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UN warns of food crisis in N Korea

Says up to 90 percent of arable land could be affected by worst drought in 100 years

A child in North Korea, where the UN warns that severe drought could lead to a food crisis A child in North Korea, where the UN warns that severe drought could lead to a food crisis
  • Stephen Hong, Seoul
  • Korea
  • June 21, 2012
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Food security in North Korea could get even more chronic because of the most devastating drought in the country in the last century, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization warned in a statement earlier this week.

The report said that as much as 90 percent of arable land in the country has been affected by drought and that “more than 3 million people are estimated to face a food deficit.”

The FAO further urged international humanitarian groups to help ease the burden with food and other aid contributions.

The Korea Rural Economic Institute in Seoul also issued a report yesterday warning that food shortages could become chronic as early as next month without aid from the international community.

Father Baptist John Kim Hun-il, executive secretary said the potential existed for as devastating a crisis as occurred in 1995, in which an estimated one million people died.

Humanitarian aid “is a survival issue, not a political one,” he said today referring to the halt to all humanitarian aid following the North’s test firing of a rocket last March.

Prior to that, selective aid relief had been approved by private religious organizations.

Jung Sun-ho, spokesperson for the opposition Democratic United Party, said the government should reinstitute humanitarian aid to the North.

“We are helping hungry children in Africa. Then why not for North Koreans, our brethren?” he told reporters yesterday.

Government opinions remain mixed, however.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Cho Byung-jai questioned the seriousness of the crisis in the North.

“North Korea’s food situation is not so serious as to fall into crisis,” he said earlier this week, adding that the South had no immediate plans to offer food aid.

However, the Unification Ministry spokesperson Kim Hyung-suk acknowledged during a press briefing on June 15 that the drought in the North “has seriously affected the whole Korean peninsula, not only North Korea.”

He added that “we will prepare proper measures” without elaborating what those measures would be.

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