North Koreans Forced to Register Livestock for Military Leather Supplies

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A farmer uses an ox-pulled cart to transport wood in Wonsan, Dec. 2011
A farmer uses an ox-pulled cart to transport wood in Wonsan, Dec. 2011

Households in North Korea will soon have to register their livestock with the authorities and sell the skins from their slaughtered animals to the government so that the military can have more leather for soldiers’ belts and boots, according to sources in the country.

Under a new “Domestic Animal Reporting System” to be launched across the country, North Koreans will face imprisonment or fines if they do not provide the skins to the authorities after slaughtering their cows, goats, pigs, and sheep, the sources said.

Households will lose out on income because they will receive lower prices for their leather from the government than they normally get from selling it on the black market, multiple sources said.

Families will also be left with less meat to eat because they will be required to provide hides from animals they normally avoid skinning to preserve the amount of meat, they said.

“All households must report the sort and number of their domestic animals to the village office, and the North Korean authorities will collect the leather of animals slaughtered,” a source in Chagang province in the north of the country told RFA’s Korean Service, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The new system was reportedly discussed at a recent executive government session.

Low rates

Another source, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said authorities would pay the equivalent of U.S. $0.02 per kilogram (2 pounds) for the leather, much lower than the U.S. $9 per kilogram rate it sells at on the black market.

North Korean families have complained about the low rates, the source said.

“They don’t hesitate to blame the government, saying this system amounts to looting by the government,” he said.

Other sources reported individuals will be fined up to the equivalent of U.S. $50—an amount comparable to 100 times an average workers’ monthly wage—while state farm managers who do so may be sentenced to up to three years in prison.

The source in Chagang province said North Korean families do not usually skin pigs, sheep, and goats in order to preserve more of the animals’ meat, but will have to do so under the new system.

Military demand

Authorities were introducing the system to fulfill growing demand for leather from the military, the source said.

The military has been in need of leather for shoes and belts issued to soldiers as part of their uniforms, according to a source in Yanggang province, also in the north of the country.

The military prefers the items to be made out of leather because it trains soldiers to boil the material and eat it if they are facing starvation in emergency conditions, the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“In recent years, the North Korean authorities have provided the military with shoes and belts made of artificial leather, and the military has been very discontented with these artificial items which cannot be used as food in case of emergency,” the source said.

Reported by Sung-hui Moon for RFA’s Korean Service. Translated by Doeun Han. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.





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