2013 Inter-Korean trade

February 24th, 2014

According to Yonhap:

Trade between South and North Korea fell to its lowest level in eight years in 2013 due to their strained relations, data showed Sunday.

Inter-Korean trade reached US$1.15 billion last year, down a whopping 41.9 percent from the previous year’s $1.98 billion, according to the data from the Korea International Trade Association (KITA).

South Korean exports to the North nose-dived 41.1 percent on-year to $531.8 million, with imports from the communist country sinking 42.5 percent to $617.2 million.

The 2013 inter-Korean trade volume was the lowest since 2005, when the figure came to $1.06 billion.

In contrast to the plunge in trade with South Korea, the North’s trade with China, its chief ally and largest benefactor, jumped 10.4 percent on-year to a record high of $6.54 billion last year, according to the data.

Between 2009 and 2014, North Korea’s trade volume with China, the world’s second-largest economy, had been growing an annual average of more than 40 percent, the data showed.

 

According to the Choson Ilbo:

Inter-Korean trade fell to 18 percent of the North’s trade with China, the lowest since 2005.

South Korea’s imports of textile goods and electric and electronic products from the North fell 45 percent and 43 percent, while the North’s imports of mineral and textile products from China increased 15 percent and 33 percent.

Of course inter-Korean trade was down due to the DPRK’s closure of the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC). Once the complex was reopened, trade began to recover.

More on China-DPRK trade in 2013 here.

Read the full stories here:
Inter-Korean trade hits 8-year low in 2013
Yonhap
2014-2-23

N.Korean Trade with China Grows
Choson Ilbo
2014-2-24

Share

Lankov on the cost of emigrating

February 19th, 2014

1,516 North Koreans who arrived in South Korea in 2013–approximately the 2012 number. In 2011, 2,706 defected. Why the drop off? Lankov writes in NK News:

From 2010-11, the number of military patrols on the hitherto poorly protected border with China increased dramatically. Military personnel are also frequently rotated to ensure that soldiers do not develop overly cozy relations with the locals, and severe punishments for graft have been introduced.

Additionally, in 2010 Chinese authorities – obviously prompted by the North Koreans – began to build a tall wire fence along the border with North Korea. This fence is not a formidable obstacle, nonetheless it still makes the act of crossing the border more risky. The construction of the fence was completed in 2012, so nowadays the border between two states appears much better protected than ever.

The “defection market” reacted to the new situation in the most certain way. In the past one could cross the border for free or, at worst, would pay the border guards a small bribe of $30-50 (smugglers had to pay a bit more). Now the price increased to the hitherto unthinkable $3,000-5,000 – and one still has to pay an additional $3,000 to a professional guide who will ensure safe transit to a South Korean embassy in Mongolia or Southeast Asia. The steep rise indicates how much more dangerous the defection has become under the new conditions. It also means that that even under the best possible circumstances one needs some $8,000-9,000 to arrange even a simple defection.

In the original article, Lankov also discusses other tactics used to reduce the number of defections.

Read the full story here:
North-South migration, part 4: After 2011, the stream dries out again?
NK News
Andrei Lankov
2014-2-19

Share

The rise and fall of the Rakwon Chicken Specialty Restaurant (a case study in inter-Korean business)

February 18th, 2014

UPDATE 4 (2014-2-18): Western tourists are still visiting the restaurant (meaning it has a contract with KITC). The restaurant still has the sign “Rakwon Chicken Specialty Restaurant”, though it is a different color than the original. See tourist video here and here.

UPDATE 3 (2014-2-17): The Hakyoreh updates us on the fate of the inter-Korean chicken restaurant:

In 2005, Choi made his first trip to North Korea to inquire about chicken imports. Soon he had changed plans: he would open his own restaurant there selling South Korean-style chicken. Acquaintances tried to talk him out of it, but he was determined. “I went to Pyongyang and I could see there was money in it,” he recalled. And with economic cooperation between South and North at an all time high, he didn’t see much of a political risk either.

He went back and forth to Pyongyang a few times looking for partners. Finally, in June 2007, he opened up the Rakwon Chicken Restaurant, selling South Korean-style chicken on Puksae Road in the Kaesonmun neighborhood of Moranbong District. His North Korean partner provided the building and staff; Choi was responsible for the interiors, ingredients, recipes, and management system. He reached a deal where he took 70% of profits with a total investment of 500 million won (US$470,000). The opening drew a lot of media attention at the time, with write-ups in the South Korean press and foreign outlets like the Washington Post and Japan’s NHK.

