Ever since North Korea closed its border with China in January 2020 because of the global pandemic, a grave food shortage hit the country. According to Radio Free Asia, North Koreans have been ordered to consume less food for the next three years until the county reopens its borders with China in 2025. People, however, complained that food shortages are making it difficult for them to hold out this past winter, much less survive the next three years.
North Korean economy was severely affected after the borders with China were closed, with prices of everyday goods skyrocketing as demand outran supply without the imports from China. "Two weeks ago, they told the neighborhood watch unit meeting that our food emergency would continue until 2025, " a resident of the city of Sinuiju told RFA's Korean Service on October 21.
The anonymous source emphasized that the "food situation" in North Korea is "already clearly an emergency, and the people are struggling with shortages." "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 source added.
North Koreans are starving to death
North Korea, which has a population of 25 million, witnessed starvation deaths post the closure of the Sino-Korean border and suspension of trade with China in 2020. A recent report by UN's Food and Agriculture Organization estimated that North Korea would be short about 860,000 tons of food this year. This amount of food surmounts to about two months' consumption. Another report by UN World Food Program noted that about 40% of the North Korean population is undernourished.
The North Korean government blamed sanctions imposed on them, natural disasters, and the global COVID pandemic for the food shortages. The country was also severely hit with natural disasters, as floods damaged vital crops and left hundreds of families homeless last year. Crops were damaged this year as well by droughts followed by flooding. About 1,170 houses were destroyed and around 5,000 citizens were evacuated to safety after heavy rains hit northeastern North Korea in August this year.
North Koreans were told to 'tighten their belts'
People in North Korea, who are struggling to find their next meal, hoped for the border reopening but authorities "at the meeting said we should reduce the amount of food we eat and tighten our belts more than ever, " the anonymous Sinuiju resident said. "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 source added.
North Korea tried to spin 'food shortage' as 'successful management of COVID'
A resident from the city of Hoeyrong told RFA that authorities tried to turn around the bleak 'food shortage message' into the country's successful handling of the Coronavirus pandemic citing that "the coronavirus situation in other countries was so bad." According to a second source, the North Korean government is 'trying so hard to save food' because "the Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un is not aware of how serious the food situation is." "The residents resent the unrealistic demands of the authorities, asking how much tighter they could possibly tighten their belts, " the second source added.