Analysis-COVID crisis could deepen N.Korea food shortages amid drought warnings

FILE PHOTO: People wearing protective face masks commute amid concerns over the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Pyongyang, North Korea March 30, 2020, in this photo released by Kyodo. Picture taken March 30, 2020. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS

By Hyonhee Shin and Soo-hyang Choi

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea’s coronavirus outbreak threatens to deepen its already dire food situation this year, as a nationwide lockdown would hamper ongoing anti-drought efforts and the mobilisation of labour, analysts said.

The isolated North confirmed on Thursday its first COVID-19 outbreak since the pandemic emerged more than two years ago, declaring the “gravest national emergency” and imposing a national lockdown.

The outbreak came as the country steps up an “all-out fight” against drought, with leader Kim Jong Un warning of a tense food situation due to the pandemic and last year’s typhoons.

State media said last week that factory labourers and even office workers and government officials had been dispatched to help improve farming facilities and secure water resources across the country.

Droughts and flooding have long posed seasonal threats to North Korea, and any major natural hazards could further cripple its reclusive economy.

The pandemic had already slashed trade and international food donations, and in a country heavily reliant on human labour in agriculture and lacking industrial and medical infrastructure, a brewing COVID-19 crisis could further exacerbate food shortages, analysts said.

“In North Korea, economic activity requires a lot of people’s movements, and you can’t expect trade or large aid from China,” said Lim Eul-chul, a professor of North Korean studies at Kyungnam University in South Korea.

“But now farming activity could be scaled back and distribution of fertilisers, raw materials and equipment would become difficult,” he added.

U.N. aid agencies and most other relief groups have pulled out of the country amid extended border shutdowns and say it is difficult to gauge exactly how bad the situation is there.

But Ji Seong-ho, a South Korean lawmaker who defected from the North in 2006 and has campaigned for North Koreans’ human rights, said the virus could spread rapidly due partly to the lack of a working medical system.

“The COVID outbreak could hit the ongoing farming season hard, and food security might become really serious this year and next,” he told a parliamentary session.

International sanctions over the North’s weapons programmes restrict broad swaths of its trade, and the country sealed its border in early 2020 to prevent the virus.

A reopening of border trade early this year raised a glimmer of hope, only to be halted in April because of COVID outbreaks in China, which has recently imposed extremely tight restrictions in major cities like Shanghai. Satellite imagery shows goods sitting for weeks or months in quarantine at land and sea port facilities.

Cheong Seong-chang, director of the Sejong Institute’s North Korea studies centre in South Korea, said the North could impose limited measures – unlike China’s sweeping moves – to ensure some activity continues, referring to Kim’s order to keep the lockdowns to the city and county levels.

“But over time, the lack of interregional movement would hurt supply and production, and North Korea might eventually face a serious food crisis and the kind of great confusion that’s been seen in China recently,” Cheong said.

North Korea’s weather agency has warned of prolonged dry spells this month, and state media again on Thursday reported an “all-out fight against drought” nationwide.

In March, the United Nations urged Pyongyang to reopen its borders to aid workers and food imports, saying its deepening isolation may have left many facing starvation.

The World Food Program estimated that even before the pandemic emerged, 11 million people, or more than 40% of the North’s population, were undernourished and needed assistance.


Related Articles


  1. Hi there! Would you mind if I share your blog with my
    facebook group? There’s a lot of people that I think would really appreciate your content.
    Please let me know. Many thanks

  2. Attractive component to content. I just stumbled
    upon your web site and in accession capital to claim that I
    get actually enjoyed account your blog posts. Any way I’ll be subscribing in your feeds or
    even I success you get admission to consistently rapidly.

  3. I’m no longer sure where you are getting your information, however good topic.
    I must spend a while studying much more or working out more.
    Thank you for fantastic info I used to be searching for this information for my mission.

  4. It’s hard to come by knowledgeable people on this subject, however, you seem like
    you know what you’re talking about! Thanks

  5. This is the right web site for everyone who would like to
    find out about this topic. You understand so much its almost hard to argue with you (not that I actually would want to…HaHa).
    You definitely put a fresh spin on a subject which has been written about for a long time.
    Excellent stuff, just great!

  6. These are truly impressive ideas in about blogging. You have touched some fastidious things here.

    Any way keep up wrinting.

  7. I enjoy you because of all your valuable work on this site.

    Gloria loves participating in research and it’s really obvious why.
    Many of us hear all relating to the compelling means you provide
    informative tips and hints through this web site and improve participation from other individuals on this issue then our girl is certainly becoming educated so much.
    Enjoy the rest of the new year. Your carrying out a glorious job.I’m
    really impressed together with your writing skills and also with the format to
    your blog. Is that this a paid subject or did you customize
    it yourself? Anyway keep up the excellent quality writing, it is
    rare to see a nice blog like this one today.

  8. I’m gone to inform my little brother, that he should also go to see
    this weblog on regular basis to take updated from most up-to-date

  9. What’s up to every body, it’s my first visit of this weblog; this weblog contains remarkable and really excellent information for readers.

  10. Spot on with this write-up, I seriously believe this site
    needs a great deal more attention. I’ll probably be returning to read more, thanks for the advice!

  11. I’ll immediately snatch your rss feed as I can not in finding
    your e-mail subscription link or newsletter service. Do you’ve any?
    Kindly let me know so that I could subscribe.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Back to top button
Bitcoin (BTC) $ 24,456.55 2.56%
Ethereum (ETH) $ 1,981.36 5.15%
Tether (USDT) $ 0.999941 0.13%
USD Coin (USDC) $ 1.00 0.11%
BNB (BNB) $ 329.86 2.76%
Cardano (ADA) $ 0.558886 5.68%
XRP (XRP) $ 0.380391 1.56%
Binance USD (BUSD) $ 0.999535 0.21%
Solana (SOL) $ 46.74 9.07%
Polkadot (DOT) $ 9.48 2.42%