The North Korean government is telling its citizens to expect more years of hardship as the country’s food emergency situation is expected to continue until 2025.
The secretive country’s decision to close its border with China last year to ward off the coronavirus has resulted in severe food shortages.
North Korean citizens are now complaining they might not be able to last through the coming winter–much less hold out through the middle of the decade.
“Two weeks ago, they told the neighborhood watch unit meeting that our food emergency would continue until 2025. Authorities emphasised that the possibility of reopening customs between North Korea and China before 2025 was very slim,” a resident of the northwestern border city of Sinuiju, across from China’s Dandong, told RFA’s Korean Service Oct. 21.
“The food situation right now is already clearly an emergency, and the people are struggling with shortages. When the authorities tell them that they need to conserve and consume less food until 2025… they can do nothing but feel great despair,” said the source who requested anonymity for security reasons.
Chronically short of food, the country of 25 million has seen starvation deaths in the wake of the closure of the Sino-Korean border and suspension of trade with China in January 2020 to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
The move devastated the North Korean economy, causing food prices to skyrocket without imports from China covering the gap between domestic food production and demand.
The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization projected in a recent report that North Korea would be short about 860,000 tons of food this year, about two months’ consumption. The UN World Food Program estimates that about 40% of North Korea’s population is undernourished.
North Korea faulted factors beyond its control for its inability to achieve food self-sufficiency and other sustainable development goals in a recent Voluntary National Review for the United Nations.
“The continued sanctions and blockade on the DPRK, severe natural disasters that hit the country every year and the protracted world health crisis since 2020 are main obstacles to the Government’s efforts to achieve the sustainable development of the country and improve the people’s livelihood,” the report said.
Though UN and US sanctions restrict the trade of certain goods that could generate cash and resources into Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs, the border closure restricts all trade, and it has made finding their next meal difficult for many North Koreans.
The people were looking forward to the border reopening and had been hoping it would happen soon, according to the Sinuiju resident.
“Distrust and resentment of the authorities is rampant among the residents because at the meeting they said we should reduce the amount of food we eat and tighten our belts more than ever,” the source said.
“Some of the residents are saying that the situation right now is so serious they don’t know if they can even survive the coming winter. They say that telling us to endure hardship until 2025 is the same as telling us to starve to death,” said the source.
The North Korean government has been pushing its mantra of self-reliance since the beginning of this year. One of leader Kim Jong Un’s key messages in the eighth congress of the ruling Korean Workers’ Party in January was for the country to decrease dependence on imports and solve its own problems.
In April, authorities told them to prepare for an economic situation worse than the Arduous March, the Korean name for the 1994-1998 famine that killed millions, as many as 10 percent of the country by some estimates.
In July, the Central Committee ordered citizens to start farming their own food in anticipation of a food shortage that could last three years.
Sources said that citizens were resentful because the government was shirking its responsibilities to the people, simply telling them that they were on their own to feed themselves without doing anything to solve the problem. (Source: RFA)