Aid agencies struggle to feed hungry kids as N. Korea cuts food imports to 10-year low

Wasn’t it only Groundhog Day when the U.N. released $8 million in emergency aid to “enable life-saving assistance for more than 2.2 million people” in North Korea who are the “most vulnerable and at risk of malnutrition?” Wasn’t it just last month when UNICEF warned that “25,000 children in North Korea require immediate treatment for malnutrition after a drought cut food production by a fifth and the government reduced rations?”

North Korea’s overall food imports from neighboring China fell by a quarter in 2015 when compared the previous year, while cereals and related food products fell to 10-year lows.

NK News analysis comparing monthly figures and data stretching back to 2005 shows that some of the DPRK’s primary food imports fell to levels not seen since the middle of the last decade.

In particular cereals – a trade group which includes rice – continued a steady decline throughout last year until settling at 30 percent of 2014 totals. But at 27,000 tons the figure was the lowest in more than 10 years. [NK News, Leo Byrne]

More helpful context for this problem:

Pyongyang is estimated to have spent a whopping $850 million launching the long-range rocket carrying its Kwangmyongsong-4 satellite Sunday. That amount of money is large enough to feed 20 million North Koreans for a year if it were used to purchase about 2.5 million tons of corn from China.

Beijing must realize that what really harms the good of North Koreans are not the sanctions but the Pyongyang regime’s determination to develop nuclear weapons to ensure its survival. [Editorial, Joongang Daily]

As Professor Lee and I have noted before, Pyongyang values the dead more than the living. Here’s fresh evidence to support that.

A Newfocus internal correspondent reported that OGD ordered the corps headquarters across the state to build new statues of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jung-il, to commemorate the upcoming 7th Congress of the Worker’s Party that is to be held in May 2016. The order is passed down from OGD through Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea, then to the Supreme Command. […]

The correspondent explained, “The initially appointed amount of $600,000 by OGD is snowballing as the order passes down to lower social order. The dollar extortion from the residents is excruciating that the next thing they will take away is the people’s copper utensils”. [New Focus Int’l]

And let’s not forget those ski gondolas. Or this:

Satellite imagery of North Korea’s Nampho port reveals what appears to be a new 50-meter pleasure craft, according to Radio Free Asia (RFA). [….]

The new boat joins a number of other pleasure craft visible on satellite imagery around the DPRK’s coasts. In 2013, an NK News investigation revealed Kim Jong Un’s $7 million yacht, originally manufactured by British company Princess.

UN sanctions prohibit the sale of pleasure craft, cars and other luxury items to North Korea, but patchy implementation often means that prohibited goods can still find their way across the DPRK’s borders. [NK News, Leo Byrne]

When the U.N. issues statements that propagate Pyongyang’s lies — that it lacks the means to import more food, even while it’s importing extravagances and slashing commercial food imports — it perpetuates North Korea’s food crisis. You cannot — cannot, cannot — tell me that for 22 straight years, the droughts and floods that never caused anyone to go hungry in South Korea caused chronic malnutrition in North Korea. The causes of hunger in North Korea are, first, this obscene misallocation of wealth; second, arbitrary food and land confiscations; and third, the failure to institute meaningful agricultural or land reform.

North Koreans aren’t starving because of weather, they’re starving because of deliberate state policies. Those policies are crimes against humanity — what the U.N. Commission of Inquiry called “the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation.” The World Food Program and other humanitarian agencies have a duty to address the real causes of this long-term humanitarian crisis by telling the world the truth about them. Until the world demands that Kim Jong-un prioritize his wealth to feed his people, those criminal policies will never change, and most North Koreans will continue to go hungry.

Until the world demands that Kim Jong-un prioritize his wealth to feed his people, those criminal policies will never change, and most North Koreans will continue to go hungry.

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