Early on, he did strong business selling at fairly steep prices – the equivalent of US$11.30 for a single bird. His clientele came mainly from the city’s upper class and Chinese visitors. Sales of 100 million won (US$94,000) a year looked to be in sight. “My plan was to open up 100 restaurants in the North,” Choi said.

But in 2008, less than a year after he opened the restaurant, Lee Myung-bak took office as South Korean President. Lee’s administration put a stop to the previous decade’s policies of engagement and cooperation with North Korea, opting for sanctions and containment instead.

“There was a promise between the two sides, and I never thought that would be rejected completely,”Choi said. “Suddenly, that was the reality.”

Bit by bit, exchange ground to a halt. A March 2008 shipment of ingredients through Nampo turned out to be Choi’s last interaction. He had not yet received a single share of revenue.

Then came the announcement of the so-called “May 24 measures” in 2010. Following the sinking of the ROKS Cheonan warship the preceding March, Seoul had called a complete halt to all exchange and economic cooperation with North Korea.

“All the May 24 measures did was drive it home,” Choi insisted. “Most of the economic cooperation had been choked off long before that.”

For the next four years, Choi wasn’t able to set foot in North Korea. Without his support, the restaurant lost its chicken focus and began selling ordinary cuisine. Choi’s other business began to suffer too.
“I’d put my house and buildings up as collateral to borrow the 500 million won to invest in the North,” he said. “Then, to top it all off, there was the US financial crisis. Things began to go downhill rapidly in South Korea, and my business started to fall apart.”

UPDATE 2 (2009-1-1): The BBC offers an update of the new chicken restaurant:

The governments may not be on the best of terms but a South Korean businessman seems to have found a way to North Koreans’ hearts: their stomachs.

Choi Won-ho, the owner of a fried chicken chain, was told he was doomed to fail when he opened his first branch in the impoverished North last year.

But encouraged by his progress so far, he is already preparing to open another one.

Mr Choi runs a fast food franchise in South Korea with a total of 70 stores.

He opened one more last year – no real challenge you might think – except this extension to his fried chicken empire is in the heart of one of the most secretive and business-unfriendly places on the planet.

But Mr Choi says the citizens of Pyongyang have been queuing in front of his shop which is taking around $1,000 a day.

He is now preparing to meet North Korean officials in January to finalise the approval for a second outlet.

His customers are almost certainly all members of North Korea’s elite, a country in which the World Food Programme says up to 9m people will face urgent food shortages this winter.

Relations between the two Korea’s have been at a low since the conservative government of President Lee Myung-bak came to power in the South in February.

North Korea has severed official contacts, stopped all cross-border tourism and restricted entry to a joint industrial zone built with southern money.

But despite the chill, Mr Choi’s fried chicken venture seems to be sizzling.

Read the full story here:
South Korea Chicken Success in NK
BBC
John Sudworth
2009-1-1

UPDATE 1 (2008-11-1): The restaurant is set to open in February 2008. According to Yonhap:

An inter-Korean joint-venture chicken franchise will open its first store in Pyongyang early next month, the head of the franchise’s South Korean partner said Friday.

The store set to open in early February will provide a food delivery service using motorbikes for the first time in the communist country, Choi Won-ho, president of the South Korean company said.

No North Korean restaurants offer food delivery service now, according to defectors from North Korea.

Fried, grilled and steamed chicken dishes as well as draft beer are available for delivery, he said, adding the food will be prepared in the North Korean style.

“I recently received a photo of the store’s interior design from our North Korean business partner, Rakwon General Trading Corporation, along with the offer to open the first store before the 66th birthday of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il,” Choi told Yonhap News Agency by phone. “After opening, I will use radio and newspaper ads to promote the business.”

Kim’s birthday, which falls on Feb. 16, is the most festive holiday in the North.

The North Korean company will provide land, some 20 low-cost workers, chicken, and draft beer. The early-stage investment, equipment, cook and spicy chicken will come from the South Korean chicken franchise called “Matdaero Chondak,” Choi said.

The first “Rakwon” chicken restaurant in Pyongyang will have the capacity of seating about 200 people, he added.

The businessman said he will visit North Korea next week to discuss the opening of the store.

“I hope the business will thrive enough so that we can open store No. 10 in Pyongyang,” he added.

Read the full story here:
Inter-Korean joint venture chicken franchise to open first store in Pyongyang
Yonhap
1/11/2008

ORIGINAL POST (2007-11-3): A South Korean entrepreneur is investing in a new fried chicken restaurant in Pyongyang:

According to Reuters:

A South Korean businessman plans to begin a fried chicken delivery service in the North Korean capital, with the first foreign-run restaurant in a country that struggles to feed its own people.

Choi Won-ho, head of a fried chicken franchiser that has about 70 restaurants across South Korea, said Friday he is opening a 50-table restaurant in Pyongyang on Nov. 15. It will also deliver chicken and draft beer to homes.

“I have wanted to be the world’s best chicken brand,” Choi told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

“But I thought it makes no sense to conquer the world without sharing food with our compatriots. That’s why I went there first,” he said. “I plan to get into the Chinese market via Pyongyang.”

He laughed off concerns his venture may be too risky in the impoverished and isolated country of 23 million, where the elite citizens of the capital are much better off than others.

“I don’t think that I’m going to lose money at all,” he said.

It will be the first foreign-run restaurant in North Korea, according South Korea’s Unification Ministry.

Choi, 48, who has been in the fried chicken business for 15 years, said he hired an ethnic Korean Chinese as the main cook for the Pyongyang outlet and taught him all his cooking know-how. About 20 North Koreans will also work at the restaurant and five scooters will be used for deliveries, he said.

Choi said he invested about 500 million won (US$551,339, ?382,264) in the joint venture with a North Korean trading firm that will take 30 percent of the profits from the business.

North Korea is one of the poorest countries in the world and has relied on foreign food aid to feed the population for more than a decade since natural disasters and mismanagement devastated its economy.

Relations between the two Koreas have improved significantly since their first-ever summit in 2000, spurring a series of exchange projects between the Cold War rivals that fought the 1950-53 Korean War. That conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, leaving the two sides still technically at war.

According to the Joong Ang Ilbo:

South Koreans are making two very different attempts to improve the culinary life of impoverished North Koreans.

First, a South Korean fried chicken franchise will open the only foreign-run restaurant in North Korea, targeting family dining on special occasions.

Second, the labor union of a South Korean conglomerate has built a plant in Pyongyang to provide cheap corn noodles to northerners who suffer from food shortages.

Choi Won-ho, who runs Matdaero, a 70-store fried chicken franchise in the South, said yesterday he would open a restaurant in a joint venture with a North Korean state-run trading company, near the Arch of Triumph in central Pyongyang on Nov. 15.

The restaurant will both receive walk-in customers and deliver chicken and draft beer to homes. Such places are common in South Korea, but it will be the first chicken joint of its kind in North Korea.

Choi has invested 500 million won ($551,000) in the restaurant’s cooking facilities, interior decoration and delivery scooters. He will split the profit 70-30 with the North Korean firm.

Choi, 48, who has been a chicken entrepreneur for 15 years, said there should be sufficient demand despite North Korea being one of the world’s poorest countries, because he plans to offer lower prices to locals.

“I will charge about $3 for a whole chicken for North Koreans and at least $12, the same price as in South Korea, for tourists from the South and other countries,” Choi said yesterday by phone. “One whole chicken will be enough for a four-member family, so the price of $3 will not be too burdensome for special occasions.”

The store will hire about 20 North Koreans to take telephone orders, fry the birds and make home deliveries. It will have seating for 50.

Separately, the labor union of Hyundai Motor Company, Korea’s top automaker, said in a statement that it has completed an 1,800-square-meter corn-noodle plant in Pyongyang. The plant can produce two tons of corn noodles a day, it said.

Hyundai Motor’s 44,000 unionized workers agreed in August to help a South Korean humanitarian group build the noodle factory. Workers donated about 12,000 won each, 500 million won in total, for the facility.

“The plant will be a great help to relieve the food problems of North Koreans,” Chang Kyu-ho, a spokesman for the labor union, said. “Corn is a staple food for North Koreans.”

Read the full stories here:
Fried chicken franchise goes North
Joong Ang Daily
Moon So-young
11/3/2007

S Korean businessman to debut fried chicken at first foreign-run restaurant in North Korea
Reuters (Via DPRK Studies)
Jaesoon Chang
11/3/2007

Share

Report of the commission of inquiry on human rights in the DPRK

February 17th, 2014

This site does not focus on human rights issues, but I want to point out that the commission of inquiry report is out.

