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N. Korean leader revs up agricultural reform

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Published : 2014-02-07 20:26
Updated : 2014-02-07 20:26

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is revving up his agricultural reform drive as he moves to eschew the equal distribution of farmers’ harvests and expand incentives for productive workers.

In a letter to agricultural leaders, Kim indicated his intention to accelerate the overhaul of the farm sector, a core element of the so-called “June 28 economic reform measures” that the North introduced in 2012 to shore up its moribund economy.

“The agricultural front is the principal direction which we should concentrate our energy on to help establish a socialist, economically strong nation,” Kim said in a letter unveiled by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency.

“Egalitarianism in the realm of distribution has no connection to socialist principles and has a detrimental impact that would reduce farmers’ productivity.”

Kim also stressed his push for the operation of small-scale farms, alluding to the unproductive and inefficient nature of collective farms.

“So as to increase farmers’ enthusiasm for agricultural productivity, we have implemented small-scale farms. By properly applying this, we should make sure that we yield productive outcomes.”

The 2012 reform package reportedly seeks to give greater autonomy to state corporations in terms of their production items, prices and amounts, while allowing farmers to take in a greater portion of their harvest.

The package, which analysts argue has moved further away from an inefficient socialist system, was aimed at improving economic conditions to keep the loyalty of a people growing disgruntled over an ever-worsening food crisis.

The communist state’s persistent push for nuclear arms led to tighter international economic sanctions against it, which its only major ally China has participated in. With Seoul sharply reducing its aid to Pyongyang due to its unrelenting provocations, the North’s economic hardships have further worsened.

The fledgling leadership in the North apparently believes economic reconstruction is a top priority as it thinks it has already established an “ideologically, militarily strong” nation with its communist governing principles and nuclear program.

“Kim is now pressed to show to the public his economic achievement, particularly in the agricultural sector and this is the reason why Kim is pushing for a major reform in the farming system,” said Cho Bong-hyun, a senior researcher at the Industrial Bank of Korea.

Park Hyeong-jung, a senior research fellow at the Korea Institute for National Unification, raised skepticism over Kim’s push to increase incentives for hardworking farmers.

“The biggest challenge to his push for agricultural reform is how to maintain food stockpiles for the military. The military has so far taken away farmers’ harvests and then there is little to be doled out to the farmers,” said Park.

“Unless there is any measure to secure enough food for the military, what Kim talks about for the agricultural reform seems to be out of touch with the reality.”

By Song Sang-ho (sshluck@heraldcorp.com)

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