Our first morning in the DPRK, we awoke early to take a walk by the Daedong River and noticed this EU truck parked in front of our hotel. During our visit, the EU announced that 10M Euros of food aid would soon be distributed to North Korea through the WFP (World Food Program)! Our translator had worked closely on this transaction and shared the good news with us when she received the text message. While the current food shortage is not as serious as during the Arduous March in the mid-1990s, food aid should not be used as a weapon in negotiating foreign policy. Rigorous monitoring of the food distribution will be conducted by the WFP through 400 visits per month to food distribution sites (3–4 times per food distribution site).
In an August 8, 2011 report from Voice of America, Russian Foreign Minister Sergie Lavrov has announced that Russia will send 50,000 tons of grain to North Korea. In addition, in an August 11, 2011 AFP report from Seoul, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon noted that humanitarian aid should be given to North Korea regardless of “political considerations or any other calculations” and emphasized the importance of saving human lives.
We also visited the organic Chungsali Collective Farm which is a model for collective farming. The Chungsali Collective Farm was built in 1997 during the Arduous March. In addition to the farm itself, there is a farming university which focuses on three areas of study: agriculture, farm machinery and livestock. We had lunch with several of the women from the farm and enjoyed freshly harvested potatoes, cucumbers, and corn. The fact that we were served potatoes and corn rather than rice was an indication of the current food shortage.
Our time concluded with a visit to the Daedong Fruit Orchard built by the KPA (Korean People’s Army) in 2008. The orchard produces 30,000 – 50,000 tons of apples per year, comprising 98% of the orchard’s harvest. Pears, plums, cherries and peaches make up the rest of the orchard’s harvest. In following the collective model of farming, the orchard workers live on-site where schools have been provided for their children. The orchard is outfitted with three buses to transport workers to various sites on the 1,000 hectare (2,131 mi2) farm. Nearby is a pig farm which provides manure to be used as fertilizer.