A US delegation has gone to North Korea to examine how serious food shortages there are, with the United Nations due to take a decision shortly on whether emergency aid should be released. According to some estimates, 3.5 million North Koreans are suffering from severe malnutrition.
For years, the regime has relied on handouts from the USA and South Korea to feed its people, but it also regularly bites the donors’ hands. Last year it shelled a South Korean island, and is believed to have sunk a South Korean naval vessel, and both the government there and the US have been reining back aid.
Food production, which is never very efficient, is thought to have been hit this year by an exceptionally cold winter, widespread flooding and an outbreak of foot and mouth disease. Some observers, though, maintain the regime is exaggerating the problems in order to build up food stockpiles for next year’s celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim-Il Sung, the ‘Great Leader’ who founded the Communist republic.
During the 1990’s, the country suffered one of the worst famines of modern times, with up to 2.4 million people dying.