You can download it here.

Additional information:

1. Though not directly cited, my work at identifying the expansion of camp 14 and camp 25 and changes to camp 16 was used by other contributing groups and individuals (mostly HRNK)–some organizations are better at citations than others.

2. I wrote a short piece for NK News on how the former prison camps are being converted into ordinary collective farms and mines. You can read it here.

3. Following publication of the report Botswana cut diplomatic ties with the DPRK.  Previous posts on this web page related to Botswana can be found here. I am unaware of any significant relationship between the two countries, though the North Koreans did build Gaborone’s Three Dikgosi (Chiefs) Monument. More in Xinhua here.

4. China has said it will block a referral to the ICC.

 

Share

DPRK food situation improves slightly in 2013 / UNWFP donations at low

February 14th, 2014

According to Yonhap:

The food situation for North Korean people improved slightly last year thanks to increased food rations and more outside support, a report by the World Food Programme (WFP) said Friday.

According to the WFP report, about 46 percent of North Korean families consumed an “acceptable” level of essential nutrients in the October-December period of 2013.

About 17 percent were categorized as having “poor” food consumption, while the rest, about 38 percent, were defined as at the “borderline” level.

The report is based on a WPF survey of 119 North Korean families as well as the food agency’s interviews with North Korean authorities.

The 2013 figures mark a modest improvement from a year ago, when a similar WPF report put only 26 percent of North Koreans in the relatively well-to-do “acceptable” bracket.

About 50 percent were at the “borderline” level, while 24 percent were ranked as “poor” in the report on the food situation in the fourth quarter of 2012.

The better outcome in 2013 is attributable to more generous food rations as well as WFP’s continued nutritive support, the report noted, adding that the daily food rations for each North Korean grew to 390 grams in October last year, before further raising to 400 grams in the following two months.

Fewer North Koreans are expected to suffer food shortages in the first quarter of 2014, the report predicted, citing protein as the most needed nutrient for North Korean citizens.

Although the Yonhap report does NOT cite a source (!?!) I have found it and offer a link below:
Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation (PRRO) 200532 “Nutrition Support for Children and Women” in DPR Korea (October – December 2013)
UN World Food Program
Other WFP docs can be found here.

At the same time, UN WFP assistance to the DPRK was at an all time low in 2013. According to Yonhap:

North Korea received record-low food aid from the United Nations food agency in 2013 due to sluggish contributions from the international community, a media report said Wednesday.

Some 38,000 tons of food were delivered from the World Food Program (WFP) to the impoverished communist country in 2013, some 30 percent of the agency’s target for the year, according to the Washington-based Radio Free Asia (RFA).

It was less than half the amount sent in the previous year and the smallest since 1996 when the agency began helping the North, the report said, adding it was attributable to the WFP’s failure to raise enough funds to achieve the goal.

The amount of the U.N. agency’s food aid to the North has been fluctuating from some 136,000 tons in 2008, 50,000 tons in 2010, 100,000 tons in 2011 and 84,000 tons in 2012, according to WFP data.

Citing its dark fund-raising prospects in 2014, the WFP told the RFA that most of its factories for producing nutrition biscuits for the people there were on the verge of shutting down in February.

The daily food rations for the people in the North came to some 400 grams per person last year, far lower than the minimum recommended amount of 600 grams and the North Korean regime’s target amount of 573 grams, the WFP said.

North Korea’s food production is estimated to have been at about 5.03 million metric tons in 2013, up 5 percent from the previous year, according to the WFP report posted on its website.

The food security situation, however, is still serious, with 84 percent of all households having borderline or poor food consumption, it added.

The North’s leader Kim Jong-un put an emphasis on food production in his New Year’s message last week, saying “all efforts should go for agriculture … in order to build a strong economy and to improve the people’s livelihoods.”

Read the full stories here:
N. Korea’s food situation better a tad in 2013: WFP
Yonhap
2014-2-14

WFP’s food aid to N. Korea hits all-time low in 2013
Yonhap
2014-1-8

Share

DPRK envoy to UN replaced

February 12th, 2014

According to the Korea Times:

North Korea’s United Nations (U.N.) Ambassador Sin Son-ho will reportedly be replaced by Ja Song-nam, a former North Korean ambassador to Britain.

