While some reports suspect that the problem of food shortages is increasing in North Korea, it was stated that many people in the country may have died of starvation.
Experts explained that it is difficult to predict the situation because the North has closed its borders and that there is no data on mass deaths from hunger in the country.
Professor of Far East Studies Institute of Kyungnam University in Seoul, the capital of South Korea. Lim Eun-chul said, “If (North Korean leader) Kim Jong-un can’t solve the food problem fundamentally, he cannot move forward with his nuclear program steadily because public support will be shaken.”
Lim said the Labor Party’s Central Committee’s upcoming plenary meeting “will be held to discuss the problem of food shortages and solidify consensus among them”.
“North Korea faces worst food challenge since Kim Jong-un came to power”
Kwon Tae-jin, a senior economist from the private GS&J Institute in South Korea, shared the information that North Korea with a population of 25 million needs about 5.5 million tons of grain to feed its people, and stated that they generally have a deficit of 1 million tons every year.
Stating that they balanced half of 1 million tons by unofficially importing grain from China to close the deficit, Kwon noted that imports from China may not have been possible due to the restrictions on cross-border trade due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
“I think North Korea is facing the worst food problem since Kim Jong-un came to power,” Kwon said.
“Unknown number of deaths from starvation, but not as serious as the famine of the 1990s”
Noting that the current food shortage is unlikely to cause mass deaths, Kwon said that food is still available in the markets despite the high prices.
Koo Byoungsam, spokesman for the South Korean Ministry of Unification, said an unknown number of North Koreans died of starvation, but not as severe as the 1990s famine.
Ministry officials noted that since most of the grain harvested last year has not been consumed yet, the current food problem is not due to famine but to distribution problems.
It is known that the ruling Workers’ Party Central Committee will hold a general assembly meeting in the coming days in North Korea, and although the agenda of the meeting is not clear, it has been said before that “Serious changes need to be made in agricultural development”.