Many North Koreans are upset about having to bear the construction costs of the Yonpo greenhouse farm

Kim at the groundbreaking ceremony for Yonpo’s greenhouse. (Rodong Sinmun-News1)

Many North Koreans are very unhappy about having to bear the cost of building a large-scale greenhouse in Hamju County, South Hamgyong Province.

A source from South Hamgyong Province told Daily NK on Friday that the Yonpo greenhouse farm, as the complex is known, is even bigger than the greenhouse farm previously erected in Chungpyong district, in North Hamgyong Province. However, he said local residents were bearing a huge burden with localities tasked with funding construction.

North Korea had previously announced plans to establish a modern vegetable farm on the grounds of a military base in Yonpo district, Hamju county, to improve the diets of local residents. He even promoted the project as one of the most important construction policy tasks of the year.

In fact, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attended the dedication ceremony for the farm on February 18. He said the Central Committee decided to turn a major military base on the eastern frontline into a modern vegetable farm. He explained that a new agricultural district would take shape with new housing in various forms for around 1,000 households and unique public buildings such as schools, cultural halls and service facilities.

Yonpo Greenhouse Farm is being built on a former military air base, as is Chungpyong Vegetable Greenhouse Farm, which was completed two years ago.

According to the source, North Korea plans to build houses for about 970 families and 130 public buildings and production structures on about three million square meters of land. Kim has called for this massive construction project to be completed by October 10, the founding day of the North Korean party.

In her groundbreaking speech, Kim emphasized her desire to see the project completed by the October 10 deadline with calls for “Yonpo Creative Spirit” and “Fiery Wind of Yonpo.” He also called on authorities in South Hamyong Province to “actively join forces” to build the farm.

Kim said that even though the military was tasked with building the farm, South Hamgyong Province would benefit from the project, so provincial authorities should contribute as much as they can. He called on the province to ensure sufficient supplies of aggregates, plant shelterbelt forests for the coastal complex and provide other forms of support to promote the construction of the farm.

As a result, South Hamgyong Province started collecting building materials through local organizations and businesses.

The source said that upon the establishment of the construction headquarters, provincial organizations and enterprises received quotas of construction materials and supplies needed for the production of greenhouse equipment. He said local residents bear the entire cost of procurement, and government agencies and businesses would have to shell out around $30 per employee in “absolutely mandatory” procurement contributions.

According to the North Korean market exchange rate and market prices regularly determined by Daily NK, 30 USD was equivalent to about 190,000 KPW as of February 20, or about the cost of 40 kilograms of rice. This is a considerable sum for North Koreans struggling economically due to the closure of the China-North Korea border in the wake of COVID-19.

The source said that for employees to meet their quotas, a family of four would have to starve for two months. He said that with locals facing not only drudgery on the construction site, but also material and financial contributions, the burdens of the Yonpo Greenhouse Farm project are increasing.

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