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).
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Abuja Blast Impacts Lives, Livelihoods

Officials say they are looking at ways to help bombing victims and boosting security More

Cambodia Technology Adviser Criticizes Cybercrime Draft Law

Phu Leewood says current criminal code can be used to prosecute offenders and that there is no need for a separate law More

Photogallery A Year Later, Boston Remembers Deadly Marathon Bombings

City pauses to honor victims and salute emergency workers who came to their assistance in frantic moments after blasts 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.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid