North Korea Table of Contents
Efforts to increase agricultural production include a variety of experiments with land tenure, farm organization, and managerial techniques. Following a typical communist pattern, land initially was redistributed to tillers in a sweeping land reform in 1946 soon after the communists took over the country. By 1958 private farming, which ironically was given a boost by land reform, was completely collectivized.
The Land Reform Act of March 1946 had, in the remarkably short period of one month, abolished tenancy and confiscated and redistributed more than 1 million hectares of land. The government reallocated most of the land formerly owned by the Japanese colonists and all properties exceeding five hectares to individual farming households. The number of peasant holdings increased dramatically, but the average size of individual holdings dropped from 2.4 hectares to 1.4 hectares. It was difficult to determine the effect of such massive land distribution on production because the Korean War interrupted farming in the early 1950s. The reform, however, was quickly replaced by a drive for collectivization.
During the 1954-58 transition period, farm holdings went through three progressively collective phases: "permanent mutualaid teams," "semisocialist cooperatives," and "complete socialist cooperatives." In the final stage, all land and farm implements are owned collectively by the members of each cooperative. The pace of collectivization quickened during 1956, and by the end of that year about 80 percent of all farmland was cooperatively owned. By the time this process was completed in August 1958, more than 13,300 cooperatives with an average of eighty households and 130 hectares of land dotted the countryside. Only two months later, however, the government increased the size of the average cooperative to 300 households managing 500 hectares of land through consolidation of all farms in each ri, or ni (village, the lowest administrative unit) into one. As a result, the number of cooperatives decreased but their average size increased. Judging from the timing of the consolidation of farms, this sudden decision to increase the size of the cooperatives appears to have been influenced by the introduction of communes in China. Newly consolidated farms established and operated such nonagricultural institutions as clinics, rest homes, day nurseries, schools, and community dining halls.
Each cooperative farm elects a management committee to oversee all aspects of farm activity, including retail services and marketing, and the local party committee closely supervises its management. The party committee chairman usually is the vice chairman of the management committee. Within the management committee, an auditing unit wields the most power and controls the management of farm accounts, work points, cooperative shops, and credit facilities. Auditors report to the plenary session of the management committee as well as to county authorities.
The basic unit of production and accounting on the cooperative farm is the work team, which is further divided into subteams. Most cooperatives have several agricultural work teams and at least one animal husbandry work team. In some cooperatives, work teams or subteams specialize in vegetable farming, sericulture, fruit cultivation, aquaculture, or other activities. Work is allocated to teams and subteams according to physical ability. Most able-bodied men and women are assigned to rice growing units, which require the most effort. Wages are distributed in both cash and kind.
State farms are considered the more ideologically "advanced" agricultural organizations. Both the means of production and output are state owned, and farmers receive standardized wages on the basis of an eight-hour workday rather than shares of production. Managers of state farms, appointed by the state farm bureau of the national-level Agricultural Committee, run the farms as if they were industrial enterprises. State farms often are coterminous with a county and are model farms that experiment with new cropping methods or specialize in livestock or fruit production. Their larger scale allows for greater mechanization, and their output per worker is undoubtedly higher because their operations are more efficient than those of the rural cooperative farms. State farms attempt to integrate all county agricultural and industrial activities into one complementary and integrated management system. Utilizing about 10 percent of the country's total cropland, they contribute about 20 percent of total agricultural output. Kim Il Sung often stresses the need for transforming agriculture from cooperative ownership to "allpeople 's" or state ownership, but as of 1993 no action had been taken to change cooperative farms to state farms.
Dissatisfied with low levels of agricultural production, the government developed a new administrative structure to perform for the rural cooperatives what the management of state farms is supposed to have accomplished. The county Cooperative Farm Management Committee, established in 1962, took over all the economic functions of the county people's committees. The new committee was to bring agricultural management closer to the ideal "industrial method," by "the strengthening of technical guidance of production and the planification and systematization of all management activities of the enterprise."
The composition of the management committee varies from county to county, but the staff usually consists of agronomists, technicians, directors of county agricultural agencies, and, where appropriate, forestry and fishery agents. The function of the committee is to set production targets for the cooperatives within its jurisdiction, allocate resources and materials necessary to achieve these goals, and monitor the payment of wage shares and the collection of receipts. County managers report to their counterparts at the provincial-level Rural Management Committee, who in turn direct all their reports to the General Bureau for Cooperative Farm Guidance at the national-level Agricultural Committee.
In spite of lagging agricultural output, there have been no significant changes in the agricultural organization and management system in place since the early 1960s. Furthermore, as exemplified by Kim Il Sung's exhortation to strengthen the application of the Ch'ongsan-ni Method of farming, no fundamental changes in the agricultural incentive system have been introduced. The strategy for achieving greater agricultural production continues to emphasize "industrialization" of agriculture through increased irrigation, fertilizer use, and mechanization while maintaining the existing administrative, management, and incentive systems.
Data as of June 1993
North Korea Table of Contents