In the News – N.Korea Tries Out Agricultural Reforms

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In the News – N.Korea Tries Out Agricultural Reforms

North Korea has embarked on agricultural reforms, reducing some collective farming units and increasing cash crops the farmers can sell in the market.

According to an informed source, basic farming units in some areas have been cut down from the present 10 to 25 people to family units of just four to six. These and other agricultural measures were apparently announced late last month.

The source said a set amount of land, farming equipment and fertilizer have been distributed to family units, and they have been given greater rights to sell their crops in order to motivate them. Until now, the regime allowed farmers to sell only surplus crops raised on communal plots, but output always fell below targets.

“The measures appear to allow North Korean farmers to hand over a set ratio of their crops to the state and dispose of the rest as they wish,” said one high-ranking defector from the North.

North Korea set up a collective farming system in 1958, but the structure virtually collapsed due to devastating famines during the mid-1990s. The regime now apparently allows some factories to sell surplus output as well.

“Since last week, North Korean broadcasts have announced that leader Kim Jong-un has decided to undertake economic reforms to radically improve the lives of the people,” the Daily NK, a website specializing in news about North Korea, reported quoting a source in Chongjin. The area, on the North’s border with China, was one of the worst-affected areas during the famine.

“Agricultural reforms are being carried out on a trial basis in three counties, and 30 percent of grain output will be allotted to individuals,” the source said.

Some see the measures as a precursor to full-fledged economic reforms by North Korea, but a South Korean intelligence source was more cautious. “To my knowledge, no other developments have been detected yet other than the agricultural reforms being implemented in certain areas,” the source said.

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In the News – Seoul central bank: North Korean economy logs 1st growth in 3 years on agricultural boost

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In the News – Seoul central bank: North Korean economy logs 1st growth in 3 years on agricultural boost

SEOUL, South Korea — The central bank in Seoul says North Korea’s economy grew for the first time in three years, thanks to a boost in agricultural production.

The Bank of Korea in South Korea said Sunday that the North’s gross domestic product grew 0.8 percent in 2011.

The bank credits favorable weather and more use of fertilizer in boosting crop production in North Korea. It estimates the North’s gross national income at $28 billion – compared to $1 trillion last year for South Korea.

The bank provides annual estimates of the North’s economy by analyzing data gathered by South Korean government agencies. Pyongyang has not publicly released detailed economic data for decades.

The United Nations says North Korea continues to face chronic food shortages affecting two-thirds of the population.

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In the News – N. Korea steps up fight against drought

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In the News – N. Korea steps up fight against drought

SEOUL, May 27 (Yonhap) — North Korea is stepping up its fight against drought as a prolonged dry spell in the rice-planting season could deal a blow to food production and negatively impact the rule of the its new young leader.

The impoverished nation’s main Rodong Sinmun newspaper, state television and other media outlets are urging citizens to utilize every possible source of water to irrigate rice paddies, while also offering advice on how to help other crops overcome drought.

Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Friday that western regions of the North have received little rain for a month since April 26. If no rain falls by the end of the month, it will be the driest May for most western regions of the nation since 1962, the agency said.

KCNA reported Saturday that many people have been mobilized across the nation to minimize damage from the drought and that the cabinet and the agriculture ministry are putting together emergency measures.

The North’s premier, Choe Yong-rim, visited farms in the western Hwanghae Province on Saturday to check the situation, KCNA said. Choe was quoted as urging farmers to finish rice planting successfully, saying resolving food problems is one of the country’s most important issues.

New leader Kim Jong-un has stressed the importance of food production in the two personal statements he has made to the people this year. A bad harvest could deal a blow to his regime as he tries to consolidate his grip on power.

The North has relied on outside food aid to feed its 24-million population since natural disasters and mismanagement devastated its economy in the mid-1990s.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – Doom and Gloom Down on the Farm

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In the News – Doom and Gloom Down on the Farm

North Korea’s agricultural sector has been in serious decline for years. Among the reasons commonly cited are a lack of fuel and parts for machinery and poor weather conditions. However, the country also suffers a shortage of able farm workers in rural areas. Not only that; those young adults who are working the farms have been stunted by years of undernourishment.

A North Hamkyung Province source told Daily NK today about comments he heard in conversation with a farm manager in recent weeks. According to the man, “It is not something new that only the elderly and infirm are left in the rural areas of North Korea, but it is annoying that in recent years those young adults designated to work here have not only decreased in number but also do not even work properly.”

“At this time people are needed to sow seeds, organize the rice fields and plow; however, because people are mandatorily dispatched to workplaces they just spend their time doing as little as possible and can even be a headache because they steal corn,” he went on.

According to the source, in the past exemplary high school students volunteered to go out and join farm projects; however, now farms are maintained by the labor of the remaining small number of students who either cannot go to college or enter the military, cannot bribe their way out of it and have not run off to urban areas.

The source said, “For a while younger adults were ‘the rocks of the farm’ and ‘farming shock troops’ but now they are a nuisance. In the past, the young adults threw up slogans such as ‘serve the Party with rice’, but it is hard to expect anything from people who have not been educated properly.”

Not only are they lazy, but young laborers between 17 and 30 arriving on the farm are also precisely those effected most by the economic crisis; born in the mid 90s or infants at the time, they spent their childhood then and are now between 120cm and 130cm in height, far, far below average.

The source concluded, “These people are nearly 30, yet they look like little children who have been put to work.”

 

Original article can be found here.

An Inside Look at North Korea

North Korea is the most reclusive country in the world today. The government goes through painstaking measures to make sure that nobody knows what exactly is going on behind its doors. What’s worse is that they go through even more painstaking measures to make sure nobody inside knows what’s going on outside its borders. But every once in a while, you’re presented with an opportunity to step behind the curtains and see North Korea through the eyes of a North Korean. Actually, scratch that. The North Korean government would never allow that. But in the least, we’re sometimes able to see North Korea through the camera lens of a foreigner, whether it be tourists or news agencies. What we see through such pictures may not be exactly what North Korea really is, but at least we get an idea.

I was reading through the Washington Post a few weeks back and came across some photos of North Korea that I thought were stunning. These photos are the work of David Guttenfelder, the chief photographer for the Associated Press Asia, and I’d like to share them with you.

This is the Pyongyang Airport. I guess this would be the first thing you see of North Korea if you enter by plane. I read an article about Air Koryo, North Korea’s official airline, and it was ranked as the worst airline in the world. It is the only airline in the world that has been rated with 1 star, with the reason being a lack of safety. Continue reading