The impoverished, isolated nation of North Korea is suffering a major drought. The official North Korean state news agency reported on the increasingly severe drought on Tuesday, which sent alarm bells through the global aid community regarding worsening food shortages in a country where millions of people already do not have access to adequate nutrition.
Long dry spell throughout Korean Peninsula
Meteorologists note that most of the Korean Peninsula has seen unusually dry weather for quite a while now, and this is particularly problematic for rice farming as this is the time when seedlings are typically transplanted. Of note, rice is a staple food in both North and South Korea.
Global aid agency officials have warned that North Koreans, particularly children, nursing mothers and the elderly will probably see worse food shortages due to the the drought.
The statement from North Korea on Tuesday said that more than 30% of the country’s rice paddies were in danger of drying up. The Unification Ministry of South Korea commented a few days ago that crop yield could drop by up to 20% compared to last year if the drought continued into July and seriously damaged the rice seedlings.
Statement from North Korea
“The worst drought in 100 years continues in the D.P.R.K., causing great damage to its agricultural field,” the Korean Central News Agency noted in a statement released late Tuesday.
Impoverished North Korea extremely vulnerable to drought
Officials at the UN have recently expressed serious worries regarding the lack of rain in Korea. The UN called for an $111 million fund to cover costs for its humanitarian operations in North Korea, noting that close to 70% of the nation’s 25 million people were considered “food insecure.”
Problems including deforestation and soil erosion, and very poor agricultural management, means that North Korea is especially vulnerable to natural disasters such as drought and floods. Crop failures and a disastrous famine in the late 1990s resulted in the deaths of up to three million people. That disaster created another humanitarian crisis as North Korean refugees tried to flee the country to China and South Korea, or just set out on homemade boats to try and reach land anywhere else.
Analysts point out that North Korea is still dealing chronic food shortages, despite improved farming methods instituted with international assistance. Global food assistance agencies have continued put out calls for food aid to Korea every year. The agencies note that more than 30% of North Korean children under the age of five suffer physical malformations due to malnutrition.
Donors backing off due to warmongering government
Also of note, donors have been giving less and less over the last few years as the rogue nation has continued its nuclear weapons program and human rights abuses. Moreover, the fact that the government will not allow detailed monitoring of the distribution of the aid has led some donors to back off, concerned that the aid will be diverted to leader Kim Jong Un‘s clique instead of the desperate poor.
Keep in mind that South Korea used to be the number one source of humanitarian aid to North Korea, but the South reduced its aid significantly since the 2010 sinking of a naval vessel in a sneak torpedo attack by a North Korean sub.