Facts about famine in North Korea
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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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

Photo: Flickr

Growing Up in Exile: Who is Monique Macías?Who is Monique Macías? Currently an author, Monique Macías was one of the only foreign students at the prestigious Mangyongdae Revolutionary School in Pyongyang, North Korea. Now out of exile and in her 40s, Monique Macías often depicts her unconventional upbringing as a black African adolescent in articles and memoirs.

Born in Equatorial Guinea in 1970, only two years after the country gained independence from Spain, her father, Francisco Macías Nguema, was the small country’s first elected president. As a new president, Macías sought to form relationships with leaders of other countries such as North Korean President Kim Il-sung.

Monique Macías stated that her father and Kim Il-sung became fast friends because they had “a lot in common”, pointing out that “both fought against colonial powers and both built their support base through nationalism.”

Regardless, Francisco Macías had a short term due to a series of illegal acts he implemented through the Equatorial Guinean government. In the late 1970s. Francisco Macías was overthrown as president of Equatorial Guinea and tried for numerous crimes including genocide, embezzlement and treason. Francisco Macías was executed by firing squad in the late 1970s.

Foreseeing his exile and later execution, Franciso Macías sent his three children to North Korea to live and receive an education. Monique Macías, along with her sister and brother, attended Mangyongdae Revolutionary School in Pyongyang, North Korea, where they learned to shoot Kalashnikov rifles and participated in daily physical drills that involved running and climbing.

Formerly an all-boys school, the Mangyongdae Revolutionary School made a new class for Macías and her sister as an exception. The special treatment often led other students to ask: who is Monique Macías and why do she and her siblings deserve preferential treatment? Macías was not too young to recognize the special treatment that she and her siblings received in Pyongyang:

“[We] were the only Korean-speaking long-term foreign residents during that period. We lived a privileged lifestyle compared to other foreign students and the majority of North Korean people. Throughout those years Kim Il-sung stayed in regular contact with us…”

Macias lived in exile in Pyongyang for 15 years before relocating in 1994.

So, who is Monique Macías outside of exile? Still affected by the conditions in which she spent her formative years, Macías continues to author memoirs and articles about her incredibly unconventional childhood and discusses how living in Equatorial Guinea, North Korea, Spain and the United States informed her opinions of the North Korean regime.

“There are people in North Korea who know that this is not the right way to live,” she said in an interview with Reuters. “I don’t think it’s going to collapse easily.”

However, Monique Macías does not shy away from defending the country that took her in upon her father’s death and formed her childhood:

“I have found that Western media normally just focuses on nuclear issues, politics or human rights. Together, all this makes people think that North Korea is an evil country and that its people are simply robots….But having lived there, I am proof that all of these things are not always true.”

In the 2000s, Monique Macías published her memoir “I’m Monique, From Pyongyang” in Korean.

Photo: Flickr