Do Dire Economic Conditions in North Korea Threaten Kim’s Legitimacy?

Do Dire Economic Conditions in North Korea Threaten Kim’s Legitimacy?
Farmers transplant rice seedlings in a field in Chongsan-ri, Kangso district, Nampho, North Korea, May 12, 2019 (AP photo by Cha Song Ho).

A prolonged drought in recent months on top of harsh economic sanctions have made already lean times in North Korea especially dire, with the United Nations warning in May of a “hunger crisis.” Last year’s harvest was the worst in 10 years, and more than 10 million people are facing food shortages as a result.

The U.N. also noted that agricultural inputs like fuel, fertilizer and heavy machinery are in short supply due to sanctions that have been imposed by the United Nations Security Council in response to Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile tests. The lack of fuel, in particular, makes it difficult to quickly harvest and store crops, increasing post-harvest losses and straining many North Koreans’ meager food supply.

“Many families survive on a monotonous diet of rice and kimchi most of the year, eating very little protein,” Nicolas Bidault, an official at the World Food Program, said in a statement. “This is worrying because many communities are already extremely vulnerable and any further cuts to already minimal food rations could push them deep into a hunger crisis.”

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