Yesterday, a South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesperson revealed the Lee Myung Bak administration’s view of North Korean food insecurity this spring, saying that the drought situation in parts of the country has not reached the level of a crisis.
“Our general assessment is that it is not serious enough to fall into the level of crisis,” the spokesperson declared, adding, “At present, no plan is in the offing with regard to government-level food assistance in North Korea.”
The assessment casts doubt on claims made by the North Korean state media in recent weeks. Rodong Shinmun and Chosun Central News Agency have both reported on threats to the upcoming harvest caused by drought.
Daily NK has also reported on similar difficulties, citing inside information suggesting unusual levels of starvation, primarily in South Hwanghae Province, although analysis suggests that this is at least as much down to excessive appropriation by the authorities for military and capital city use as it is down to bad weather.
The South Korean view also stands in contrast with earlier assessments from groups such as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the United Nations Children’s Fund and the World Food Program.
In a report released by the FAO on its website Monday, the organization asserted the severity of the current drought, and warned of the consequences of inaction; increased food insecurity and the vulnerability of millions to hunger. It insisted that there is an “urgent need of international food assistance” for the worst-affected regions.
In addition, last week U.N. agencies operating inside North Korea also reported that the humanitarian effort for North Korea is “seriously underfunded” and called for additional provision.
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