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Food & Hunger

North Korea is facing famine with the severe drought

Flickr: Vicki Mundoo

Growing up in California I have been worrying about the state’s drought for a while. Food production and the drought in California is a serious issue. Farmers are facing rising costs for agricultural production that is very threatening. However, food production in the US is more secure than many other countries. One country that comes to mind is North Korea. North Korea is often considered notoriously closed off to many in the world, and it is difficult to obtain accurate statistics from North Korea because of the censorship of the state-run media. However, because of the severity of the drought, it’s clear that North Korea is going to have some serious concerns about food security.

How will this affect the people in North Korea?

A severe drought can lead to a shortage of produce and damaged crops are already an issue. 90 percent of food production comes from produce from the June/July planted rice paddies, and the state media reports that 30%  of state produced crops are dried up. There is little farmers can do other than wait to see if more rain comes before the end of the rainy season in July.

Increased malnutrition in children will be another consequence of the drought because of the lack of produce. North Korea also uses hydroelectric power plants for energy and electricity. Since coal supplies are becoming more scarce, North Korea now gets more energy from dams built on rivers that power these plants. Without water and full rivers, North Korea will be lacking food and electricity for food production.

North Korea relies heavily on international food aid, especially since a devastating famine in the 1990s. However, it is difficult for humanitarians to provide food aid because of the restrictions that the government places on food distribution. Countries like China have offered to help which will be a start for food shortage that could come from this drought.

There is some hope! North Korea has been changing its agriculture game recently. In 2013 North Korea underwent an agricultural reform to employ agriculture systems already used in China and Vietnam. Farmers in North Korea work now in groups of 5-6 known as production teams (often these are families) and the produce is split between the state and the “production team” or the families. This is an important step, since the state previously collected all produce and gave farmers a daily ration. These changes were a large success and in 2013 North Korea was able to produce almost enough food to feed the country for the first time in nearly two decades.

It is possible for North Korea to have a more sustainable food supply despite the concerns that the current drought brings. This will rely in part on the country’s agriculture reform, food aid, and improved weather-which I’m still hoping California gets as well.