June 22, 2015 09:50
North Korea is suffering the worst drought in a century this year. Neighboring countries like China and Japan are paying keen attention to potential effects of the drought on the regime.
The official [North] Korean Central News Agency admitted the seriousness of the situation last Tuesday.
It said rice seedlings are dying out in around one-quarter of fields where they have been planted, and up to 80 percent in some areas like the traditional "bread basket" of South Hwanghae Province. It is rare for the regime to admit the scale of a disaster openly.
The Korea Meteorological Administration here backed the estimate, saying arable western areas like Hwanghae and Pyongan provinces have seen less than half the normal rainfall in 2014 and 2015.
"The drought will probably worsen further as the rainy season is expected late this summer," a weatherman said.
Last Thursday, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman offered food aid to the North if there is a request from Pyongyang. China's official CCTV aired footage of parched paddy fields and dying crops in the North.
Pundits said the regime will suffer if this year's food production falls drastically as a result of the drought.
"The expression 'worst drought in a century,' was first used during the famine in 1995-1998," said Prof. Nam Sung-wook of Korea University. "This shows that the regime considers the current situation equally serious. Assuming the North produces an average of 4 million tons of food a year, it will likely experience shortage of about 1 million tons next year."
A researcher at a government-funded think tank here also said discontent with the regime will mount if the shortage continues and there could be a mass exodus of refugees.
But Chinese aid could throw the regime a lifeline to avoid instability and mass defection.
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