North Korea is already one of the most diabolical countries for human rights violations. Consistently rated the worst nation in the world for Christian persecution and known for its brutal crackdowns on liberty, the hyper-reclusive East Asian country is now experiencing a new layer of internal chaos: increased food shortages and starvation.
The already deplorable conditions inside North Korea are worsening and were recently described to persecution watchdog Open Doors USA in the most stirring of ways.
“This situation is like hell — it can’t be imagined or understood without experiencing it,” an unnamed North Korean source said.
When you explore the current dynamic inside North Korea, this description seems fitting. Food shortages have long been a problem, but issues intensified in January 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic led North Korean officials to shut down the Chinese border and halt trading.
There was an immediate impact on the availability and price of food and resources — one that hasn’t subsided.
To underscore just how dire the situation has become, Open Doors noted North Korean leaders have taken the unusual step of openly talking about the nation’s woes. Just consider North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s admission earlier this year that his country is facing its “worst-ever situation.”
He also spoke in an address this month for the 76th anniversary of the Workers’ Party, noting that “unprecedented” challenges are imploring officials to do more to stem the chaos. Kim even reportedly labeled the current scenario a “grim situation.”
Open Doors has more:
Normally, North Korea is slow to admit anything negative in the county or ask for help from the international community. But in April, North Korean ruler Kim Jong-un made public statements about the crisis—signaling a dire situation.
Speaking to his party officials, the 37-year-old leader called on them to “wage another, more difficult ‘Arduous March’ in order to relieve our people of the difficulty, even a little.” The Arduous March refers to the name the North Korean people gave the great famine of the 1990s in which 2-3 million people died.
North Koreans who have spoken to Open Doors are warning that food prices are rapidly increasing and that resources are even more scarce than normal, with the pandemic fueling an already raging inferno of dysfunction.
Radio Free Asia reported Monday that the North Korean government is warning citizens to prepare for shortages until at least 2025 and the Daily Mail is reporting the government is simply telling people to eat less until then.
The border with China isn’t expected to re-open until that time, either.
“Two weeks ago, they told the neighborhood watch unit meeting that our food emergency would continue until 2025,” one North Korean resident told RFA, noting it seems slim the border issue will be remedied before then. “The food situation right now is already clearly an emergency, and the people are struggling with shortages.”
The individual continued, “When the authorities tell them that they need to conserve and consume less food until 2025 … they can do nothing but feel great despair.”
The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization estimates the food shortage for 2021 alone will come in around 860,000 tons, which is deeply concerning, as the Daily Mail noted.
All of these facets have played a role in the supply chain issues the nation is facing. And with winter fast approaching, residents understandably fear an inability to sustain themselves.
In the midst of the murky uncertainty, North Korea and South Korea recently reengaged communications for the first time in months. Despite the renewed discussion channels, the North has been ramping up its military activity and missile tests — something sure to create distrust along the way and could further alienate the North Koreans.
Pray for the North Korean people during this deeply distressing time.