North Korea’s Food Shortage

Food shortages are nothing new in North Korea, the nation has for a long time had to deal with them, and the last few years have been no different. Moreover, with the pandemic going on, as well as international sanctions over its nuclear weapon testing, and natural disasters, the food crisis only got worse. Food prices have spiked and about 40% of North Korea’s 26 million people are undernourished according to the United Nations (UN) World Food Program.

The President of North Korea, Kim Jong-Un, addressed the situation at a meeting with senior leaders, saying how “the people’s food situation is now getting tense.” Kim put some of the blame on the agricultural sector for not being able to meet its targets due to typhoons causing flooding, and that this time he is calling for every grain of rice to be secured and for more efforts to be put into farming. Kim also said that the strict coronavirus regulations played a part in the shortage as well, and apologized for the various sacrifices citizens had to make to prevent an outbreak. In April, he also asked officials to “wage another, more difficult Arduous March in order to relieve our people of the difficulty, even a little.” The Arduous March, also known as The North Korean famine, was a period of time between 1994 and 1998 when the nation experienced a great famine, an estimated 3 million people died of starvation.

Kim Jong-Un at North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang, in April of 2021 (Photo provided by Korean Central News Agency/AP)

North Koreans are now being told to “tighten their belts” for the next few years as it’s expected the shortage will go on until about 2025. However, many citizens aren’t too happy about cutting back on consumption, with some saying that Kim isn’t fully aware of how serious the situation really is. “Some of the residents are saying that the situation right now is so serious they don’t know if they can even survive the coming winter. They say that telling us to endure hardship until 2025 is the same as telling us to starve to death,” said a resident from the city of Sinuiju. The authorities have tried to downplay the situation, citing how hard the COVID-19 pandemic affected other countries, but people aren’t buying it, especially since the nation has not officially reported a single coronavirus case.

North Korea is slowly starting to open up its borders after closing them during the pandemic and is also accepting foreign aid. Chinese exports have also been slowly increasing as China serves as an important source of food, fuel, and fertilizer. North Korea has also been promoting the consumption of black swans as an alternative food source, stating that the bird’s meat is not only delicious but also has health benefits. One black swan center has already been built on North Korea’s east coast, but it’s still unclear if they’ll build any more or how exactly they’re going to distribute the meat.


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