Index – Foreign – Mass starvation threatens North Korea

Concerns are growing about chronic food shortages in North Korea, with several sources this week citing possible deaths from starvation.

According to Lukas Renjevo-Keller, an analyst at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, trade data, satellite imagery, and assessments by the United Nations and South Korean authorities all indicate that the food supply has “fallen below the minimum necessary to meet human needs.”

According to Renjevo Keller, even if they are divided equally the food – which is unthinkable in North Korea, where the army and the elite are the priority – “there will still be deaths from starvation.”

South Korea recently declared what it believes to be famine cases in some areas of the neighboring country. Although the country’s isolation makes it difficult to provide solid evidence to support the claims, few experts question the assessment.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, nearly half of North Korea’s population was malnourished even before the Covid pandemic. Three years of closed borders and isolation made the situation worse.

In a sign of desperation over the situation, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un convened a four-day meeting of workers this week to discuss reforming the country’s agricultural sector, calling for a “fundamental reform” of the country’s agriculture and economic plans, as well as strengthening state control over agriculture.

However, according to various experts, Pyongyang is only responsible for the problems. During the pandemic, the country stepped up its efforts to isolate itself, erecting a second layer of fencing along a 300-kilometer stretch of its border with China, and reducing the small cross-border trade it was able to access.

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Many experts say the root of the problem lies in years of mismanagement, and that Kim Jong-un’s efforts to increase state control are only worsening the situation.

The money goes to missile tests

Last year, North Korea conducted more than 70 missile tests, including several intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) tests, in violation of relevant UN Security Council resolutions.

As Renjevo Keller has pointed out, it is not in the country’s leader’s interest to see the informal trade of the past re-emerge in this dynamically governed country. “The regime does not want a thriving business class that could threaten its power.”

Then there are the missile tests, which Kim is still obsessed with. The driver also consistently rejects offers of help from his neighbour.

South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin A CNNIn an interview last week, he said that “North Korea can only get out of this problem if it returns to the dialogue table, accepts our humanitarian offer to North Korea, and makes a better decision for the future.”

Prime Minister Han Duxue told CNN on Thursday that the situation is “getting worse, and our intelligence shows it, because it’s clear that their policy is changing…the president wants to make the food supply dictated by the state.”

Seoul’s Unification Ministry noted that Pyongyang continues to focus on its missile and nuclear programs rather than feeding its people.

The result could be disastrous

The Seoul Rural Development Agency believes that crop yields in North Korea last year were 4 percent lower than the previous year due to floods and bad weather that hit the country.

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Renjevo Keller fears that the culmination of these effects, along with the regime’s flawed approach to economic policy, could have a disastrous effect on an already suffering population.

This population has been chronically malnourished for decades, the country is underdeveloped, and all indications are that the situation is getting worse, so it certainly won’t take much for the country to slide into starvation.

He said.

(Cover photo: Shoppers in a grocery store in Pyongyang on September 11, 2019. Photo: Kyodo News/Getty Images)