In preparation for the 6.28 Reforms, the North Korean state is beginning to make some changes. Since the breakdown of the Public Distribution System, the workers on agricultural cooperatives have been more focused on their private plots to produce food for themselves than working on the state sanctioned collective land. This was seen as a problem by both Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, but with vast portions of the population left to fend for themselves, the state could not force the rural communities to abandon their source of subsistence living. Instead soldiers were often deployed to complement food production in these areas.
Now, the state is starting to enforce collectivization once again – according to DailyNK, the Ministry of People’s Safety (MPS) is punishing worker absenteeism and checking on products and appropriate fertilizer use. It has been reported that people have already been sentenced to labor reeducation if found in violation by the authorities.
It is most likely that the state is preparing for the agrarian reforms that are due to come into effect in October. Although the size of the collective unit is to be reduced and an unprecedented share of the production has been promised to the workers, there is a pervasive distrust among the workers themselves whether the government will really uphold these policies. After all, previous reforms with similar promises were never successfully implemented. From Pyongyang’s perspective, the success of this reform is of paramount importance and see the people’s dedication to private food production as a hindrance to the state-driven program.
Meanwhile, the South Korean Ministry of Unification opened to the possibility of providing flood relief aid to North Korea. A small delegation from South Korean NGOs are already in North Korea for aid talks and will be providing assistance as early as next week upon approval of the items by the South Korean Ministry of Unification.
This breakthrough comes as Typhoon Bolaven moves its way into the East China Sea, with Okinawa forecasted to face winds near 112 mph early Sunday. South Korea is also bracing for heavy rains. North Korea’s current recovery efforts are the consequences of heavy rains and a typhoon earlier in the summer – although food production was reported to have not been affected as the crops were not submerged in standing water for an extended period of time. However, if Bolaven makes it to North Korea, the battered southern provinces may face a compounded ecological and pathological crisis.