“Sin will return home after being the North’s permanent representative to the U.N. for five years and six months,” a diplomatic source was quoted as saying by local dailies.

He added that Ja, who is familiar with U.S. representatives, is a leading candidate for the position.

Ja, who also worked for the North Korean mission to the U.N., was involved in the family reunions for Korean-Americans and other issues with the United States.

However, the swap is seen as a regular exchange of personnel, given that Sin has represented the Stalinist country since 2008.

Meanwhile, the new ambassador is raising expectations that the so-called “New York Channel” could be re-activated.

It has facilitated talks between Pyongyang and Washington on several occasions, but since Jang Il-hoon replaced Han Song-ryol as the deputy ambassador in July last year, the North’s U.S. diplomatic channel has seen its role diminishing.

Read the full story here:
North Korea’s UN envoy to be replaced
Korea Times
Kang Seung-woo
2014-2-12

Share

Changes made to North Korean education system

February 10th, 2014

At 6th session of the 12th Supreme People’s Assembly in September 2012, the government announced the creation of a new school year–raising the number of compulsory school years from 11 to 12.

You can read more at the link above, but here is how the new system compares with the old:

OLD:
Kindergarten (유치원): 1 year
Primary School (소학교): 4 years [formerly Primary School was called “People’s School”]
Secondary/Middle School (고등중학교): 6 years
Total: 11 years

NEW:
Kindergarten (유치원): 1 year
Primary School (소학교):  5 years
Junior Secondary School (초급중학교): 3 years
Senior Seoncdary School (고급중학교): 3 years
Total: 12 years

The new naming convention has been applied to KCTV, which now regularly refers to 초급중학교 and 고급중학교.

However, it appears that there are also more substantive changes being made to curriculum and these still have a ways to go before they are completely implemented. KCNA has [superficially] discussed some of these in two articles this year. Here they are:

Preparations for 12-year Compulsory Education in Active Progress
Pyongyang, January 27 (KCNA) — Preparations for introducing the universal 12-year compulsory education system are progressing apace in the DPRK.

According to Kim Song Il, a department director of the Ministry of General Education under the Education Commission, the 12-year education system will begin in the country on April 1 this year and go into the full enforcement through a transition stage of three years.

New programs, drawn up in accordance with the 12-year education, will be given to kindergarteners (higher class) and first-year pupils of primary schools and junior and senior secondary schools this year.

The new educational system is aimed to train all schoolchildren to be talents equipped with ample knowledge, sound moral character and good health.

New subjects necessary for secondary schoolchildren will be added in the system. Textbooks are edited with emphasis on preserving the Juche character and national identity, and priority will be given to heuristic method in teaching.

Meanwhile, various kinds of courses for teachers are going on in all provinces, cities and counties to generalize the new teaching methods created in Pyongyang and other areas.

Also, efforts have been made on a nationwide scale to increase the number of teachers and provide school things and other conditions for enforcement of the new education system.

and…

Big Efforts Directed to Improving Education in DPRK
Pyongyang, January 30 (KCNA) — Officials of the Ministry of Higher Education under the Education Commission of the DPRK have striven to bring about a new turn in the education this year.

Attention was paid to improving the contents, methods, conditions and environment of education and measures taken to raise the quality of the heuristic teaching methods and introduce them into education.

The officials are now working to widely introduce the newly-developed simulation software and generalize good experiences throughout the country.

Meanwhile, big efforts have been channeled into reinforcing teachers and applying advanced foreign educational methods to local educational work.

The officials are stepping up the work to perfect educational system in some universities, including Pyongyang University of Architecture and put the university education on an IT basis.

They also channel efforts into renewing educational environment of universities, including Kim Il Sung University and Pyongyang Jang Chol Gu University of Commerce.

And they pay deep attention to supplying students with textbooks and reference books in good time.

Yonhap also reported on Changes being made to the DPRK education system (2014-2-2):

North Korea is promoting a double major system and other reform measures at its universities, a magazine reported Sunday, in what experts here said were efforts to boost students’ freedom and emulate schools in capitalist nations.

“In accordance with demands of the new year, projects to innovate the education systems are being pursued,” said an article published in the Jokuk monthly magazine obtained by Yonhap News Agency. The magazine, whose name means “My Nation” in Korean, is read by North Korean nationals residing in Japan.

“The second major system is being implemented and other reformative measures are also being taken in order to accomplish our education objective of spreading science and information,” said the article titled “How bright North Korean scientists are nurtured.”

