United Nations Security Council sanctions, the COVID-19 closure of its border with China, and a 2020 drought followed by typhoon rains are combining to create severe food shortages in North Korea, with concerns growing about widespread malnutrition and a potential repeat of the country’s 1990s famine.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un acknowledged the problem at a June meeting of the Workers’ Party’s Central Committee.
The people’s food situation is now getting tense,” Kim said according to North Korea’s state media, adding that the agricultural sector had failed to meet its grain production plan because of the damage by last year’s typhoons.
Kim also mentioned the effect of COVID-19.
“It is essential for the whole party and state to concentrate on farming,” the North Korean leader said.
Hazel Smith, an expert in North Korea from SOAS University of London, who spent the best part of 1998 to 2001 inside the country developing agricultural data analysis for UNICEF and the World Food Programme, painted a stark picture of what she knows is happening.
Children under seven, pregnant and nursing women, the frail, the elderly … these are the people that are starving, right now,” said Smith, whose previous research took her all over the country.
North Korea required 5.2 million tonnes of food for 2020, yet produced only four million tonnes, leaving a shortfall of more than one million tonnes shortfall, the Korea Development Institute in Seoul said in a report last month.
Even with imports, North Korea will suffer a food gap of 780,000 tonnes for 2020-2021, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization estimated in a country report in June, outlining the effect of a drought in early 2020, followed by a succession of typhoons and heavy rains in August and September that severely hampered food production.
“If this gap is not adequately covered through commercial imports and/or food aid, households could experience a harsh lean period between August and October 2021,” the FAO said.
The United Nations children’s agency warned of the looming dangers in its most recent update on the country. Here