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North Korean Leader Urges Officials to Achieve Grain Production Targets Amidst Worsening Food Shortages

According to state media reports on Thursday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has called on government officials to ensure that the country meets its grain production goals “without fail,” as there are reports that the food shortage in Pyongyang is worsening. North Korea, a nuclear-armed nation that is under multiple sets of sanctions over its weapons programs, has been struggling to feed itself for a long time. In addition, the country has implemented a strict self-imposed coronavirus blockade since early 2020 to protect itself from the pandemic, and has only recently resumed some trade with China.

The official Korean Central News Agency reported that during a key meeting by the ruling party on Wednesday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un passionately urged government officials to achieve this year’s grain production target. He emphasized the need to increase nationwide agricultural output by overcoming the imbalance in farming guidance and focusing on increasing the yield per hectare at all farms. This report follows Kim’s call for a “fundamental transformation” in the country’s agricultural production on Monday, and last month, South Korea’s unification ministry stated that there had been reports of deaths due to starvation in the North.

According to South Korea’s unification ministry spokesperson Koo Byoung-sam, there are severe food shortages in North Korea, and Pyongyang has apparently requested assistance from the World Food Programme. The North Korean regime has faced criticism for prioritizing military and nuclear weapons programs over ensuring adequate food supply for its citizens. In 2021, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un acknowledged the challenging food situation, describing it as “tense” and advising people to brace themselves for the worst-case scenario.

During his agenda-setting speech for 2022, Kim Jong Un emphasized the need for food security and development in North Korea. The country has been facing a long-standing problem of food shortages, with the state-run KCTV admitting to a “food crisis” in 2021. North Korea has a history of being hit by famines, one of which occurred in the 1990s and resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths, possibly even millions. The country’s vulnerability to natural disasters such as floods and droughts is due to a lack of infrastructure, deforestation, and decades of mismanagement by the state.

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