locally developed vaccine but was not effective to control the disease,” the report said, adding that the origin of the outbreak remains “unknown or inconclusive.”
North Korea has banned the inflow of pork and beef from South Korea since late last year for fear that the disease — rampant south of the heavily armed border — may spread there.
Despite the measure, the North, which suffers serious food shortages, reported the outbreak to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization earlier this year.
The country said in the OIE report that it has restricted movement and conducted “disinfection of infected premises and establishments” to fight the spread of the animal disease.
In 2007, North Korea suffered similar outbreaks, prompting South Korea to dispatch a team of animal health experts amid a mood of reconciliation.
FMD is highly contagious and affects cloven-hoofed animals like cattle, pigs, deer, goats and sheep. The disease causes blisters on the mouth and feet of livestock and leads to death. It is rarely transmitted to humans.
ORIGINAL POST (2011-2-18): Below is a map and list of reported foot and mouth disease outbreaks in the DPRK:
The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) has reported 48 outbreaks of foot and mouth disease (FMD) in Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
North Korea began opening up to nongovernmental organizations in the 1990s, when severe food shortages forced it to seek outside aid. While both the famine of the mid-90s and the efforts to alleviate it got a good deal of press at the time, attention to this aspect of North Korea has fallen off in recent years as most press coverage now deals with the nuclear issues or questions of leadership succession. But while NGO activities may have dropped off over the last decade, a select few groups continue in their efforts to better the lives of ordinary North Koreans, despite all the limitations and difficulties they face in doing so.
CanKor has collected a partial list of nongovernmental organizations from the non-six-party talk countries currently engaged in humanitarian activities in North Korea. While some have been left out at their own request due to the politically sensitive nature of their work, we will endeavour to present regular updates on current or new projects in the DPRK. Readers are encouraged to write in and inform us of any activities we may report.
Featured Project: Mennonite Central Committee
MCC has been engaged in the DPRK since the mid 1990s, the earlier years through the Canadian Food Grains Bank (CFGB) in partnership with other organizations to support the Food Aid Liaison Unit (FALU), and also together with other non-resident NGOs such as Caritas International, American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), and Foods Resource Bank/Church of the Brethren Global Foods Crisis Fund to support sustainable agriculture and provide humanitarian assistance. Between 1995 and 2006, approximately $15 million in food and other material resources was sent to the DPRK by MCC.
Since 2006 and the dissolving of FALU, MCC has worked in the DPRK through its MCC NE Asia office. MCC has continued to send food and material resources to orphanages, initially via First Steps, and eventually in direct relationship. Soymilk production equipment was also provided to assist orphanages and soymilk production facilities to increase production of their own nutritional needs. MCC also sends food and material resources to tuberculosis hospitals and rest homes through its partnership with Christian Friends of Korea. Greenhouses have also been provided to enable these facilities to raise more of their own food needs.
Here is a story on MCC’s partnership with First Steps in sending soybeans to orphanages in the DPRK and
Here is a story on MCC’s cooperation with Christian Friends of Korea in sending food and other material resources to TB facilities.
Beginning in 2009, MCC is partnering with the Ministry of Agriculture in the DPRK on a three- year food security project. Given the success of conservation agriculture in other climatically-similar districts around the world, including Asia and Canada, this project aims to build longer-term food security at three cooperative farms and surrounding areas by increasing the scale of conservation agriculture practiced on each farm.
This is being done through the provision of technical support, training, specialized equipment and inputs. The program will benefit 12,287 residents on the three project farms. The total budget for the 3-year project is U.S.$1 million, with approximately 75% of the funding provided through CFGB and the remainder through individual donations to MCC. Click here for a news release about the conservation agriculture project. In the interest of further engagement, MCC has also hosted delegations from the DPRK in both the U.S. and Canada, most recently an agricultural delegation to Canada in the fall of 2008. MCC also looks for ways to advocate DPRK engagement with Canadian and American governments. MCC seeks to share its resources in the name of Christ with those in need, placing emphasis on people-to-people relationships.
The North Korean agricultural ministry has announced that the countries food shortages are expected to be even greater next year. Edition 302 of the newsletter “North Korea Today,” distributed by the group Good Friends, reports that the Ministry of Agriculture announced harvest predictions for farms in North and South Hwanghae and Pyongan provinces, North Korea’s ‘ricebowl region’. It stated that if the country was to avoid a food crisis next year, everyone would need to strictly manage this year’s crops. It was also reported that the central party authorities in North Korea, after receiving the report, called for the opening of all customs houses in the border region and for trading companies to seek new avenues for trade. An order was passed down to “relentlessly trade with the outside in order to bring in much food.”
With food shortages this year and last, and now news that there will be food problems next year as well, it is rumored that there is a growing number of angry people in the normally mild-mannered Hwanghae Province. In addition, this is driving a growing number of people to turn to crime in order to put food on the table. On October 26, Free North Korea Radio quoted a source as stating, “As rumors spread across North Korea that large-scale famine, the likes of which were seen in the mid-1990s, will again sweep through country next year, anxiety is shooting up among the people and crimes of necessity are on the rise.”
