North Korean Leader Kim Jong-Un on Wednesday warned of a potential food crisis as the country faces food shortages.
During a plenary meeting of the Workers' Party of Korea, Kim admitted that the nation is facing a "tense food situation," which he blamed on the wave of typhoons and floods that hit North Korea in 2020.
"In particular, the people's food situation is now getting tense as the agricultural sector failed to fulfill its grain production," Kim was quoted by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in a meeting, according to a reporting by The New York Times. "It is essential for the whole party and state to concentrate on farming," added Kim.
The North Korean leader also said the conditions and environment in his country were also worsening though there is an evident improvement in its economy.
Kim refused to disclose the scale of the shortages and the worsening conditions, but experts believe it to be serious after he called people to take an "arduous march" during a top-level political meeting in April.
What is the Arduous March?
For context, the term "arduous march" was last used to refer to a devastating famine that hit the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) in the early 1990s after Russia and China stopped sending food supplies and oil when the Cold War ended.
The North Korean regime then decided to cut food supply deliveries to the entire northeast region to ensure that the capital has enough food. This move lasted for two and a half years. Farmers also began stealing their own crops. The elite society also stole aid sent by other countries, leaving the impoverished North Koreans to starve.
According to a relief worker who visited the nation in 1997, the famine led to malnutrition across people of all ages. North Koreans began to eat grass or forage for wild food to survive. Others were also forced to eat watery gruel, the worker told The Times.
North Korea continues to insist that only 225,000 to 235,000 died during the famine. However, experts estimate that the true death toll could be between 2.5 million to 3.5 million, as reported by the Wilson Center. In documents found after the famine, town and city health officials said up to 19% of their populations died in the famine.
Additionally, only 55% of people voted during the country's 1998 national elections. The statistics were impactful as the North Korean regime made it a crime not to vote.
Is North Korea Suffering Another Famine?
There are currently no signs that the DPRK is at risk of another devastating famine. However, the market prices of basic commodities, such as rice, have been rising sharply in recent weeks.
In Pyongyang, the nation's capital, a kilogram of bananas now costs $45, which puts each banana at $6.40, according to the Business Insider.
Some North Korean farmers were also asked to give at least two liters of their urine daily to help produce fertilizers, as reported by Radio Free Asia.