Officials from key departments of North Korea's ruling Korean Workers' Party are being mobilized to help with work on farms, ending their traditional exemption from labor in the fields, North Korean sources say.
Drawn from the Party's important Organization and Guidance Department and Propaganda and Agitation Department, some are now assigned to a cooperative farm in the North Korean capital Pyongyang, a local source said.
"On May 8, the Korean Workers' Party declared a period of 'mobilization' to run from May 10 through June 10, and sent senior officials to support the Changchon Vegetable Cooperative Farm in Pyongyang," RFA's source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Because this farm had been visited twice for 'guidance' by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un-once in June 2014 and once in June 2015-it was decided that high-ranking officials from important Party departments would have to begin working there, the source said.
"Officials from these departments had originally been excluded from rural mobilizations during the farming season, but this year all department of the central Party have been required to 'voluntarily' support the campaign, regardless of rank."
"In reality, it is only mandatory for each department to send at least one person," he said, adding, that officials assigned to the farm are well aware that the Party is watching and evaluating them, "so they tend to participate faithfully in their daily routine."
Party members are finding work on the farm physically demanding, though, and are confirmed at the end of their work days to have completed their tasks by using their connections to acquire needed fertilizers and films for greenhouses, the source said.
"The deployment of central Party officials to a cooperative farm in Pyongyang, and not to a rural area, appears to be aimed at averting the risk of new coronavirus infections among those who work closely with the Highest Dignity," the source said, employing an honorific used to describe Kim Jong Un.
Meanwhile, Party officials sent to work at the farm keep a careful watch on their speech and activities, "even during their days off," the source said.
"They are aware that central Party inspectors and new coronavirus quarantine workers, who have been instructed to keep an eye on them, are monitoring their movements day and night," he said.
Lower-ranking officials from the North Hamgyong Provincial Party Committee have meanwhile been assigned to work at a local cooperative farm, with the requirement that they report on their daily routine to the provincial Party branch and on the progress of the rural mobilization campaign to the Party's central committee, a source in North Hamgyong said.
These officials are obsessed with power and bureaucracy, though, and are not doing much actual work on the farm, the source said, also speaking on condition he not be named.
"If they came to support farming, they should be eager to help with farm work, and not act like managers. The farmers are complaining because the provincial officials just spend their time arguing with workers on the farm management committee," he said.
Reported by Sewon Kim for RFA's Korean Service. Translated by Leejin Jun. Written in English by Richard Finney.
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