Drought expected to worsen food shortages in NK: expert
A severe dry spell in North Korea is expected to exacerbate chronic food shortages in the poverty-stricken nation where the U.N.'s food agency says 3 million people are in urgent need of food aid, a South Korean expert said Wednesday.
The amount of cereal crops harvested in the June-July season is forecast to sharply drop due to the unusually long drought, said Kwon Tae-jin, a senior researcher at the state-run Korea Rural Economic Institute in Seoul, in a report.
"Because of severe drought, North Korea is expected to run into a big problem in harvesting corn this year," Kwon said, adding it could prompt the price of other crops to rise.
Harvesting of other crops such as wheat, barley and potatoes is also expected to "significantly fall," Kwon said.
According to a report by the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which was posted on its Web site on Monday, drought has affected some 17 percent of North Korea's total farmland.
"Any drop in production is likely to add to the shortfall of food supplies and worsen food insecurity in the country," FAO said in the report.
The FAO report concluded that, "Three million vulnerable people, mainly living in the five most food-insecure provinces of Ryanggang, Chagang, North Hamgyong, South Hamgyong and Kangwon, are in urgent need of international food assistance, due to an inadequate food production."
Such assessments were at odds with the stance of the South Korean government.
Commenting on North Korea's food shortages on Tuesday, Seoul's Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Byung-jae said, "Our general assessment is that (the North's food situation) is not so serious as to fall into a level of crisis."
Cho made the remark when asked whether South Korea will consider resuming state food aid to the North if the drought worsens further. (Yonhap)