A massive famine struck North Korea in the 1990s with a death toll of more than one million. While grain production has nearly doubled since the famine, many agricultural scientists and international humanitarian aid liaisons believe it is not enough to sustain the nation. According to the World Health Organization, two out of every five North Koreans were undernourished in 2017 and 28 percent of North Korean children are stunted in growth due to a “largely irreversible outcome of inadequate nutrition and repeated bouts of infection during the first 1,000 days of their life.”
After Kim Jong Un took power in 2011, the government is more willing to admit its administrative shortcomings in perpetuating food insecurity across the country. In 2018, Former Premier Pak Pong Ju, a member of the ruling Korean Worker’s Party and longtime member of the political elite hierarchy, admitted an agricultural crisis had formed a chokehold on the North Korean economy. In a report, he mentioned that “Some have failed to conduct seed production and management in a responsible way and also fell short of doing proper strain distribution in line with climatic conditions and characteristics of fields.” With lower food production, many locals are going hungry and the poorest are affected the most.
North Korea has many tactics underway in order to improve agricultural conditions in their nation. Here are three strategies for improving agriculture in North Korea.
- A 5-Year Strategy – North Korea’s 5-year strategy for improving agricultural development is already underway. The plan includes increasing fruit, vegetable and mushroom cultivation along with improving domestic animal breeds. Furthermore, North Korea plans to upgrade fishing boats and farm equipment in order to use modern scientific methods. As 2018 came to an end, North Korea has already improved plant species with high-yield, created agricultural machinery and scientific farming, increased greenhouse farming production and increased livestock and development of fish aquaculture. They are also in the second stage of constructing the South Hwanghae Province waterway.
- Juche Farming Method – The Juche Farming Method uses the nation’s government style ideals to give farmers a plot of land and a house to live in on collective farms in exchange for the food they produce. Additionally, in just six months after the method was implemented, 650 greenhouses were built across the country allowing for four to five harvests a year. Without greenhouses, locals say the soil is too salty and not sufficient enough for growing crops. Salt increases the acidity in plants which results in poor harvests.
- International Aid – International Aid can improve agricultural development in North Korea significantly. The American Friends Service Committee’s Publication and Advocacy Coordinator, Daniel Jasper, says his organization is working on multiple techniques to improve North Korea’s agriculture. For example, one of the organization’s projects is rice cultivation and the introduction of plastic trays. The project has been very successful, raising yields 15 to 20 percent in some farms. North Korea is also interested in joining institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). These institutions would allow North Korea to gain additional international aid.
Agriculture in North Korea has greatly improved since the famine in the 1990s, but the nation’s mountainous geography still makes farming difficult. With 11 million North Koreans malnourished, it is vital that the nation continues to correct the problems within its agricultural industry.
– Maura Byrne