A land reform law enacted in 1946 confiscated the holdings of
big landowners and distributed them to poor farmers and tenants.
The consequences of this compulsory redistribution were as much
social as economic. Many rich farmers fled to the United Statesoccupied half of the peninsula south of the thirty-eighth
Rural collectivization, carried out in three stages between
1945 and 1958, had profound implications for a society consisting
mainly of farmers living in small hamlets scattered throughout
the countryside. The new class of individual landholders--whose
holdings could not exceed five
chngbo (see Glossary) in
lowland areas, or twenty chngbo in mountainous ones--had
little time to enjoy their status as independent proprietors
because the state quickly initiated a process of
collectivization. In the initial stage, "permanent mutual aid
teams" were formed in which landholders managed their own land as
private property but pooled labor, draft animals, and
agricultural tools. This stage was followed by the stage of
"semisocialist cooperatives," in which land, still privately
held, was pooled. The cooperative purchased animals and tools out
of a common fund, and the distribution of the harvest depended on
the amount of land and labor contributed. The third and final
stage involved the establishment of "complete socialist
cooperatives" in which all land was turned over to collective
ownership and management. Cooperative members were paid solely on
the basis of labor contributed.
The 1959 edition of the North Korea Central Yearbook
reported that approximately 80 percent of all farmers had joined
socialist cooperatives by December 1956 and that by August 1958
all had joined. A land law passed in 1977 stipulated that all
land held by cooperatives would be transferred gradually to state
ownership or "ownership by the entire people."
The state encouraged the merging of cooperatives so that they
would coincide with the ri, or ni (village). The
number of cooperatives with between 101 and 200 households
increased from 222 cooperatives in 1954 to 1,074 cooperatives in
1958. The number of cooperatives with between 201 and 300
households increased from twenty cooperatives in 1955 to 984
cooperatives in 1958.
The merging process had important implications for kinship
and family life: it broke down the isolation of the single hamlet
by making the socialist cooperative the basic local unit and thus
diluted p'a ties. The traditional kinship system and its
strict rules of exogamy worked best in the isolation of hamlets.
With the passing of the hamlets, the traditional kinship system
and its strict rules of exogamy were seriously undermined.
Data as of June 1993