COVID Making Matters Even More Dire for North Korea

NIKKEIAsia July 21, 2021 15:03 JST “North Korea food shortage turns into new Asian humanitarian crisis” “Regime clamps down on hoarding as rationing system on verge of collapse” “North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is struggling to increase food supply as the COVID pandemic keeps his country’s borders closed. by Gabriela Bernal


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North Korean food shortages have worsened since the closing of its borders in January 2020. According to “the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization” the shortage constitutes about “two months of normal demand…[or]...860,000 tons of food this year.” There are now reports of “starvation deaths as well as an increase in the number of children and elderly who have resorted to begging.” Despite the level of crises few reports have “been conveyed to the world.” Making matters worse the rationing system reportedly “collapsed, with many regions receiving little or no supplies for months on end.” A root cause of course is the sole dependency on China and with “sanctions, COVID, and prolonged [border] closure” an already precarious supply is a “thread [that] just got worn out.” “International organizations [are] no longer able to operate within the country.”


At the same time and under the guise of “COVID-19 prevention” Kim Jong Un “has been ramping up its border crackdowns and surveillance to prevent smuggling and defections.” “Besides counterfeiting and smuggling, citizens caught ‘hoarding’ food could face execution, according to recent Daily NK reports.”


At this time, little is known about the “spread of COVID-19 within North Korea’s border”. Official North Korean sources claim “zero cases” but other informed sources claim that up to “10% of the people who were released from state quarantine facilities...subsequently died.” It is possible that cases are simply classified as “respiratory diseases.”


Gianluca Spezza, (Institute for Security and Development Policy in Stockholm), comments “‘The issue is not COVID. The issue is that the country has no economy...nearly no infrastructure…[all of which]...goes back to a slow but steady decline that began in the 1980s.” This situation with COVID and “the prolonged lockdown” will have far reaching impacts on “education and other activities” according to Spezza.