KCNA: Worst Drought in 100 Years

Still playing catch-up with intermittent news events pertinent to North Korea. A lot’s going on over there, and there’s no shortage of coverage of it. Granted, some of the reports are unsubstantiated and politically motivated, but one does what one can with the information one’s given. That’s why I rely on no single source for news.

The DPRK has long represented itself as prideful and strong. The former means there’s no wavering on the latter: admitting any weakness or fallibility is heretical and treasonous, in Pyongyang’s eyes. That’s why the only soccer games North Korea hears about, when their team is playing, are those in which they’ve won. Consequently, North Korea doesn’t receive a lot of news on sports events.

So that makes KCNA’s uncharacteristic honesty so surprising: they have announced they are about to experience their worst drought in a century. They report that nearly a third of their rice-growing fields have dried up during the planting season, which is dire news considering how little food farmers are allowed to retain after Pyongyang claims its share. Crop production could drop another 20% if things don’t change by July, and 17.5 million people may suffer under the food shortages.

The United Nations has requested $111 million for its humanitarian efforts in North Korea. China is offering to lend assistance to North Korea, despite mounting tension over DPRK violating sanctions with its missile tests and Beijing’s improved relations with Seoul, not to mention recent incidents of defectors killing Chinese villagers. (For this reason, in fact, China has begun mobilizing a military guard on their side of the border.)

Conservative pundits, however, question the seriousness of this crisis. They point out that even in the good times, food production goes very lean between April and September, and a third of North Korean children are consistently malnourished. Others simply dismiss the DPRK as untrustworthy in general, ignoring the fact that their aversion to admitting weakness suggests this is an exceptional circumstance. Only 38 North has bothered to do the legwork and research climate conditions in North Korea, which shows periods of lower-than-average rainfall alternating with normal precipitation. If such conditions may be accurately studied remotely, then it would seem the DPRK is being overly dramatic, and any faults of its farming system reside with its deforestation practices and agricultural policies.

Lastly, the United States has no plans to offer any humanitarian aid to North Korea. This sounds cold, but historically any aid has not gone to the impoverished population at large, but rather is retained by Pyongyang’s elite as rewards and luxury items. As well, the U.S. has been known to offer support only when the DPRK kowtows to its demands, rather than in response to a national emergency.

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