N. Korea's food situation hopelessly bad: aid group

Posted on : 2008-04-03 11:27 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST

North Korea's food shortages are so bad that even its elite citizens in Pyongyang will not get state food rations until September, a local relief group said Thursday.

Seoul-based Good Friends said the North has decided to suspend state food rations in the capital city for six months from this month amid the worsening food situation.

The Buddhist group, however, did not reveal the source of that information.

A grim prediction is spreading that there will be massive deaths from famine in provincial areas of the impoverished country around May, it also said.

It indicated the decision is unprecedented, quoting some senior Pyongyang officials as saying food distribution was not even cut for such a long period of time during the country's worst food crisis in the late 1990s.

The group said last month that the North suspended food rations in its main grain belts and even reduced them in the capital in recent months due to the worsening food situation.

"The situation is far more hopeless than expected," it said in its weekly newsletter, quoting an unnamed senior official in Pyongyang.

After suffering damage from flooding for a couple of years from 2006, the official said, North Korea is now experiencing its "worst-ever" food crisis due partly to a chronic shortage of fertilizer and the authorities' recent seizure of privately cultivated farmland.

Rumors are circulating around major cities such as Pyongyang and Hamhung and Chongjin, both on the North's east coast, that the North will begin to see massive deaths from famine from this month, the official claimed.

International aid groups including the World Food Program have appealed for more state donations for North Korea this year, warning of the nation's worst food shortage in years because of last year's severe floods, coupled with a winter drought and soaring international grain prices.

North Korea has heavily depended on international aid to feed its 23 million population in recent years.

SEOUL, April 3 (Yonhap)

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