Asia Rights

Journal of Human Rights, Media and Society in Asia and the Pacific


The Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies (NTS) at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies recently reported that since the end of January 2011, there are serious concerns over food security in North Korea. NTS reports that the current food crisis has arisen due to both internal and external factors:

‘External factors, particularly the recent spike in global food prices and the suspension of food aid support from major donors such as the US and South Korea between 2008 and 2009, have contributed to this situation. According to some reports, the delayed arrival of food aid from North Korea‚Äôs northern ally, China, has also aggravated food shortages.

The food crisis is exacerbated by a multitude of internal factors, including reported inequitable distribution of available food aid; foot-and-mouth disease outbreaks reportedly killing thousands of draught oxen, cows and pigs; and the country enduring its coldest winter since 1945, with frigid temperatures adversely affecting agricultural outputs.’

‘As a result,’ reports NTS ‘North Korean rice prices have hit record highs and the United Nations (UN) has warned that up to 5 million North Koreans are at risk of famine.’

This echoes the results of a WFP and FAO survey in November that found that Korea ‘faces a cereal import requirement for the 2010/11 marketing year (Nov/Oct) of an estimated 867 000 tonnes. The Government plans to import commercially only about 325 000 tonnes, leaving 542 000 tonnes as an uncovered food deficit. The mission recommended to provide some 305 000 tonnes of international food assistance to the most vulnerable population.’

Despite the critical food shortage in North Korea, the current political situation looks set to stand in the way of improving ties in the realm of humanitarian cooperation. The Choson Ilbo reported that the South stands ready to provide supplies of humanitarian aid for infants including infant milk formula, nutritional cookies and medical supplies. However, rice and corn shipments will only be considered if ‘the North apologizes for its attacks on the Navy corvette Cheonan and Yeonpyeong Island last year.’ See here for the Choson Ilbo article on ReliefWeb.

See here for the NTS report.

See here for the latest on the food crisis from the WFP.

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