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North Korea has faced food insecurity for nearly 30 years, with the termination of Soviet fuel subsidies in 1991 causing problems for the country's mechanized agriculture. Compounded with a period of droughts and floods were major food shortages in the 1990s.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un expressed concern about the country's food security situation at a meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party’s Central Committee plenum on Tuesday.
“The people’s food situation is now getting tense as the agricultural sector failed to fulfill its grain production plan due to the damage caused by typhoons last year,” Kim said, his remarks quoted by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in an article published on Wednesday.
Kim asked party officials to urgently "take a positive measure for settling the problem."
Kim said that the difficulties caused by the nation’s emergency response to the coronavirus pandemic necessitated a "prolonged struggle for keeping afloat the overall economy and for providing food, clothing, and housing for the people" and enable the country to "cope" economically "with the unfavorable condition of the emergency anti-epidemic work."
Kim stated that while the "subjective and objective conditions and environment" had worsened since the start of 2021, “the country’s economy has shown improvement as a whole," with industrial output enjoying a 25 percent bump compared to the same period last year, and "huge growth" reported, "in terms of the actual amount of goods."
Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, issued a rare warning about a “tense” food situation brought on by extensive flooding, the coronavirus pandemic and international sanctions, state news media reported. https://t.co/5i6fdcv6Vl
COVID-19 hit North Korea particularly hard, with its nearly $2.8 billion in trade with China in 2019 falling to about $540 million in 2020 after Pyongyang introduced some of the strictest anti-pandemic worldwide. South Korean observers said that trade improved in March 2021, although not to pre-pandemic levels.
Tuesday’s plenary highlighted the economy, including implementing the main state development programs, agricultural works, and coronavirus measures. Participants also analyzed "the current international situation," although the media made no mention of any foreign policy directives or decisions in its report.
Despite the food supply issues, North Korean analysts say the current situation is not at risk of causing a repeat of the famines the country went through in the 1990s when somewhere between 240,000 and 600,000 people died due to extreme food shortages.