May 03, 2019 09:30
Officials from the UN's World Food Programme and other agencies visited North Korea last month to inspect the food situation there, VOA reported Thursday. They are expected to make a recommendation on food aid this month.
The inspection started after North Korea's representative to the UN Kim Song made a plea for an urgent delivery of 1.4 million tons of food in February.
The North produced an estimated 4.95 million tons of food last year, down about nine percent from 2017 and below 5 million tons for the first time in a decade.
The main reasons were floods and drought, while the regime spent all its spare resources on weapons development and prestige construction projects in the capital and elsewhere.
International sanctions also had their part to play. Food production has not fallen to levels seen during the great famine of the mid-90s, but sanctions and astronomical defense spending have kept the regime from securing other food sources or money to buy them.
"It seems that demand is increasing because imports from China are dwindling significantly due to sanctions," said Prof. Nam Sung-wook of Korea University.
Yet so far rice prices in open-air markets are stable. Ryu Dong-ryeol of the Korea Institute of Liberal Democracy said, "It's possible that the regime made a plea for food aid to persuade the international community that the sanctions are starving people."
A Unification Ministry official here said the government is not considering direct aid, but added Seoul and Washington "are in favor of continuing support to improve North Koreans' humanitarian situation."
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