North Korea is reportedly telling its people to consume less food in the next three years amid a shortage it has now deemed an emergency.
Driving the news: North Korea has long suffered food insecurity, which was only exacerbated by natural disasters, international sanctions and COVID-19. While the hermit state of about 26 million people has not reported a single coronavirus case, lockdowns have further restricted the movement of goods into its borders.
As the situation escalates, North Korea is reportedly forced to open up. United Nations agencies said the country has recently allowed shipments of aid, while Chinese figures show a slow increase in trade, according to Reuters.
Still, the country reportedly finds itself in an emergency situation. As per South Korea’s intelligence agency, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has ordered every grain of rice to be secured while calling for full efforts directed at farming.
What people are saying: Amid the crisis, North Koreans are reportedly told to “tighten their belts” until at least 2025. Some believe it’s a call to starve to death.
“When the authorities tell them that they need to conserve and consume less food until 2025, they can do nothing but feel great despair,” a resident from the city of Sinuiju, which borders China’s Dandong, told RFA. “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.”
The crisis has reportedly led to rampant distrust and resentment of the authorities. A second source said officials downplay the problem by bringing up the severity of COVID-19 in other countries, but people are not buying it. “No matter how difficult the situation is, where on Earth could there be people going through more difficulty than we are?” the source quoted residents as saying.
What the government is doing: North Korea has reportedly promoted the consumption of black swans to help alleviate the crisis. Rodong Sinmun, the state’s mouthpiece, described the waterbird’s meat as “delicious” and containing medicinal value.
Kim formally acknowledged Pyongyang’s food shortage in June, calling it “tense.” In April, he asked officials to wage a more difficult “Arduous March” — the famine that killed hundreds of thousands, if not millions, in the 1990s — to help relieve citizens, according to the BBC.
A black swan center was recently opened at the Kwangpho Duck Farm in Jongphyong county on North Korea’s east coast. It remains to be seen how the government plans to distribute swan meat or whether other swan farms are being built across the country.
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