HungerAlong with news of human rights violations occurring in North Korea, the country’s citizens also face extreme hunger.

According to data from a May FAO report reveals, “The number of hungry people in North Korea has more than doubled in the past two decades, rising to 10.5 million in 2014 from 4.8 million in 1990.”

Below are three major events relating to the state of hunger in North Korea:

North Korea’s Great Famine

North Korea suffered from the Great Famine between 1993 and 1999, which resulted in the deaths of nearly two million people. Consequently, the country continues to receive international food aid. However, due to recent concerns of human rights violations and corrupt government activity, U.N. aid has been cut from $300 million in 2004 to just $50 million in 2014.

Some critics blame the former leader Kim Jong Il and other officials for the unequal distribution of food supplies, favoring the elite over the farmers who produced the crops. Collectivist farming and food distribution strategies were introduced at the beginning of his term. Without enough food to feed everyone, military members and elite officials were seen as the first priority, leading to conflicts between the government and rural farmers during the famine of the 1990s.

North Korea’s Historic Drought

The country’s recent drought between 2014 and 2015 resulted in huge cuts of up to 50% of potato, wheat and barley harvests. North Korean media claims it was the worst drought in 100 years.

Upon taking the reigns as North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un promised his people that they would never face another famine or extreme hunger in North Korea. However, in March, his officials warned that the country may face upcoming economic hardship and food shortages. The news comes as a result of strict U.N. sanctions (mainly limiting exports to U.N. members) imposed in response to North Korean nuclear activity in February.

A North Korean newspaper warned citizens of possible hardships, stating, “We may have to go on an arduous march, a time when we will again have to eat the roots of grass.”

North Korea’s Deadly Flood

According to the Los Angeles Times, North Korean officials were forced to seek international aid after a flood last month stemming from Typhoon Lionrock devastated the country’s poor northeastern region. It killed more than 133 people in what is being called the country’s, “worst disaster since World War II.”

The flooding destroyed roads and ruined water supplies for tens of thousands of people, according to international agencies. One official with the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported that 140,000 people were affected, with that number expected to grow as relief workers assess other areas that before were inaccessible.

According to the newspaper, the torrential rains and flooding are the biggest natural disaster to strike North Korea since Kim Jong Un took over in December 2011 after the death of his father, Kim Jong Il.

Carrie Robinson

Photo: Flickr


10. Vladimir Putin

Putin is the current president of Russia and has been in power since 1999. He spent four years as Prime Minister from 2008 to 2012, though most experts believe he was still calling the shots. Putin is a strong man and one of the cruelest dictators, ruling Russia with a fierce grip. His presidency has been lamented by human rights groups and Western governments. Putin maintains a terrible domestic civil rights policy and viciously puts down political dissent and free speech. Not to mention, under his command Russia has engaged in military action in Georgia, Chechnya, and most notably the invasion and annexation of Crimea, thus violating Ukrainian sovereignty.

9. Robert Mugabe

Now in his seventh term of office as president of Zimbabwe is Robert Mugabe. Many political scientists and experts have cited massive electoral fraud and rigging in Mugabe’s favor during the 2013 election. According to both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, Mugabe’s government systematically violates the right to shelter, food, freedom of movement and political expression. In addition, Mugabe made all acts of homosexuality illegal in Zimbabwe.

8. Muammar Gaddafi

Self-proclaimed “Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution” of Libya for more than 50 years, Gaddafi was, at first, a widely supported leader after he led the September Revolution in 1969. However, as he consolidated power his regime became more authoritarian. His calls for Pan-Africanism were greatly overshadowed by his pitiful human rights record. During the Arab Spring, Gaddafi ordered his forces to fire on unarmed protesters calling for his resignation. The UN Human Rights Council called for an investigation into war crimes. Gaddafi was deposed and killed at the end of the Libyan Civil War.

7. Idi Amin

Amin’s paranoid administration was marred by rampant violence to his political enemies. UN observers estimate that 100,000 to 500,000 were persecuted and killed in Uganda under his reign. Amin’s victims were originally his direct political opponents and those who supported the regime that he fought to overtake. However, extrajudicial killings began to include academics, lawyers, foreign nationals and minority ethnic groups within the country.

6. Kim Jong Il

Kim Jong Il continued his father’s fearsome policy of official party indoctrination. North Korea currently ranks as one of the poorest nations on the planet, with millions facing starvation, disease and lack of basic human needs. Under Kim’s reign, North Korean military spending quadrupled, yet he refused foreign aid and did not invest in his country’s farms, thereby indirectly killing millions. Kim’s policy of mass internment through the use of labor camps and virtually no political debate makes him on of history’s worst despots.

5. Pol Pot

Pot was the dictator of Cambodia for 20 years from 1961 to 1983 as the leader of the Khmer Rouge government. His regime is characterized by the Cambodian genocide and the infamous “killing fields.” Pol Pot began a program of severe nationalization whereby he forced millions from urban areas into the countryside to farm and work on forced labor projects. Due to the forced labor, poor food and medical conditions, and the addition of massive amounts of state-sponsored killings, nearly 25 percent of Cambodia’s population died under Pol Pot’s rule.

4. Bashar al-Assad

As the current president of Syria, Assad’s authoritarian regime was called into question during the Arab Spring and cited for numerous civil rights violations including suppression of free speech, corruption and political freedom. Assad ordered massive crackdowns and thus triggered the ongoing Syrian Civil War. Government forces only grew more violent toward protesting Syrian citizens, and there have been allegations of chemical warfare. Assad has been accused of numerous human rights violations, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

3. Joseph Stalin

Stalin was the second leader of the Soviet Union. Though part of the original seven Bolshevik leaders, Stalin quickly consolidated sole power and became a tyrant. In the 1930s he pursued a policy of political upheaval known as “the Great Purge.” From 1930 to 1934, millions of Soviet citizens were imprisoned, exiled or killed. Stalin also pursued a policy of massive economic reforms that led to the deaths of millions due to famine and forced labor in Gulag camps.

2. Mao Zedong

Zedong was the first chairman of the Communist Party of China, and in terms of numbers of deaths during his reign, he tops the list. Nearly 70 million Chinese died during his rule. Zedong systematically broke down Ancient Chinese culture and nearly ended political dissent and freedom in China. His revolutionary economic policies during “the Great Leap Forward” resulted in one of the worst famines in modern history. In addition, Mao also implemented forced labor and public executions.

1. Adolf Hitler

Hitler was the Fuhrer of Nazi Germany from 1934 to 1945. Hitler tops the list of cruelest dictators because of his disturbingly systematic genocidal policies. A total of 5.5 million Jews and other “unwanteds” were deliberately targeted and executed in sanctioned ghettos, work camps and extermination camps. Hilter’s foreign policy and unrelenting desire to give the German people “room to live” was the major cause of World War II. Hitler also put down political dissenters and enemies as well as banning non-government sanctioned art, film, literature and teaching methods.

Joe Kitaj

Sources: Forbes, List 25, The Atlantic
Photo: Flickr