The magazine also noted that universities are downsizing their curriculum as part of the education reform efforts.

The undergraduate-level diploma courses for liberal arts and social science at the North’s leading Kim Il-sung University used to be a five-year program, but they were shortened by six months in 2002. They now will be shortened further to a four-year program.

Experts here said such reform measures reflect influences from capitalist education systems, where the double major system is allowed under a four-year undergraduate diploma curriculum.

“North Korea’s push for greater student freedom as reflected in its adoption of the double major system seems to be in line with the development of a market economy in North Korea in which more individual autonomy is allowed,” said Lim Eul-chul, a research professor at Kyungnam University.

North Korea expanded its 11-year compulsory education system by one more year in 2013, matching the 12-year basic education plan used in South Korea.

Share

The status of the cabinet still rising

February 9th, 2014

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
2014-2-9

In this third year of the Kim Jong Un regime, the expanding activities of the Cabinet are drawing much attention. High-level officials of the Cabinet are frequently appearing at public events in North Korea and Kim Jong Un is repeatedly emphasizing the importance of this organ of state power.

North Korean media reported on the February 12th annual mass rally celebrating Kim Jong Un’s Songun leadership at the secret camp in Mount Paektu. The speakers at the event were reportedly Senior Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) Department Deputy (1st vice) Director Choe Hwi, Vice Minister of the People’s Armed Forces Kang Pyo Yong, and Vice Premier Jon Sung Hun.

At the event, Vice Premier Jon delivered a speech and expressed determination to “follow the ideology and policy of our revered leader Kim Jong Un and solidify the monolithic leadership system of the Party in all state economic policy.” In addition, he promised to elevate the status and responsibilities of the Cabinet as “the control tower” of the nation’s economy.

The annual mass rally is held for those to display loyalty to the deceased leader Kim Jong Il (whose birthday is celebrated on February 16). The event is attended by party, state, and military officials. Since Kim Jong Un’s power transition in 2011, it is unprecedented for the North Korean media to cover the speech of the vice premier at this rally.

In addition, a national conference of sub-workteam heads in the agricultural sector (National Conference of Subworkteam Leaders in the Agriculture Sector) opened at the Pyongyang Indoor Stadium from February 6 to 7. At the conference, DPRK Premier of the Cabinet Pak Pong Ju, DPRK Vice Premier and State Planning Commission Chairman Ro Tu Chol, Vice Premier and Minister of Agriculture Ri Chol Man, Vice Premier and Minister of Chemical Industry Ri Mu Yong, and other high-level Cabinet officials were present, demonstrating the rising status of the Cabinet.

In particular, Kim Jong Un sent a letter (“Let Us Bring About Innovations in Agricultural Production under the Unfurled Banner of the Socialist Rural Theses”) to the participants at the conference. In the letter, he stated that “It is essential to enhance the role of the Cabinet and the agricultural guidance organs,” and that the power to make a transformation in agricultural production will depend “largely on the role of the Cabinet and the agricultural guidance organs.”

Furthermore, DPRK Premier Pak is actively conducting onsite inspections of various agricultural and economic related sites. He visited the construction site of the Sepho Tableland on January 29 and made a field survey of the Hwanghae Iron and Steel Complex and Posan Iron Works on February 2.

In a speech in April 2012, Kim Jong Un mentioned plans to strengthen the power of the Cabinet. This policy appears to be ongoing. As North Korea continues to emphasize agriculture as a core economic focus as well as improvement of the lives of the people, the role and the activities of the Cabinet are likely to be reinforced.

Share

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

February 7th, 2014

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.

Share

Mongolia ratifies cooperation agreement with DPRK

February 7th, 2014

According to Xinhua:

The Mongolian government ratified a cooperation agreement Friday with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in the areas of industry and agriculture.

Under the agreement, Mongolia will provide livestock husbandry support to the DPRK and, in return, the DPRK will develop light industry using raw materials and resources of Mongolia, such as sheep wool and coal.

The agreement was finalized during a visit by Battulga Khaltmaa, Mongolian minister of industry and agriculture, to the DPRK last October.

Both countries hope the deal will expand reciprocal economic ties between the two countries.

Mongolia is rumored to be involved with the DPRK’s Sepho Tableland project.

Read the full story here:
Mongolia ratifies cooperation agreement with DPRK
Xinhua
2014-2-7

Share

An affiliate of 38 North