DPRK Premier Pak Pong Ju was on Thursday reported to have admitted to past failures in production and management by workers in the country’s agricultural sector, in a statement carried by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
In comments made to the “4th National Meeting of Activists in Agricultural Field” in Pyongyang discussing “drawbacks made by some farms and units in the past,” North Korea’s top economic official was reported to have said that some had “failed to conduct seed production and management in a responsible way.”
Some in the agricultural sector, he continued, “fell short of doing proper strain distribution in line with climatic conditions and characteristics of fields.”
Pak’s speech also hinted at ongoing issues in the implementation of a range of reforms to the DPRK agriculture sector made under Kim Jong Un.
These reforms are intended, in part, to bolster incentives in the North Korean agricultural sector and allow farms to keep what they harvest beyond the mandatory state quota.
But some farms and work units, the North Korean Premier stressed this week, “could not display to the full the advantage of the field-responsibility system within the framework of the sub-workteam management system.”
Pak’s comments this week, one expert said, suggest that these reforms may be facing hurdles in their implementation.
“The North Korean Premier highlighted technical issues with the implementation of the Field Responsibility System, namely seed-related, and other management issues that have meant that the benefits of the FRS have not been fully realized everywhere,” Peter Ward, who writes frequently on the North Korean economy for NK News‘s sister site NK Pro, said.
“Clearly, managerial competence and skill is an issue the North Koreans are very interested in,” he continued. “Improving the quality of cadre performance has been a theme under Kim Jong Un… I have seen full-length articles on the subject in technical journals like Economic Research.”
North Korea is nearly 40% rural, with an estimated 37% of its population engaged in agricultural work.
It is notoriously under-developed, with the country frequently reported to suffer from food shortages and chronic malnutrition.
The UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) in October reported that over 10 million North Koreans, close to 40 percent of the population, are “undernourished and in need of support, with one in five children stunted due to chronic malnutrition.”
These issues, Ward said, were reflected in Pak’s comments this week.
“The stress on seeds… can be read as seeking a technical solution to the country’s food problem,” he said.
The DPRK Premier’s comments also come in a year which has seen the North Korean leadership openly express its frustration with economic officials for slow progress.
July saw state media report that Kim Jong Un was “extremely furious” at the DPRK Cabinet – which Pak heads – for its lax management of a project he visited as part of a series of on-site inspections in a provincial area.
Kim’s comments came after observing poor management at a series of eight units he visited in North Hamgyong Province, the KCNA said, in a rare flurry of negative state media reporting at the time.
In a “fierce tone,” the leader was reported to have attacked the “barefaced behavior” of officials responsible for national economic development for their failure to inspect the construction sites.
The DPRK leader also last month expressed disappointment with progress at the country’s marquee tourism project at Wonsan-Kalma.
Featured image: DPRK Today