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Debating NK's food crisis

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10.06.2019

By John Burton

Questions are being raised over the extent of North Korea's current food crisis, with supporters of humanitarian aid saying that help is urgently needed to avoid a famine, while critics claim that Pyongyang is exaggerating the situation.

The debate reflects deeper ethical questions that have long dogged humanitarian aid to North Korea: Is it helping prop up the totalitarian Kim regime or does the global community have a moral responsibility to aid those most in need no matter the nature of their government?

At issue are recent estimates by two U.N. agencies, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Program (WFP), that North Korea in 2018 suffered its worst harvest in a decade. They calculated that North Korea produced 4.9 metric tons of crops last year, resulting in a food shortfall of 1.36 tons.

The FAO suggests that 10.9 million people, or about 43 percent of the country's population, are now at risk of food shortages, while about a fifth of North Korean children face "chronic malnutrition."

Although North Korea's food situation is bad, it is not approaching the catastrophic levels of the mid-1990s when the famine killed up to a million people. Until recently, the country's agricultural production was........

© The Korea Times