Why Is There No Food In North Korea

Background Information

In the light of the global pandemic, the topic of food security has reemerged as a critical issue, especially in countries such as North Korea. With the lack of food insecurity in North Korea, it becomes essential to understand the causes of this deprivation and how it can be best tackled. North Korea has been in a state of food shortage for over two decades and has undergone periods of extreme famine as well. The primary cause can be linked to the past economic problems in the country, both domestic and foreign, including transportation and infrastructure issues, a weak economy, and unfavorable weather conditions. The country lacks basic food storage capacity and systems to ensure an equitable distribution of food among the population. With food security now an issue of national importance, efforts towards improving the food situation in the country are being made by the government and international agencies alike.

Data and Perspectives from Experts

A United Nations (UN) report estimated that ten million North Koreans were in need of food assistance at the end of 2018, and that 11.02 metric tons of maize and other food items were needed to cover the need. According to The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, North Korea’s food production has been decreasing since 2013, resulting in an inadequate annual per capita food availability of 454 kilograms.

In their 2019 Global Report on Food Security and Nutrition, the World Food Programme (WFP) argues that the lack of food insecurity in North Korea is largely due to environmental issues such as droughts, floods and landslides which contribute to crops failure. These issues have been further exacerbated by the economic sanctions imposed on the country which further reduced the availability of imported foods, leading to a scarcity of food for many North Koreans.

Insight and Analysis

North Korea’s food insecurity cannot be solved overnight. It is a long-term problem which requires coordination and collaboration between different stakeholders in order to achieve any sort of success. As suggested by the WFP, immediate measures must be taken to tackle the food insecurity issue in North Korea. One such solution is for international actors to provide targeted assistance to ensure food security and nutrition, as well as access to food. Hygienic food must also be provided in order to prevent malnutrition and diseases, while administrative and logistical support must also be provided to ensure a safe and efficient delivery of assistance. In addition, the North Korean government must take the initiative to reduce food insecurity in the country by making long-term investments in infrastructure, food storage and agricultural production.

Issue of Food Waste

One key issue that needs to be addressed in order to improve the food situation in North Korea is the significant amount of food waste in the country. Data from the UN reports suggests that North Korea has one of the highest rates of food waste in the world, with an estimated five million metric tons going uneaten in the country each year.

To tackle this issue, it is important to ensure the distribution of resources among the population is equitable so that people who need it the most can access it. To do this, the North Korean government must introduce effective public distribution systems and alternative methods of food distribution such as food banks. In addition, other measures such as food labeling and improved food safety standards must also be implemented to ensure that food does not go to waste.

Food Aid from The International Community

The UN and international organizations have been providing food aid to the North Korean population for many years, both short- and long-term. This aid has been essential in helping to reduce the extreme poverty and malnutrition levels in the country. Furthermore, the international community has been actively engaging with the North Korean government in recent years in order to address the food security issue and improve access to nutritious food.

The international community is also providing expertise and resources to build up the agricultural sector in the country. This includes the provision of technical and financial support to improve agricultural production, as well as the promotion of best practices. In 2019, UN humanitarian operations successfully reached 620,000 North Koreans in need by providing food along with a few other basic necessities.

Effects of COVID-19 on North Korean Food Security

In 2020, the outbreak of COVID-19 has had a negative impact on North Korea’s food security. According to Reuters, the country has been unable to afford the food imports it needs, which has resulted in the shortages of staples such as rice and corn in the country. Furthermore, due to the economic sanctions imposed on the country, large scale food donations from the international community have become increasingly limited or have dried up altogether.

The impacts of COVID-19 have been particularly harsh on the North Korean people, who are now facing the prospect of famine. This is why it is essential that the international community provide additional aid in the form of food and other essential resources in order to assist the North Korean people. Additionally, it is also important to ensure that this aid is used in an effective and transparent fashion, as to ensure that it reaches the people who need it the most.

Conclusion of Trade Embargoes

To further improve food security in North Korea, it is important to begin lifting the economic sanctions that have been imposed on the country in recent years. UN experts have called for the conclusion or suspension of the sanctions, as the current economic embargo has placed an additional burden on the already-dire food security situation in the country.

In addition to this, the loosening of the sanctions would allow for the free flow of goods and services to North Korea, as well as making it possible for private firms to engage in trade with the country. This could also open up the North Korean market to foreign private investment, which could further help to improve the food security situation in the country.

Reliance on Foreign Aid

Food security in North Korea has been and continues to be heavily reliant on foreign aid. The provision of food aid from the international community has been essential in addressing the dire food security situation in the country. However, this has fuelled a reliance on the external assistance which, in the long-term, could be detrimental to the country’s food security as it does not identify and tackle the root causes of food insecurity.

The long-term solution to improve food security in North Korea lies in tackling the underlying issue which is hindering the country from becoming self-sufficient in food production. This means investing in agriculture and infrastructure to ensure an efficient and resilient food system.

Encouraging Domestic Production

The North Korean government is taking measures to address the food security issue in the country, such as the establishment of state farms and promoting the liberalization of the agricultural sector. While these initiatives are positive steps towards self-sustainability in food production, they are not enough to tackle the underlying issues. The government must also encourage the development of the domestic agricultural sector by providing agricultural subsidies, investing in research and development, and reducing red-tape when it comes to food production.

Further, to ensure the equitable distribution of food within the country, the government must improve the food distribution systems in place. This could be achieved by introducing efficient public distribution systems and alternative mechanisms of food distribution in order to ensure that the food is reaching the people who need it most.

Cassie Grissom is an American journalist and author living in Seoul, South Korea. She has been studying the Korean peninsula since 2011, and her work focuses on understanding human rights issues in North Korea. In addition to her work as an author, Cassie is an active advocate for human rights in North Korea. She regularly shares stories about life in North Korea with international audiences to raise awareness of the plight of its citizens.

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