Parts of North Korea are suffering from a severe drought. In some regions, drinking water is selling rapidly, as even underground water sources have run dry. Reporter Kang Mi Jin is here to tell us more.
Previously we reported that many residents of North Hamgyong Province were more worried about flood than drought due to traumatic memories of the widespread flooding last year. But in other regions, farmers are deeply concerned about the ongoing drought.
People are saying that it will be difficult to farm in most regions due to the lack of water. According to sources in Taehongdan County and Paekam County in Ryanggang Province, the underground water sources that were once used for drinking water have dried up due to an unprecedented and severe drought.
Ryanggang Province is famous for being the location of Mt Paektu. But Taehongdan County and Paekam County are notorious for water supply issues, as a majority of the land is contains large volumes of sand. Due to this environment, underground water sources have diminished quickly this year, and the valley streams are said to be filled with residents collecting water from early dawn.
The regions near Mt Paektu suffer from a lack of water every year, but is this year worse than normal?
Yes, the water shortages are a chronic problem, so residents resort to underground water, using a manual pump. But now the underground water supplies have dried up. Residents are deeply concerned, wondering when they can finally live without having to worry about basic necessities. When one thing improves, like the food security issue, something else goes wrong. People know that farming will be very difficult if the drought continues.
Ryanggang Province is not the only region suffering from drought. According to Daily NK’s sources, rice planting has generally started at a later date than last year in most regions. People are said to be digging wells under the scorching summer sun in their desperate search for new sources of water.
It seems that not only farmers, but also ordinary people are suffering from the drought. Can you provide more details?
According to a resident in Taehongdan County, Ryanggang Province, the drought has been severe since early spring this year and the furrows are all covered with dust. The farmers have no specific measures to cope with the situation, as the pumping facility is dilapidated and there are not many places to draw water from.
The 10.18 Collective Farm in Undok is also suffering under the drought. Residents have to walk tens of kilometers to draw water, as the village streams are parched.
Some merchants are purchasing drinking water in large volumes and selling it at a slightly cheaper price. The drinking water is said to be selling like hotcakes in the markets. So the solution to the urgent need for drinking water has come through the markets and private vendors.
That is good to hear. The merchants are adapting quickly to the changing environments.
Yes. Merchants are most aware of the needs of the rest of the population, as they survive off good trading decisions.
This is actually helpful for the residents as they can purchase drinking water at an affordable price. So it’s a win-win situation.
However, a constant supply of water from the markets is not possible, so some residents are said be installing water pumps from place to place to draw underground water.
Residents in rural areas must find it difficult to constantly purchase water with their limited budgets. How much does drinking water cost?
Mineral water was originally purchased mostly by people traveling by train or merchants going on long-distance business trips using servicha (transportation and delivery services). Also, some of the donju purchased mineral water, thinking that local tap water might be contaminated. However, most residents have been using water from wells, spring water, or underground water drawn by pump and because the underground water all dried up so fast, people have no choice but to purchase mineral water.
The bottled mineral water brands currently available in North Korea include Paektu Spring Water, which is jointly produced by a North Korean company and a foreign company, Ryongak Spring Water, which is produced in Pyongyang, and Sindok Spring Water, produced in Onchon County, South Pyongan Province. Of these three, Sindok Spring Water is said to be the most popular.
Sindok Spring Water is claimed to be high quality and is supplied to Kim Jong Un’s family and high-ranking officials. Merchants are selling the water at 500-550 KPW per bottle, which is 100 KPW lower than usual.
Thank you for the report. Lastly, let’s take a look at the market trends in North Korea.