In early 2016 manager Kim Song Ung of the mushroom production base under the Ryongsong District People’s Committee saw that production at the base was not satisfying the increasing demand for mushroom. He found that the conventional production processes including spore production, substrate preparation, fungi inoculation and incubation had taken months and required a large production area. This had created a series of difficulties—varying growth speed of fungi according to seasons and declining productivity owing to pollution.

He sometimes visited other mushroom farms to inquire into the state of their production and sometimes studied data till late at night in the Grand People’s Study House. In the course of this, he began to pay his attention to the fact that in his unit manual labour had only been mechanized and the production processes were all based on folk methods. A new method was needed. He continued thinking, and came to an idea that it would be great if the period of culture process was reduced. He intensified research, and discovered that deep culture (liquid culture) is quicker in fungi multiplication than solid culture. But it was still no more than a theory with knotted problems.

However, Kim Song Ung decided to challenge the conventional methods. The employees supported him, and they made a determination to present more than one innovative idea aimed at increasing mushroom production. One of them presented a way of integrating the processes—from spore production to substrate production—into one successive process, and another employee presented an idea of not using heat-resistant plastic bottles, which meant economizing on much foreign currency every year. Now, they became able to increase mushroom production scores of times while reducing the production cycle by one-fifth.

By late 2016, the new mushroom production method was introduced not only in the base but in many other mushroom production bases, and began to prove effective. The new technology was granted a DPRK patent. Residents in Ryongsong District call them “mushroom doctors.” Kim Song Ung says, “In fact we never thought we were doing some kind of research work. We just worked with a mind to supply the people with a larger amount of mushroom.”

Kim Chol Ung