Not much is known – but soldiers help out in the fields, and dictator Kim Jong-un has called on people to tighten their belts.
All about this: In North Korea, food seems to be running out. There are various reports of an existing or imminent famine. The deciding factor will be how this year’s harvest will turn out. The United Nations estimates that North Korea will now experience food shortages for at least two to three months. Governor Kim Jong-un sends the army into the fields to help harvest rice and corn.
Famine is an almost chronic problem in North Korea.
These are the reasons: “Famine is almost a chronic problem in North Korea,” says North Korean expert Rüdiger Frank of the University of Vienna. The problem was exacerbated by the loss of North Korea’s trading partners in the early 1990s following the collapse of communist states and the loss of cheap oil supplies. In addition, there is the weather that can be the deciding factor for food shortages. Frank said it was true that there had not been widespread famine in North Korea for a long time. “But there is a fairly chronic shortage of supplies there.”
The situation is very tragic: Frank says it’s hard to get an accurate insight into the isolated country. Because of the pandemic, North Korea is becoming more isolated than in normal times, and diplomats are leaving the country and not returning. “We don’t have anyone on our side who can tell us what the situation really is.” This is why one relies on rumors more than usual. However, the truth is that autumn is not a time of famine because the harvest season has just entered. The risk is greatest from spring to early summer, before new food has been harvested after the often harsh winter.
So the inward and outward reference: Dictator Kim acknowledged the tense food situation and called on people to tighten their belts — which he’s done before, so Frank. “Kim wants to show his people that he understands the problems and urges them to persevere.” In addition, it sends a signal to the international community: it was only recently that China and Russia called for a partial lifting of international sanctions over the North Korean nuclear program at the United Nations Security Council. “So it could be a concerted action,” Frank thinks.
Kim indicates to people that he takes care of the problem.
This is the reason why Kim is firmly in the saddle: The food crisis does not weaken Kim’s position, says North Korean expert Frank. “He makes himself part of the solution, so to speak, by making people understand that he will take care of him.” In addition, food shortages occur in North Korea again and again. However: “At the beginning of 1989, the situation in the GDR was still considered stable – and less than a year later the wall was gone.” By the way, according to Frank’s experience from previous trips, people in North Korea stand behind the regime’s position: there is no point in eating enough food and losing its independence. Accordingly, there is also support for the nuclear and missile program.
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