Is The North Korean Government To Blame For Starving Citizens?


In March 2016, North Korea called upon its
citizens to prepare for another “arduous march” – a reference to the country’s
devastating famine in the 1990s. North Korea’s food shortage is so dire that the government
launched a 70-day “loyalty campaign”, requiring farmers to donate crops to the military
and citizens of Pyongyang to provide more than two pounds of rice to the state every
month. So, how did North Korea get to this point? Malnutrition is nothing new for North Korea…
the country has a long history of food shortages. After the famine of the 1990s, North Korea
relied on international donors – like China and the United States – for about 80 percent
of its food supply. But throughout the 2000’s, its donors steadily cut them off, in response
to the country’s persistent human rights abuses and growing nuclear program. By 2013,
the country’s food aid had dropped almost 20-fold. The United Nations reported in 2015
that 70 percent of North Koreans are food insecure, and more than a quarter of children
under five are chronically malnourished. North Korea’s current plight is largely
a result of its severe drought, which the government calls its worst in a century. In
2014, rainfall hit a 30-year low, and roughly 30 percent of the country’s primary crop
has dried up. In the past, North Korea has dealt with the country’s periodic floods
and droughts with proactive farming techniques; but, the severity of this drought has outweighed
even their most efficient methods. Even privately-owned markets – which were once a primary source
of food for city-dwellers – have been strictly curbed under Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un. This is under the backdrop of North Korea’s
severe inequality and corrupt government, which experts say has fueled many of the country’s
otherwise avoidable food shortages. North Korea’s social system, called “songbun”,
assigns citizens one of three designated social classes, based solely on their family history.
A person’s songbun determines where they work, live and even how much food they receive
from the state. Accordingly, those with the lowest songbun suffer the most from food shortages.
It’s estimated that more than three million North Koreans died during the 1990s famine,
many of whom belonged to the lowest societal sector. What’s more, the North Korean government
has reportedly prioritized its military and nuclear program, over feeding its hungry population.
According to the UN, this strategy has persisted even during periods of mass starvation. North Korea’s allies and other world leaders
have responded to the country’s massive military spending with economic sanctions,
which are reportedly the toughest in two decades. These prohibit UN members from purchasing
North Korea’s two largest exports: coal and iron,. But as history shows, the government
is hesitant to help its own people. Instead, as famine looms, the state has asked its citizens
to [quote] “chew the roots of plants once again”. Millions in North Korea are starving, with
almost no resources to turn to. Watch this video by DNews about the effects of starvation
on the human body, to learn just what North Korea’s population is going through. Thanks
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