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North Korea

Resource Development

Resource development in agriculture is a crucial means for increasing agricultural production, recognizing the unfavorable natural endowments--topography, climate, and soil. This development consists of what North Koreans call "nature-remaking" projects. These projects generally increase the quantity of arable land, and rural investment projects, which, in turn, increase the yield of the available land through increased capital and improved technology. "Nature-remaking" projects include irrigation, flood control, and land reclamation. Rural investment projects consist of mechanization, electrification, and "chemicalization"--that is, the increased use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

Despite priority allocation of state funds for heavy industry, North Korea has achieved considerable success in irrigation since the Korean War. Irrigation projects began with paddy fields and then continued to non-paddy fields. Irrigated land increased from 227,000 hectares in 1954 to 1.2 million hectares in 1988. North Korea claimed that paddy field irrigation was completed by 1970. In 1990 there were more than 1,700 reservoirs throughout the country, watering 1.4 million hectares of fields with a ramified irrigation network of 40,000 kilometers, which irrigated about 70 percent of the country's arable land. Water-jetting irrigation of non-paddy fields was introduced in the 1980s. In 1989 construction began on a 400- kilometer canal by diverting the flow of the Taedong River along its west coast.

Rural electrification has progressed rapidly. The proportion of villages supplied with electricity increased from 47 percent in 1953 to 92 percent of all villages by the end of 1961. The process of extending electrical lines to the rural areas reportedly was completed in 1970. The annual supply of electricity to the rural areas reached 2.5 billion kilowatt-hours toward the end of the 1980s.

Mechanization is another agricultural target. By 1984 mechanization had reached the level of seven tractors per 100 hectares in the plains and six tractors per 100 hectares in the intermediate and mountainous areas. The fact that the same tractor ratios are quoted in official pronouncements of the early 1990s probably indicates that there is no further improvement in these ratios, and that the planned target of ten tractors per 100 hectares by the end of the Second Seven-Year Plan in 1984 still has not been met. Given the disappointing output record of tractors in recent years, it is doubtful that the target of ten to twelve tractors per 100 hectares will be fulfilled by the end of the Third Seven-Year Plan in 1993. Nonetheless, North Korea claimed that 95 percent of rice planting was mechanized and that there were 5.5 rice transplanting machines per 100 hectares of paddy fields in 1990.

Chemical fertilizers receive much government attention and investment because of their importance for agriculture. Most fertilizers are produced by the enormous fertilizer plant in H ngnam, which has an annual capacity of 1 million tons. According to official claims, the output of 4.7 million tons in 1984 compared with 3 million tons in 1976, had fulfilled the 1978-84 plan target. Judging from a foreign estimate of 3.5 million tons in 1990, however, production of chemical fertilizers has been deteriorating. The Sariwn Potassium Fertilizer Complex, which has an annual capacity of 3 million tons of potassium feldspar, began construction in 1988 and when completed is expected to raise the country's potassium fertilizer capacity to 500,000 tons, aluminum capacity to 420,000 tons, and cement capacity to 10 million tons per year. In his 1991 New Year's address, Kim Il Sung noted that the complex still was under construction.

By 1977 the "chemicalization" process had increased the average fertilizer application to 1.3 tons per hectare and 1.2 tons per hectare, respectively, for paddy and non-paddy fields, and the 1984 target of two tons per hectare was claimed to have been achieved. The target of the Third Seven-Year Plan is to increase the rate to 2.5 tons. In a 1991 "advisory note" addressing the North Korean economy for the years 1992-96, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the only international agency resident in P'yongyang, warned that the practice of intensive chemicalization has led to land degradation--that is, declining soil fertility, falling organic matter content, erosion and soil acidification, and water pollution, with resulting environmental damage.

The objectives of the "nature-remaking program" launched in 1976 are to complete the irrigation of non-paddy lands, to reclaim 100,000 hectares of new land, to build 150,000 hectares to 200,000 hectares of terraced fields, to reclaim tidal land, and to conduct afforestation and water conservation projects. The reclamation of 6,200 hectares of tideland at Taedong Bay was underway as part of the 1987-93 plan to reclaim a total of 300,000 hectares of tidal land. The largest land reclamation scheme, the West Sea Barrage, involves an eight-kilometer-long sea wall across the Taedong River, and was completed in June 1986. The multipurpose project, five years in construction at a reported cost of US$4 billion, consists of a main dam, three locks, and thirty-six sluices, and reportedly was the longest dam in the world as of 1992.

Data as of June 1993

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