‘NK cuts rations amid food woes‘
By Kim Young-jin
North Korea has apparently reduced rations to emergency levels in some areas due to food shortages, including for soldiers, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported Thursday.
Citing North Korean sources, the report said the move was implemented in April in Yanggang and North Hamgyeong Provinces and that some hospitals and schools have been shut due to supply shortages.
“Except for security agents, food supplies have been suspended for everyone,” the report quoted a source in North Hamgyeong as saying.
The North is coming under increasing pressure from the international community to halt its nuclear weapons program and better serve its people, following a costly failed rocket launch last month.
The April 13 launch, which intended to put a satellite into orbit, was meant to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the nation’s founder Kim Il-sung’s birth. Seoul estimated its cost at $850 million.
The launch nixed a deal with the United States under which the North stood to gain large amounts of nutritional assistance for denuclearization steps.
The United Nations last year estimated that 66 percent of North Koreans suffer from poor food consumption. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Food Program (WFP) made the assessment after a fact-finding mission. The team found most people were living off a mainly carbohydrate-based diet supplemented with vegetables including foraged plants and condiments such as soy bean paste.
It added that much of the population suffered “prolonged food deprivation” as the state’s Public Distribution System (PDS) ration of cereals fell to 200 grams or less per person per day, only one-third the minimum daily energy requirement.
Meanwhile, Seoul-based aid group Good Friends reported that North Korea would convene a meeting of central and local government officials in Pyongyang this month to discuss ways to boost agriculture by cultivating unused land.
On Wednesday, a nuclear expert here estimated the North has spent at least $6.58 billion to develop its nuclear weapons program, sacrificing eight years’ worth of food supplies for the populace.