Currently, food shortages in North Korea are severe. Over the last year, serious droughts, low crop yield and economic sanctions have pushed hunger levels in North Korea to crisis levels. The UN recently estimated that approximately 10 million North Koreans are in urgent need of food aid.
Last month, South Korea pledged to aid in reducing these food shortages, through a donation of 50,000 tons of rice and 4.5 million dollars to the World Food Programme. Once the World Food Programme can guarantee high standards of access and monitoring for this donation, they will oversee its delivery and distribution in North Korea.
Food Shortages in North Korea
Several factors have contributed to the severe food scarcity in North Korea, according to a UN report from May 2019. Conditions over the past year have been terrible for crop production. Prolonged dry spells, serious droughts, flooding and high temperatures prevented crops from growing normally. On top of this, UN experts expect post-harvest losses to be high as well. This is due to shortages of fuel and electricity. This will complicate the transport and storage of crops.
At the beginning of this year, food rations in North Korea fell to a mere 300 grams per person per day. The UN predicts these rations may fall even further in the coming months. The decreasing size of rations is important since the majority of North Koreans require these rations. The UN report estimates that 40 percent of North Koreans are in urgent need of food, while 70 percent of North Koreans depend on rations.
North Korea hasn’t experienced food scarcity of this magnitude, since a nationwide famine in the 1990s. While there is no definitive data for the 1990s famine, experts believe it caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of North Koreans. These food shortages could cause similar fatalities if food aid isn’t provided quickly.
South Korea’s Food Donation
On June 19, the World Food Programme officially accepted the donation from the Republic of Korea. South Korea has pledged 4.5 million dollars, as well as a direct donation of 50,000 tons of rice. These donations will help approximately 1.5 to 2 million children, pregnant women and nursing mothers.
This donation represents South Korea’s largest donation to food aid in North Korea since 2008. That donation was when South Korea contributed 5,000 tons of rice to relieve food scarcities in North Korea. South Korea’s unification minister, Kim Yeon-Chul, stressed that the South Korean government couldn’t ignore the struggles of its northern neighbor. For South Korea, this donation represents a step forward in the relationship between the two countries.
Despite the monumental donation from South Korea, the World Food Programme estimates food shortages in North Korea will require more aid. It estimates a need of approximately 300,000 metric tons of food and the equivalent of 275 million dollars of supplies. Though UN sanctions do not limit humanitarian aid to North Korea, the international political situation has made it difficult to reliably distribute aid in the area. However, South Korea’s government believes its donation will cross the border. Overall, the country hopes it will bolster efforts towards reconciliation on the Korean peninsula.
– Morgan Harden