North Korean laborers have started fighting over and stealing each other’s excrement in an attempt to meet an impossible quota collection in time to prepare fertilizer for next year’s farming season, a report revealed this week.
Radio Free Asia (RFA), a U.S.-funded non-profit that exposes the grim reality of life in many parts of Asia, reported that the country’s communist authorities have burdened every household with collection quotas for human waste that will be used to fertilize the ground for next year’s harvest.
The quota, ordered by dictator Kim Jong-un in his New Year’s address, ordered that each household should meet a quota amounting to 100 kilograms (220 pounds) per able-bodied citizen. According to local sources, the quota was intentionally unattainable because its true goal was to force citizens to pay fines and bribes for their failure to meet the necessary targets.
The scale of North Korea’s crop is particularly important for ensuring that people do not suffer from famine and malnourishment, a reality that has plagued the country since its inception as an independent communist state.
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, the country went through a mass famine, often referred to as the “Arduous March,” which saw between 240,000 to 3.5 million people die due to lack of nutrition.
Authorities have already set a similar quota for 2020, leading to social unrest and a negative environmental impact as citizens have begun fighting and stealing feces from one another in a bid to avoid paying the fines. Other people have also started digging up soil that they can mix with the feces in an effort to deceive authorities.
“The agricultural authorities are forcing residents to produce eight tons of manure for each household to help the local farms,” one resident from Ryanggang province recently told RFA’s Korean Service. “People in the city are fighting to take over public restrooms. It’s ridiculous.”
“Those who can’t get enough from the restrooms resort to collecting soil to mix with the feces to [make it seem like they have collected enough] manure,” they continued. “When it rains, the holes in the dirt become puddles of filth and are the main culprits of environmental destruction.”
The source also revealed that the quota has presented an opportunity for enterprising merchants who begun selling feces on the black market.
“As the absolute amount of manure is nowhere near the quota, there are even now merchants who are selling dried feces,” the source said. “People put all their human feces outside to dry so it’s all over the city. It’s really hard to breathe when you go out on the streets.”
A separate source told RFA that many people are beginning to resent authorities as they spend so much time trying to meet their quota.
“The people have no time to take care of themselves. It’s so hard to make a living already but there are so many things they want them to dedicate to the state. People are getting resentful,” the second source said.
“Residents complain that this year the authorities have been forcing them to do so many of these missions that people can’t even remember everything,” they continued. “Government officials are exempt from these tasks under their authority, but the powerless people are required to carry them out. These powerless people are the only ones made to suffer.”