Seoul (CNN) – North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, has admitted that his country is facing food shortages he has attributed to a typhoon and floods last year, just months after warning North Koreans of a possible impending crisis.
The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on Wednesday that Kim told the general meeting of the North Korean Workers’ Party that the nation was in a “strained nutritional situation.”
The confined country has isolated itself from the rest of the world further during the pandemic. Speaking on Tuesday, Kim said conditions and the environment facing North Korea “have worsened as this year begins,” although its economy has shown improvement overall.
He added that the ruling party meeting should measure the problem, according to the Central News Agency.
Kim did not reveal the extent of the shortage, but it appears to be serious. In April, the Korean Central News Agency reported that Kim urged people to take another “strenuous march” while addressing a high-level political meeting.
Anniversary of the “Hard March” in North Korea
The term “hard march” refers to a period of devastating famine in the early 1990s, when North Korea’s economy collapsed following the collapse of the Soviet Union, ending the flow of aid into the country.
It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of people, or up to 10% of the country’s population, have died of starvation.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has estimated that North Korea is short of 860,000 tons of food, enough for more than two months with little supplies.
FAO alert on the situation in Korea
In a report released on Monday, the FAO said North Korea is officially planning to import about a fifth of the food it needs to fill gaps in domestic shortages.
The agency also said that while North Korea ramped up agricultural farming in 2020, the growth “mainly offset crop losses due to floods and storms” on the Korean peninsula from early August to early September 2020.
The FAO further warned that if the supply gap is not filled with imports or aid, North Koreans could go through “a period of scarcity between August and October 2021”.
The agency said that the full meeting will focus on directing all efforts towards agriculture this year and addressing the epidemiological situation.
Other topics included in the report include the current international situation and corresponding orientations of the ruling party, improving living standards and childcare, and discussing organizational issues.