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North Korea: Farming reform may allow farmers to keep more of their crops

Suggested reforms in North Korea might allow farmers to keep more of their crops instead of handing them over to the government.

North korea farm reforms keep crops september 2012Enlarge
A North Korean woman works on an apple farm near Pyongyang. Reports are circulating that North Korea may implement limited economic reforms, including letting farmers keep the surplus of their crops to sell or barter. (PEDRO UGARTE/AFP/Getty Images)

Proposed reforms in North Korea might allow farmers to keep surplus food to sell or barter, marking a significant economic change under leader Kim Jong Un.

Currently, farmers must turn everything over to the government except what they keep for their families.

Farmers informed The Associated Press of the new rules, which they said were relayed in meetings last month and should take effect in the upcoming fall harvest. The AP noted that the Ministry of Agriculture has not announced any changes, though they have been widely rumored.

Reuters cited a source with close ties to Pyongyang and Beijing saying that the reforms were part of an effort to boost agricultural output in a country that is struggling to feed its population of 24 million.

"Peasants will have incentive to grow more food. They can keep and sell in the market about 30-50 percent of their harvest depending on the region," the source told Reuters.

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The BBC noted that a United Nations report from July estimated that two-thirds of North Korea's population suffers from a chronic shortage of food.

North Korea's parliament is also due to meet on Tuesday amid speculations of economic reforms, Agence France Presse reported. Media reports in South Korea suggest the meeting is to approve limited reforms that would boost farmer productivity and increase incentives for workers.

"Reforms are always risky in a closed totalitarian country but Jong Un appears to be confident that his leadership is now stable enough to enforce a new system," Yang Moo-Jin of the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul told AFP.

AFP noted that limited reforms were introduced in 2002 to revive the economy, but were rolled back just three years later as the resulting boom was seen as a threat to government control.

Kim Jong Un openly acknowledged economic struggles in North Korea when he took office earlier this year, the AP noted. He pledged to raise the standard of living, though the severe weather in July destroyed crops, causing a bigger shortfall.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/120924/north-korea-farming-reform-may-allow-farmers-keep-more-the