North Korea Calls for Plenary Meeting to Address Worsening Food Insecurity
North Korea is scheduled to hold a major political conference in late February to discuss the “urgent task” of improving its agricultural sector, a possible sign of worsening food insecurity as the country’s economic isolation deepens amid a defiant nuclear weapons push. According to the North Korean official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), members of the ruling Workers’ Party’s Politburo met on Sunday and agreed to hold a larger plenary meeting of the party’s Central Committee to review strategies on agriculture and set new goals. It is rare for North Korea to call a plenary meeting over a single agenda, this time agriculture, according to South Korean Unification Ministry spokesperson Koo Byoungsam.
Koo said that South Korea estimates that North Korean food production fell by about 4% in 2022 to 4.5 million tons. This decrease in production is likely due to the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, the strict border controls it has imposed, and the devastating typhoons and floods in 2020 that decimated crops.
According to a study published on the North Korea-focused 38 North website last month, analyst Lucas Rengifo-Keller said food insecurity in North Korea is likely at its worst since the country’s 1990s famine that killed hundreds of thousands of people. The grain balance estimates issued by U.N. agencies and outside governments as well as possibly sharp increases in rice and corn prices observed by NGOs and media indicate that “country’s food supply has probably failed to satisfy minimum human needs,” Rengifo-Keller wrote. Russia’s war on Ukraine also likely worsened the situation by driving up global prices of food, energy and fertiliser, on which North Korea’s agricultural production is heavily dependent.
The December party plenary meeting, meanwhile, saw Kim double down on his nuclear ambitions by calling an “exponential increase” of nuclear warheads, mass production of battlefield tactical nukes targeting rival South Korea and the development of more powerful long-range missiles designed to reach the U.S. mainland. Party members also identified key economic projects for 2023, highlighted by agricultural and construction activities.
It remains to be seen if North Korea can make the drastic changes needed to improve its agricultural sector, but it is clear that the country is facing an increasingly dire food security crisis.
0. “North Korea party meeting set to discuss ‘urgent' food issue” The Washington Post, 6 Feb. 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/north-korea-party-meeting-set-to-discuss-urgent-food-issue/2023/02/05/e8aee93e-a5d8-11ed-b2a3-edb05ee0e313_story.html
1. “North Korea party meeting set to discuss ”urgent” food issue | Science-Environment” Devdiscourse, 6 Feb. 2023, https://www.devdiscourse.com/article/science-environment/2344326-north-korea-party-meeting-set-to-discuss-urgent-food-issue
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