May 09, 2019 10:35
North Korea's state media is pumping out lachrymose reports on the country's self-inflicted food shortage even as the regime fritters away billions on more weapons tests.
The official Rodong Sinmun daily on Tuesday urged North Koreans to "launch a mass drive to raise herbivorous domesticated animals."
"We need to raise many domesticated animals such as rabbits, sheep and goats to produce milk, fur and leather by feeding them only grass instead of grain."
Late last month state media said that "rice is more precious than gold" and urged increased food production. Normally food shortages are downplayed because most North Koreans know that their regime is to blame for them, but now the North plays up the impact of international sanctions.
The drive to raise "herbivorous" livestock is an ancient doctrine from the 1950s, when nation founder Kim Il-sung was in power. In August 1962, Kim instructed North Koreans to "exchange grass for meat" but the measure was a dire failure.
His son Kim Jong-il implemented the same measure during the famine of the 1990s known as the "arduous march," when millions died due to catastrophic mismanagement of the command economy.
North Korea also launched a nationwide drive to raise rabbits during the early 2000s. After Kim Jong-un came to power in 2012, it attempted to create huge pastures in the southeastern province of Kangwon to raise livestock, but failed.
Studies suggest that the food shortage has grown worse since the second half of 2017, when international sanctions were tightened.
North Korea produced just 4.95 million tons of food last year, which was down about nine percent compared to 2017. A North Korea source said, "Atypical weather, drought, and a shortage of fertilizer resulted in a decreased crop output, while it became more difficult to import food."
But the regime somehow found the money for massive prestige projects in Pyongyang and elsewhere while continuing an expensive nuclear and missile program, and may well be playing up the shortage now to force an easing of international sanctions.
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