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N. Korean school demands dollars from students unable to engage in farm work

North Korean students are being mobilized to help transplant rice seedlings in South Hwanghae Province, one of the country’s main breadbaskets, as part of the state-mandated farm assistance period. Parents at one school are upset about being asked to pay substantial sums of money for students who cannot help out with the farm work.

“The farm assistance mobilization period was announced on May 3, and students at schools in South Hwanghae Province have been going to the farms since May 6. Parents have complained after a school demanded USD 130 from students who are unable to join the farm work for various reasons,” a source in the province told Daily NK on May 20, speaking on condition of anonymity. 

According to the source, South Hwanghae Province has ordered everyone capable of helping out with the farm work, both children and adults, to leave early enough to arrive at their assigned farms by 7 AM and to work until 6 PM, when they are allowed to return home.

Last year, there were no set working hours, and workers were allowed to return home when their daily tasks were complete. But this year, working hours and daily farm work have been assigned, and the authorities are carefully reviewing the hours worked and the progress made on both an individual and organizational level, the source said.

Currently, students and instructors at not only elementary schools but also middle schools, high schools and universities — and even trainee teachers at universities — have been mobilized and are vigorously applying themselves to agricultural “battles” such as transplanting rice seedlings and planting the spring vegetables.

An average of two or three students in each class are unable to join the farm work because of illnesses and other reasons. One high school in Haeju ordered students who could not join the farm work to pay USD 130 instead.

“The school said it had arrived at USD 130 by calculating wages for 25 days, which is the number of workdays, not including holidays, in the one-month farm assistance mobilization period. But parents complained that the fee is too high,” the source said.

Parents have previously been asked to donate 10 to 20 kilograms of rice for students who have to skip farm assistance, and last year, they were asked to pay USD 50. So they were shocked this year, the source said, when the school asked for USD 130, more than twice last year’s amount.

Given current market prices in North Korea (the dollar is trading for KPW 8,800, and a kilogram of rice costs KPW 5,550), USD 130 is enough money to buy 208 kilograms of rice at the market.

“Affluent parents arrange with the homeroom teacher for their children to skip farm assistance and do extra studies during the mobilization period. But poor parents are dismayed that they can’t afford the school’s demands for skipping farm assistance even though their children are actually sick or aren’t able to attend for other unavoidable reasons,” the source said.

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May 27, 2024 at 05:47AM

by DailyNK(North Korean Media)

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