Many in North Korea have been hungry due to political reasons for decades anyway, but now United Nations officials warn that because of the uncharacteristically severe drought caused by El Nino this year, North Korean farmers may not have the rice production they normally do, leaving those who previously had access to food without access to food.
Ghulam Isaczai, the U.N. resident coordinator, told Reuters that rainfall in 2014 was the lowest in had been in thirty years, approximately 60 percent below the normal annual rainfall amounts. In the politically hostile environment that is prevalent in North Korea, this means that citizens there are going to experience extreme hunger, far worse than what they have experienced before.
“We’re extremely concerned with the impact of drought which will affect the crop this year severely. And we might be faced with another major incident of food availability or even hunger. It is going to create a huge deficit between the needs and what is available. This is currently the rice-planting season. Normally they submerge the land almost a week or two in advance. But this year, I’ve seen it myself – they’re doing it in the dry, actually planting rice. So what we’re hearing right now is that they’re switching to maize and corn because that requires less water.”
This is particularly concerning because the people of North Korea are isolated from other countries by their leader, Kim Jong Un, whose viciousness towards his own family has been well documented, with incidents in which he ordered the death of his own aunt and fifteen senior North Korean officials. Electricity to many parts of the country are periodic and sketchy, and many people survive basically on rice. Kim Jong Un, like North Korean leaders before him, has a history of secrecy, brutality, and refusal to let others have access to “his” people – which means it’s going to be tough for any famine rescue groups to get inside North Korea nor feed the hungry.
Many humanitarian aid workers are afraid to enter North Korea even if they are allowed access because of Kim Jong Un’s history of paranoia and political instability.
This is not the first time a famine has been forecast or occurred in North Korea, but it may possibly be the worst one yet. A famine in the 1990s killed as many as 1 million North Koreans, although accurate death records are likely not plentiful in the enclosed country. North Koreans may receive even less aid during this drought-stricken famine due to restrictions on humanitarian workers and international concerns over its nuclear ambitions, which Kim Jong Un has threatened many with, including the United States.
Although the hunger of many North Koreans has been well documented by those who make it out of the country alive, the leader always manages to dine on exotic foods and wine, as well as indulge in the world’s best tobacco, according to workers familiar with his habits.
[photo courtesy of The Guardian]