According to the source, “Crimes of necessity, like pillaging granaries on farms, are spreading like never before as people act quickly to ensure food supplies,” and, “Fighting has grown fierce between people trying to maintain their standard of living.” Furthermore, “The number of people in the Dancheon region of South Hamgyeong Province just ‘sitting down and starving to death’ is exploding,” and, “Not long ago, there was even one incident of and armed soldier guarding a threshing floor of one farm being attacked by a gang of thieves.”
The source explained, “People are well aware that this year yielded poor harvests, but that they cannot rely on aid from the international community because of the Kim Jong Il regime’s indiscriminant pursuit of nuclear development.” The source also added, “These days, people are rationalizing illegal activities in the belief that ‘you can rely on no one but yourself.’”
It was also reported that in Hyesan, Hyeryeong, Onseong and Musan, most food prices are at higher levels than what are usually seen in the spring, despite the fact that it is now fall harvest season. According to Free North Korea Radio, October 23rd prices of rice, flour and corn in Hyesan, Hyeryeong, Onseong, and Musan were as follows: Hyesan, rice = 2,550-2,750 won/1 kg, flour = 2,400-2,600 won/1 kg, corn = 850-900 won/1 kg; Hyeryeong, rice = 2,500-2,800 won/ 1 kg, flour = 2,400-2,700 won/ 1 kg, corn = 800-1,000 won/1 kg; Onseong, rice = 2,450-2,600 won/ 1 kg, flour = 2,500-2,700 won/1 kg, corn = 700-900 won/1 kg; Musan, rice = 2,500-2,700 won/1 kg, flour = 2,400-2,600 won/1 kg, corn = 850-1,000 won/1 kg
According to Choi Hyun-soo, vice director of the DPRK Department of Agriculture, “The issue of increasing agricultural production is related to the serious political issue of the fate of the construction of a strong and prosperous socialist nation, and even moreso, the fate of our style of socialism,” rather than simply an issue of economic affairs.
In an interview published in the latest issue (July 24) of the DPRK Cabinet publication, “Democratic Chosun”, Vice Director Choi stressed that several years of natural disasters had prevented last year’s grain production from reaching a satisfactory level, making increased grain production this year an even more important issue. While Choi recognized the impact of the natural disasters, he also blamed the “villainous isolation and oppression machinations of the imperialists” for causing the North’s scant grain production. He also pointed out that the sudden jump in rice, corn, wheat and other grain prices around the world has been cause for concern, and “these days, there are no countries offering food or in a position to provide it.”
He went on to state, “If countermeasures to prevent damage during the monsoon season cannot be implemented, farmland and crops could be severely damaged,” and the lack of heavy rains is no reason for complacency, but rather, efforts to prevent flood damage need to continue. The (North) Korean Central Broadcasting Station also reported on July 24, “Good agricultural cultivation is an important political task,” and, “Good agricultural cultivation and easing of the eating problem is precisely the utmost important matter for the success of socialism and the protection of our system and ideology.”
The people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea have turned out with a great ambition and confidence in the efforts to make a higher leap, in response to the joint editorial issued by Rodong Sinmun, Josoninmingun and Chongnyonjonwi on the occasion of the New Year Juche 95 (2006). Surging is the enthusiasm of the officials and working people in the field of agriculture to thoroughly implement the tasks set forth by the joint editorial that put forward agriculture as the main front of the economic construction this year, too, and called for mobilizing and concentrating all the forces on farming once again.
Minister of Agriculture Ri Kyong Sik said in an interview with KCNA that the ministry has worked out a plan of making a fresh progress in implementing the Workers’ Party of Korea’s policies of bringing about innovations in seed production, potato and soya bean cultivation and two-crop-a-year farming and is striving hard to implement them.
The ministry, he added, is focusing efforts on taking steps to decisively increase the grain-cultivation area, acquire new land, reclaim wasteland and raise the fertility of soil. It also pushes ahead with full preparation for finishing the construction of setups of the Taegye Island reclaimed tideland before the start of sowing while carrying on land-rezoning projects.
Steps are being taken beforehand to plant more high yielding varieties suitable for potato producers in highlands and to protect them against blights and harmful inspects.
Preparations are being made for making the Kaechon-Lake Thaesong and Paekma-Cholsan Waterways, the gravity-fed ones, pay off and for carrying on in earnest similar waterway projects in the Miru Plain and other parts of the country.
The officials and working people in the agricultural domain are engaged in farming preparation for reaping a bumper crop this year with a high sense of responsibility for the country’s rice granaries.
Officials and working people of ministries, national institutions and various organs and enterprises at all levels and even housewives are coming out to the countryside, bringing with them large quantities of farming materials and compost, to inspire agricultural working people.
Thanks to the burning patriotic zeal of the agricultural working people to support the Songun fatherland with rice and the nation-wide sincere assistance, the agricultural front is sure to yield a rich harvest this year, the minister said with emphasis.