North Korea is currently facing a severe food shortage, which is causing a lot of worry among its people. Some sources predict that there could be deaths due to starvation. According to some experts, the country's situation is the worst it has been since the famine in the 1990s, which resulted in the deaths of many people. Trade data, satellite images, and assessments from the UN and South Korean authorities all indicate that North Korea does not have enough food to meet the basic needs of its population. Even if the food were distributed fairly, which is unlikely in North Korea, people would still die of hunger.
South Korean officials have agreed with the assessment that famine is causing deaths in their country, but proving this assertion is challenging due to North Korea's isolation. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization has estimated that before Covid, more than half of North Korea's population was undernourished, and the situation has likely worsened due to the country's isolation. Kim Jong Un recently held a four-day meeting to discuss improving North Korea's agricultural industry and increasing state control over it.
The present problems are attributed to Pyongyang by experts, as it has intensified its tendency towards isolation during the pandemic by erecting barricades on its border with China and limiting trade across borders. Additionally, it has allocated resources towards carrying out an unprecedented amount of missile trials in the previous year.
Lina Yoon, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, reported that North Korea has implemented strict measures at the border, including a ban on travel and commerce, which includes official trade that was previously restricted. Additionally, border guards have been instructed to shoot on sight. As a result, unauthorized commerce, which was an important source of goods for ordinary North Koreans in domestic markets, has been halted. In 2022, China will send 53,280 kg of cereals in grain or flake form and approximately 56 million kilograms of wheat or maslin flour to North Korea, according to data from Chinese customs.
Due to the border closures, there has been a significant reduction in Chinese goods being smuggled into North Korea by paying off border guards. Experts believe that the issue stems from years of economic mismanagement, and Kim Jong Un's efforts to tighten state control will exacerbate the situation. Yoon argues that North Korea needs to reopen its borders, resume commerce, and import products to improve its agriculture and feed its people. However, the North Korean government prioritizes isolation and repression, and the emergence of an entrepreneurial class may threaten its authority. Additionally, Kim remains focused on missile launches and rejects assistance from neighboring countries.
According to South Korea's Foreign Minister Park Jin in a recent CNN interview, North Korea needs to accept humanitarian supplies from South Korea and return to the negotiation table to address the food scarcity issue. The prime minister of South Korea, Han Duck-soo, believes that North Korea's policies are worsening because Kim Jong Un is trying to pressure the government's food supply, which could lead to problems.
The Ministry of Unification in Seoul reports that North Korea prioritizes its missile and nuclear programs over providing for its people. Vice Spokesman Lee Hyo-Jung suggests that North Korea could have avoided its annual food shortage if it had used the money spent on missiles to purchase food.
Seoul's rural development agency reports a 4% decrease in North Korea's agricultural output in 2021 compared to the previous year, mainly due to floods and adverse weather conditions. Researcher Lucas Rengifo-Keller is concerned that this, combined with the regime's "misguided approach to economic policy," could worsen the already dire situation of the population. He highlights that North Korea's populace suffers from severe malnutrition, with high rates of stunted growth, and that it would not take much to push the country into famine.
North Korea Food Shortage Worsens Since COVID, VOA News, February 25, 2023
North Korea's food shortage is about to take a deadly turn for the worse CNN, Fri March 3, 2023
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