Search

 

Cablegate: More Bleak Conditions in North Korea

VZCZCXRO4908
RR RUEHCN RUEHGH RUEHVC
DE RUEHBJ #6932/01 3050641
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 010641Z NOV 07
FM AMEMBASSY BEIJING
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3186
INFO RUEHOO/CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE
RUEHIN/AIT TAIPEI 6714
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 0387
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 1624
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW 8832
RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC
RUEHRC/USDA FAS WASHDC
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 1884
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BEIJING 006932

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR IO/EDA DRAGNICH, EAP/K, INR/EAP
NSC FOR WILDER, TONG

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ETRD ECON EAGR PGOV CH KN
SUBJECT: MORE BLEAK CONDITIONS IN NORTH KOREA

Summary
-------

1. (SBU) Summary: The agricultural situation in North Korea
continues to deteriorate according to UN FAO experts briefing
Beijing-based diplomats. Although the spring harvest was better than
usual, food shortages are still expected. Three major agricultural
disasters hit the DPRK in 2007, including a foot-and-mouth disease
outbreak, floods, and a pine caterpillar infestation. Local
citizens are actively tending private gardens and expanding onto
hillsides causing serious erosion while government co-operatives
struggle with energy shortages. Senior officials given the
opportunity to attend agricultural technical training in China
(courtesy of FAO) return surprised to learn their own country is
20-30 years behind in development. An apparent decrease in
Pyongyang's population is likely due to a rise in Kaesong employment
and urban workers heading to the fields to harvest. End Summary.

--------------------------------------------- -
Agricultural Production Hit By Three Disasters
--------------------------------------------- -

2. (SBU) North Korea has been hit by three disasters this year,
according to FAO experts giving a recent briefing to Beijing-based
diplomats: a foot-and-mouth outbreak resulting in the culling of
large herds of emaciated cattle; the August floods; and a pine
caterpillar infestation of over 100,000 hectares of forest. While
there is no imminent damage to crops there is cause for concern that
the entire pine forest protecting crops from slope runoff rains may
be destroyed. An FAO expert surveying the damage reported that
years of indiscriminate use of toxic broad-spectrum pesticides had
killed off many natural predators (Note: In addition, the toxic
pesticide was being applied without any human safety precautions.
End note.)

3. (SBU) A test project using a pheromone based product has been
conducted with the hopes of using this method next year. The North
Koreans had frantically tried to eradicate the infestation by
hand-picking and burning 300 tons of caterpillars (approximately 10
percent of the population). In an entrepreneurial twist, farmers
asked FAO experts whether these specific caterpillars were edible.
If they were not palatable to the North Koreans, they wanted to
export them to neighboring countries.

--------------------------------------------- ---------
Energy Shortage, No Land Tenure Risks Erosion Disaster
--------------------------------------------- ---------

4. (SBU) Many North Korean factories are idle because they lack
sufficient energy, according to the FAO experts. In order to keep
employment high, factory workers are heading out to the country to
farm marginal lands on hillsides. The North Korean government
considers these areas woodland that will be replenished. There are
no signs that land tenuring is a current government priority,
according to an FAO representative who has been living in Pyongyang
for several years. People have no incentive to manage the slopes
properly or engage in labor intensive terracing. Heavy rains are
washing away much of the topsoil, and on a recent FAO field trip,
extensive silting of waterways from hillside runoff was observed.

--------------------------------------------- -------
Tending One's Garden While the Cooperatives Lie Idle
--------------------------------------------- -------

5. (SBU) North Korean citizens are currently allowed a minimum of
100 square meters of private gardens. Based on casual observations,
the gardens appear to be in much better shape than the cooperative
farms, which do not have energy to fully maximize production.
Workers often head out in the morning to "clock-in" at their
mandatory co-op jobs only to while away the hours until they
"clock-out" at the end of the day. On the weekends, they tend to
their private gardens, growing corn, potatoes, cabbage and other
vegetables that can be sold in the burgeoning food markets.

--------------------------------------------- --
Observations of Decreasing Pyongyang Population
--------------------------------------------- --

6. (SBU) In response to a question from a Beijing based diplomat on
reports that the population in Pyongyang has declined recently, an

BEIJING 00006932 002 OF 002


FAO representative currently residing in Pyongyang gave two
explanations. Part of the observed decline is likely due to
expansion of employment in the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC).
Factory workers are also heading out to the country to harvest plots
of land cultivated during the lengthy periods of down-time due to
the energy shortage.

--------------------------------------------- -
Al-Jazeera and CCTV-English, When the TV Works
--------------------------------------------- -

7. (SBU) On a recent annual inspection visit by FAO personnel to
Pyongyang the television in one of the hotel rooms featured two
English stations: Al-Jazeera and China Central Television English
Edition (CCTV-9). This was a marked improvement over previous
visits. One FAO representative noted, however, that his television
was inoperable during the entire stay.

--------------------------------------------- ---
Some Success in FAO Agricultural Training Abroad
--------------------------------------------- ---

8. (SBU) The FAO Agricultural Rehabilitation and Recovery Program
provides technical support for training opportunities and special
emergency operations in the DPRK with an annual budget of
approximately USD 3 million (proposed budget of USD 5.5 million in
2008). Sweden is the largest donor, contributing USD 3.4 million in
2006. To date, much of the training has been in China for cost
reasons. These opportunities are mostly afforded to senior DPRK
agricultural officials who are accompanied by less proficient
"minders". Initially the North Koreans objected to this training
location, saying that there was nothing to learn from the Chinese.
After returning to the DPRK, they said they were 20-30 years behind
China. Even this type of mind opening is a success, commented one
FAO personnel.

9. (SBU) The FAO presence in North Korea has been transitioning from
emergency relief to long-term recovery/rehabilitation. South Korea
has been pushing for this shift in approach. Program support is
focused on double cropping, soil fertility management, horticulture,
school gardens, coastal fisheries and avian influenza prevention.
Members of the FAO briefing team stressed the need for continued
in-country presence to manage these efforts, emphasizing that with a
significant reduction in Pyongyang-based NGO representative offices,
many of which have relocated to Beijing, the UN FAO has one of the
last remaining international presence offices in the country.
Sweden, as primary donor, supports the continuation of this
presence, they noted.


Randt

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
World Headlines

 

Ramzy Baroud: Year in Review Will 2018 Usher in a New Palestinian Strategy

2017 will be remembered as the year that the so-called ‘peace process’, at least in its American formulation, has ended. And with its demise, a political framework that has served as the foundation for US foreign policy in the Middle East has also collapsed. More>>

ALSO:


North Korea: NZ Denounces Missile Test

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters has denounced North Korea’s latest ballistic missile test. The test, which took place this morning, is North Korea’s third test flight of an inter-continental ballistic missile. More>>

ALSO:

Campbell On: the US demonising of Iran

Satan may not exist, but the Evil One has always been a handy tool for priests and politicians alike.

Currently, Iran is the latest bogey conjured up by Washington to (a) justify its foreign policy interventions and (b) distract attention from its foreign policy failures.

Once upon a time, the Soviet Union was the nightmare threat for the entire Cold War era – and since then the US has cast the Taliban, al Qaeda, and Islamic State in the same demonic role. Iran is now the latest example…More


Catalan Independence:
Pro-independence parties appear to have a narrow majority. More>>