August 18, 2023 13:06
More and more North Koreans are dying from starvation and the number of people fleeing the dictatorship has tripled, the National Intelligence Service here said Thursday.
NIS officials told the National Assembly Intelligence Committee that the North Korean economy has been shrinking and its GDP contracted 12 percent from 2016 until last year.
The spy agency estimates that at least 240 North Koreans starved to death between January and July this year amid a worsening food shortage, more than double the average of 110 per year over the past five years.
"The number of defectors dropped sharply after the regime shut the border in the pandemic, but this year, some 90 people have escaped from the North so far," People Power Party lawmaker Yoo Sang-beom said quoting the NIS. "That is about three times the number of last year. More are expected to flee once the border with China reopens fully."
But the NIS said that brokerage fees for people smugglers have risen sharply, so will be no significant exodus.
According to the NIS, North's millennial generation is increasingly outspoken in complaining about and even protesting against leader Kim Jong-un, his family and policies.
"NIS officials reported that the regime has launched a temporary taskforce at each regional party committee to ferret out malcontents," Yoo said.
To tighten economic controls, the regime is banning private grain sales in open markets and distributing military rations, which has caused grain prices to skyrocket.
In a bid to alleviate its economic difficulties, the regime smuggled out some 1.7 million tons of coal and 580 kg of gold and carried out online theft worth US$180 million in the first half of this year alone.
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