News / Asia

N. Korean Aid Shortages Prompt Outreach, Questions

Residents dry crops on a collective farm 20 kilometers from Pyongyang in 2010 (file photo).
Residents dry crops on a collective farm 20 kilometers from Pyongyang in 2010 (file photo).
Daniel Schearf

The United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says a combination of poor harvests, drops in donations, and rising regional food prices could leave North Korea short of food this year by about 600,000 tons.

That means up to six million people, a quarter of the population, would not get enough to eat in a country where a third of all children are already malnourished and have stunted growth.

North Korea’s communist leaders last year cut public rations to half of the body’s daily requirement, down to just 370 grams per person per day.

Hiroyuki Konuma, the FAO representative for Asia, was in North Korea this past week to discuss the food situation with government officials. He told the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand that rations were being further reduced.

"We really seek a strong understanding of donor communities for food aid," he said.

The World Food Program (WFP) launched an emergency appeal to donors earlier this year after a rough winter destroyed crops. WFP spokesman Marcus Prior said they have only received about a third of the $209 million required to achieve their goals.

"In August we were able to reach only one percent of all the people we were targeting for food assistance simply because we didn’t have the food in country," he said. "We're hopeful of reaching everybody, but with a reduced ration."

Prior said they were able to convince officials in Pyongyang to grant more leeway to their aid-tracking operations. For the first time they are allowed to have Korean speaking staff, make nationwide visits to markets and use an online food-tracking system.

Questions about transparency linger

But some analysts remain skeptical of Pyongyang’s reported shortfalls. The self-isolated and impoverished nation has for decades struggled to feed its own people while simultaneously directing huge sums of money to the military and ruling elite.

"There's a considerable degree of mistrust between the South and the North and the U.S. and the North, over both the failure to de-nuclearize and over whether the food situation is really as bad as it seems," said Brian Bridges, professor of politics at Hong Kong's Lingnang University.

Pyongyang’s historic lack of transparency in distribution of food aid raises suspicions that at least some funding may be diverted to the military or, perhaps, upcoming national festivities in recognition of the country’s founder, Kim Il Sung.

"With the 100th anniversary of Kim Il Sung's birth rapidly approaching," said Bridges, "it is possible officials would store food away from the general populace in preparation."

At this point in time, the U.S. and South Korea are reluctant to resume regular donations.

North Korea in 2009 pulled out of talks aimed at ending its nuclear programs in return for aid and diplomatic incentives.

You May Like

Cambodia Seeks Official UN Maps for Vietnam Border

Notice of request comes as 2 countries open border talks Tuesday after a clash last month More

From South Africa to Vietnam, Cyclists Deliver Message Against Rhino Horns

Appalled by poaching they saw firsthand, sisters embark on tour to raise awareness in countries where rhino horn products are in demand More

Uber Wants Johannesburg Police Protection

Request follows recent protests outside ride-hailing service's Johannesburg office More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
Maia Pujara
July 07, 2015 10:01 PM
A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbs

A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video Getting it Done Beyond a Nuclear Deal

If a nuclear deal is reached between Iran and world powers in Vienna, it will be a highly technical road map to be used to monitor nuclear activity in Iran for years to come to ensure Tehran does not make nuclear weapons. Equally as complicated will be dismantling international sanctions that were originally intended to be ironclad. VOA’s Heather Murdock talks to experts about the key challenges any deal will present.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.

VOA Blogs