North Korea Facing ‘Severe Food Shortages’, Seoul Says

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has opened a major ruling party meeting to discuss agricultural development, state media in the isolated country, which faces “serious” food shortages, reported on Monday. Seoul. 

This type of meeting is usually convened only once or twice a year, but this new ongoing plenary session comes just two months after the previous one, which also focused on agricultural issues.

This unusual frequency of meetings devoted to agriculture is fueling speculation that North Korea may currently be suffering from food shortages.

This Sunday’s plenary meeting aimed to “analyze and oversee (…) the program of rural revolution in the new era, and decide on the important tasks (to be done) immediately and the urgent tasks”, reported the North Korean official agency. KCNA. The participants “unanimously approved the agenda items and entered into discussion” on the subject, the KCNA said without giving further details.

Highly vulnerable to natural disasters

According to South Korea’s Ministry for Unification, deaths from starvation have been reported in North Korea. “We believe the food shortages there are severe,” Koo Byoung-sam, a spokesman for the South Korean ministry, said last week, adding that Pyongyang appears to have requested aid from the World Food Program.

North Korea, nuclear-armed and subject to multiple sanctions because of its weapons programs, has long struggled to feed itself. It is highly vulnerable to natural disasters, including floods and drought, due to a chronic lack of infrastructure but also deforestation and decades of poor public management.

This situation has worsened with the state-mandated border closure since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, which was only recently eased to allow some trade with neighboring China. The country has been periodically hit by famines, one of which, in the 1990s, killed hundreds of thousands of people – some estimates even number in the millions.

“Supply disruption?

According to North Korea website 38 North, the country is currently experiencing the worst food shortages in decades. The Pyongyang regime is forced to face “a complex humanitarian emergency whose heart is food insecurity”, according to an assessment published by this site in January 2023.

An analysis of rice and corn prices globally and in North Korea shows ‘significant’ price divergence since the start of 2021, meaning food is much more expensive in the North. which “signals a disruption” in supply, adds 38 North. But in a commentary recently published by North Korea’s main state newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, the regime said the country must continue to stick to a “self-sufficient economy” as part of its fight against “imperialists”.

Source : Letemps

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