Harvests in North Korea are expected to miss targets this season after authorities ordered a rush on construction projects ahead of celebrations marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Korean Workers’ Party last week, according to sources inside the country.
Farmers were mobilized to join crews racing to complete a host of projects ahead of the Oct. 10 events marking the founding of the party in 1945 and were unable to fully harvest their crops, despite a directive to finish field work by the anniversary, the sources in North Hamgyong province said.
In order to avoid punishment, collective farms in North Hamgyong reported the harvests complete when they were well short of the goal, one source told RFA’s Korean Service.
“The harvest in Hoeryong city [bordering China’s Jilin province] is only halfway completed … but [the collective farms] falsely reported to central authorities that it was done by Oct. 8,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Local party chiefs and the collective farms under them would face punishment for non-compliance if they were unable to meet the harvest deadline, the source said, citing an announcement made at a September meeting for the rural management committee workers of North Hamgyong’s city and county levels.
“So it became common practice to make false reports to the central authorities,” he said.
Hoeryong city is expected to produce a substantial yield of between 4.7 and 6 tons of corn this season, as the region did not face much damage from drought or flooding. But without a completed harvest, it is unclear how much of the crop normally set aside as rations for farmers would have to be used to make up for any shortcomings, the source said.
The source was also unable to confirm whether the directive extended beyond North Korea’s northern alpine region to the rest of the country, where collective farms grow rice—a crop typically harvested later in the year.
A second source from North Hamgyong told RFA said farmers in the region were the ones most likely to suffer the consequences of the push by authorities to complete construction projects for the Workers’ Party anniversary.
“There is likely to be a big difference between the ‘expected harvest yield’ [based on average production during previous harvests] and the ‘real harvest yield,’” said the source, who also declined to provide his name.
“So false accounts to the central government about a completed harvest based on the ‘expected harvest yield’ could result in reduced rations for farmers” as local authorities struggle to meet the numbers they reported, he said.
The sources criticized central authorities for causing the fall harvest to be delayed by focusing manpower on construction projects for the anniversary, warning that crops that have yet to be gathered and threshed are now facing the threat of damage from seasonal rains and frost.
“Mobilizing all farmers to prepare the event for 70th anniversary of the Workers’ Party set back the fall harvest, and the delay will ultimately harm the farmers in the end,” they said.
Reports in recent months indicate that North Korea’s regime badly miscalculated the country’s readiness to mark the founding of its ruling party.
In September, sources told RFA that handlers had failed to pay several months of salary to North Koreans sent to China to bring in cash for the regime under the pretext of securing funds for the anniversary.
A month earlier, sources said the regime issued a directive for each household in the nation to pay around 40 yuan (U.S. $6.30) for People’s Army soldiers who had trained for a military parade and to help build new construction projects ahead of the celebration.
Also in August, sources told RFA that authorities in North Hamgyong were punishing misdemeanors—such as riding bicycles without bells—with punitive labor duty as they raced to complete unfinished development projects before Oct. 10.
Reported by RFA’s Korean Service. Translated by Ahreum Jung. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.