North Korea Mobilizes Military to Plant Crops

War Hysteria Won't Get in the Way of Spring Planting

The hysteria surround imminent nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula has been shrugged off by South Koreans, as well as residents of Guam. The same seems to be true in North Korea, where residents are reporting nothing like the panic the official government warnings would imply.

The rhetoric seems far afield of official policy as well, for in spite of predictions of an all out war breaking out at any moment, North Korea is mobilizing its military not for a clash of civilizations, but for the spring planting.

Every year millions of North Koreans, active military and reservists, are sent to the farmland around the region to plant rice, cabbage, and other crops. One defector from North Korea’s military commented on the annual exodus to the farms, saying “North Korea can’t farm without the army,” and that the army’s “main job is malnutrition eradication.”

The grim reality is that North Korea’s disastrous collective farming policies have left the nation pretty much always on the brink of starvation, and as Western nations revoke food aid to spite the government what food they do have is disproportionately distributed to the army. Even with a military and reserve army that amounts to nearly a quarter of the population being used as extra farmers, North Korea never has anything resembling an abundant harvest.

The silver lining of all of this, however, is that North Korea’s government clearly isn’t taking the threat of war nearly as seriously as its public statements claim, as they wouldn’t be transitioning from the battle field to the planting field if a war was really going to break out any moment.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.