North Korea: Don't expect increased food supplies for four years

AP Photo/Minh Hoang

Despite the regime’s best efforts to paint a happy face on the situation, it’s no secret that the people of North Korea have been starving for some time now. Food shortages have been rampant and the government simply hasn’t been able to procure and distribute a sustainable amount of food to the population. This is largely a self-inflicted wound because Kim Jong-un closed the border with China (who traditionally supplies most of their imported food) at the beginning of the pandemic. This week the regime delivered even more bad news. North Koreans were told that they shouldn’t expect the border to open and normal trade to resume until at least 2025. In the meantime, they’re just going to need to take one for the team and “tighten their belts.” (NY Post)

North Korea’s totalitarian government has told its people to tighten their belts — literally — for at least another three-plus years before Pyongyang plans on reopening the country’s land border with China, Radio Free Asia reported this week.

“Two weeks ago, they told the neighborhood watch unit meeting that our food emergency would continue until 2025,” a resident of the city of Sinuiju, near the China border, was quoted as telling the outlet. “Authorities emphasized that the possibility of reopening customs between North Korea and China before 2025 was very slim.”

North Korean authorities closed the border with China, its largest trading partner, in January of last year in a bid to stop the spread of COVID-19. The move exacerbated inflation and food shortages caused in recent years by ongoing US-led sanctions as well as typhoon-induced flooding.

You probably wouldn’t suspect that there’s a famine unfolding in North Korea by looking at the country’s plump little tyrant. Clearly, nothing has been impacting his daily diet or that of his family and inner circle. But that’s not true of most of the country outside of Pyongyang. One resident of a northern village (speaking on condition of anonymity) said that they don’t know if they will even be able to survive the coming winter. Telling them to hold on until 2025, he said, was the same as “telling us to starve.”

A local news report from earlier this year showed that the food situation was already dire many months ago. A construction crew brought to Pyongyang to build new housing had taken to attacking residents and robbing them to get money to buy food. News reports from the more remote provinces are hard to come by, but farmers have repeatedly said that this year’s harvest was the worst they’ve seen in more than a decade. Two major factors are the ironic combination of a sustained drought impacting most of the country while floods from monsoons inundated the coastal regions.

Statements from the communist party still seek to place the blame for the shortage on American-led sanctions. But that’s simply dishonest propaganda. We don’t sanction food relief. Perhaps the North Korean people should be asking Kim Jong-un how much more food he could have purchased with all of the money that he’s flushed into his nuclear weapons and missile development programs.

That brings up an interesting question. Generally speaking, the quickest way for a government to find itself being overthrown is to fail to meet its citizens’ basic needs for food and shelter. Could the people of North Korea be getting close to the point of revolt if enough of them are starving to death? Radio Free Asia claims to be hearing from people who are grumbling a lot more than usual.

“Criticism is coming out that the government’s emphasis on saving food might be because the Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un is not aware of how serious the food situation is,” Radio Free Asia quoted a resident of another border city, Hoeyrong, as saying.

“Residents are already struggling to get by and have already tightened their belts as much as possible,” the person added. “They resent the unrealistic demands of the authorities, asking how much tighter they could possibly tighten their belts.”

Personally, I won’t be getting my hopes up about any significant changes coming to North Korea. Even if the people rise up and overthrow Kim and his regime, he would almost certainly just be replaced by one of the minor warlords around the country. And they wouldn’t be much better than Kim from the sound of things.

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