Kim Jong Un said the food situation in his country was getting difficult. His statement is considered an acknowledgment of the ongoing challenges in North Korea, after a year of enormous damage from floods, the corona plague and ongoing sanctions against the country.
As he opened a session of the Korean Labor Party’s assembly, Kim urged world leaders to solve the problem of food shortages, which he said was due to a shortage of agricultural produce that Saks attributed to a decline in summer crops following typhoons this summer. This can be learned from reports from Pyongyang’s state media released on Wednesday.
“The agriculture sector has failed to fulfill its grain production plan,” Kim said, according to reports.
The North Korean leader’s assessment reflects independent assessments of food stability under Kim’s regime. The poor country has a food shortage estimated at one million cubic tons of food this year, a shortage that means an average North Korean citizen eats 445 fewer calories a day than the 2,100 calories recommended by the United Nations, according to a January report from the US Department of Agriculture.
This year, North Korea could face a shortage of up to 1.35 million cubic tons, according to a report by the Korea Development Institute, a research institute funded by South Korea. The institute’s report estimated the state’s food requirements at 5.75 million cubic tons per year.
The Constituent Assembly of North Korea was organized to review progress in key policies in the country. Officials will discuss ways to deal with the “current international situation,” Kim said, without mentioning the U.S. by name. Strengthening the regime’s economy and fighting the Corona remain top priorities, according to state media.
Despite the struggles, few experts think North Korea is on the verge of a drought, as it was in the 1990s. Over the years, Pyongyang has sought food aid and the country has been fighting hunger for a long time. Two years ago, in the midst of one of the most severe droughts in decades, North Korea blamed international sanctions for bringing about a food crisis.
The food situation in North Korea is poor, though before satellite imagery of the country’s agricultural areas is examined, it will be difficult to verify the severity of the crisis, said Gu Myung-hyun, a senior fellow at the Essen Institute, a research institute in Seoul. Kim’s remarks do not constitute credible enough evidence to assume that there is indeed a severe food shortage, he said.
Not just food shortages: Korea is also facing an economic crisis
Food shortages come at a time when North Korea is facing a broader economic crisis due to the corona plague and ongoing U.S. sanctions. The country suffered a sharp decline in the economy last year, economists say, as the economy contracted at a rate that may have reached 10%. If this figure is correct, then this is the largest decline since the 1990s.
The plague, and the failed Pyongyang response, are the main reasons for the current recession in the country, economists say. And while North Korea’s food troubles have yet to show signs of drought, Kim told his partners in April to prepare for another “grueling march” – a concept that sparks a long period of famine in the 1990s.
The border with China is closed
Early last year, North Korea closed its border with China, its main economic backer, and reduced all meaningful trade with the rest of the world. North Korea’s ability to sell goods outside its borders has already been under pressure because of US-led sanctions, which have tightened between 2016 and 2017.
The annual trade volume between North Korea and China reached about $ 2.8 billion in the months before the epidemic, according to the International Union of Korea, a body in Seoul that monitors data on North Korea based on data from Chinese consumers.
In 2020, the trading volume dropped to $ 540 million, according to union data. Under Kim’s rule, which came to power in 2011, annual trade between the two countries peaked at more than $ 6 billion in 2013 and 2014, according to the union.
Since March, trade with China appears to have returned slightly, the group said, though not to pre-plague levels. Much of the increased activity also includes North Korean imports of essential agricultural products from China, suggesting that the Kim regime has increased trade to obtain the most basic raw materials for subsistence, government experts in Pyongyang say.