North Korea is one of the most mysterious and reclusive countries in the world. It is well known for its repressive government and the abhorrent living conditions its citizens endure. Nowhere is this suffering more apparent than in the facts about famine in North Korea, which has further repressed the country’s citizens and fueled Kim Jong Un’s pursuit of a dangerous nuclear program. These 10 facts about famine in North Korea show just how brutal life in the country really is.
10 Facts About Famine in North Korea
- Numbers Are Scarce
Although the Food Security and Information Network (FSIN) acknowledged a major famine in North Korea in its 2017 report, the group also noted that statistics showing the scale of the famine are hard to find due to the repressive nature of the Kim regime as well as its efforts to convey the illusion of prosperity.
- The Problem Requires External Assistance
FSIN also noted that North Korea needs foreign assistance to recover from the famine. Given the country’s poor economy, it will be difficult if not impossible for the country to recover on its own.
- But External Assistance Is Unlikely
However, due to rising tensions between the United States, the United Nations and North Korea over the development of nuclear weapons, tighter economic sanctions have been placed on the country, further weakening its economy and deepening the current famine. If any country were to grant economic support to North Korea, it would face an immense backlash from both the U.S. and the U.N.
- The Famine Is Significant
According to a 2017 report by the United Nations, which made estimates based on satellite images and economic data, roughly two out of five citizens are malnourished. It has identified more than 13 million North Koreans in need of economic assistance who are likely struggling to survive in the current conditions.
- The Kim Regime Is Focused on Military Development Instead
Due to fears of a regime change by the United States military, Kim Jong Un has largely focused the scarce resources of North Korea on the development of conventional and nuclear weaponry. This furthers the problem, as the regime has largely ignored the plight of its own people.
- Economic Reforms Have Largely Failed
According to an op-ed by Roberta Cohen for Brookings, economic reforms put in place by the late Supreme Leader Kim Jong Il and current leader Kim Jong Un have failed to revitalize the North Korean economy, including its faltering agricultural industry, leading to a continuation of the famine. This has led Kim Jong Un to dedicate even more resources to military development and repression of citizens to avoid a revolt should the population grow more dissatisfied with his leadership.
- Weather and Geography Are Also to Blame
The weather and geography of North Korea contribute to the famine. North Korea is sandwiched between several other countries, and has a climate that is generally not conducive to agriculture. This could be addressed by importing goods, but due to current global conflicts, there are strict sanctions on the nation.
- The Famine Is Behind the Repression of North Korean Citizens
Many have wondered why the Kim regime is so focused on the creation of a totalitarian state unforgiving of criticism and driven to propaganda. Yet, should the regime abandon this set of ideals, the public would quickly turn on the government for malnourishing them and not promoting change. It is easier for Kim to tighten his political grip and shift blame to the United States than acknowledge his failure to supply his own citizens with basic needs.
- Sanctions Have Contributed to the Famine
Though the United States government places most of the blame for North Korea’s poor living conditions on the Kim regime, according to the New York Times, the strict sanctions it has imposed in recent years have further contributed to the nation’s economic downfall. Though an argument could be made that sanctions are necessary to stop the development of nuclear weapons, it would be wrong to deny their role in the famine crisis.
- The Current Famine Could Get Worse
The citizens of North Korea are often regarded as a brainwashed mass, but they possess the same basic needs as any people. Their suffering has been accelerated by the famine, and should the United States and North Korea become involved in a second war, the situation could devolve into a severe humanitarian crisis. Even disregarding the loss of life from direct military conflict, the chaos caused by war would further disrupt agriculture, cripple the already poor North Korean economy and lead to a refugee crisis that could claim hundreds of thousands of lives.
These 10 facts about famine in North Korea show the brutal underbelly of life in North Korea and a major humanitarian crisis in the making, a reality that is often overlooked in our haste to parody a struggling and repressed nation.
– Shane Summers