Fear over Upcoming Starvation in North Korea, Is It Unfounded?

first_img Pence Cartoon: “KOR-US Karaoke” Tracking the “unidentified yellow substance” being dried out near the Yongbyon Nuclear Center Is Nuclear Peace with North Korea Possible? AvatarDaily NKQuestions or comments about this article? Contact us at [email protected] Analysis & Opinion [imText1]Expectation of mass starvation this spring in North Korea is increasing as the country is under UN Security Council-ratified sanctions and last year’s crop fell sharply due to flood. Some even speculate on worst case scenario- worse than that happened in mid 90s. Whatever occurs in this spring, it would follow the epidemic that has hit the country since last autumn. Seoul’s Buddhist aid organization ‘Good Friends’ released estimation of last year’s crop production in North Korea, and concluded 2007 might be the most disastrous year for many North Koreans. Some scholars expected death toll could reach up to 6 million. However, others reputed such extreme number because of different socio-economic circumstance in North Korea. They argued that more than 70% of North Korean residents were living off private markets and had already figured out how to survive through shortage of food. North Korea’s food situation is determined by annual total consumption of food over total supply. Since there is no reliable official data, annual total consumption could only be calculated by annual (minimum) consumption per person multiplied by total population. A forty-six years old former official from food distribution office in Hamheung, Choi, told the Daily NK in a recent telephone interview that “given daily food consumption as 550g per person, average daily consumption for 22 million North Koreans is 12,100 metric ton and annual average is roughly 4 million ton.” ‘Person’ includes adult laborer, senior residents and children. Yet, since early 80s, North Korean government has deducted 8-days amount of food per every month for ‘wartime ration.’ In other words, the whole North Korean population receives 3,255,000 tons of food, rather than 4 million, each year. Of course, the figure hardly reflects reality. North Korea’s official food distribution standard prior to 1992제목 없음Children under 12Senior citizens (male over 60, female over 55)From 17 to 60 (to 55 for female):LaborersMiddle school students (13-17)Soldiers and mine workersStandard amount:300gStandard amount:700g Standard amount:500gStandard amount:900gReduced actual amount: 250gReduced actual amount: 500gReduced actual amount:400gReduced actual amount:700g Analysis & Opinion By Daily NK – 2007.02.09 7:37pm Fear over Upcoming Starvation in North Korea, Is It Unfounded? SHARE Analysis & Opinion Facebook Twitter Until 1992, North Korean people were rationed as above. Despite deduction, food production was enough to feed 22-million population. Another former food distribution office employee from North Korea, Lee, a forty-one years old, confirmed the estimate. “Everyone in North Korea knows that ten thousands ton of food per day can feed the whole population.” Lee continued, “Only if the authorities kept distributing the pre-1992 amount of food, no North Koreans would have crossed the border.”The late Kim Il-sung also stated “If (we) produce five million tones of cereal, we can provide not only enough food, but also enough snacks and candies, to the people.” Indeed, 3.5 million ton, if evenly dispersed, seems a minimum limit to prevent starvation. Then, how much cereal did North Korea harvest last year?Estimates vary. South Korea’s Agrarian Development Office assumed the harvest reached 4.48 million ton, and the World Food Programme’s number was 4.3 million, similar to that of South Korean government agency. However, an aid organization in Seoul, ‘Good Friends’ had gloomier number: 2.8 million ton. According to the information gathered by the NGO, cereal production in South Hwanghae, Pyongan, Kangwon provinces in 2006 was diminished by 40%. The gap between highest and lowest estimate is 1.5 million ton, due to lack of direct research inside North Korea. If last year’s food production was actually 2.8 million ton, given annual average consumption amount of 3.5 million, prospect of mass starvation is darkening. Nonetheless, since there is no clear-cut estimate of cereal production, another important factor must be analyzed, instead. It is the cereal price. In 1995, the year March of Tribulation started, price of rice and corn skyrocketed. In October 1995, corn price almost doubled from 15 NK won per kg to more than 30 won/kg (the price after 7.1 Reform is 350 won now). That was during harvest season. If North Korea is really suffering food shortage, the rice price must show a sign of increase by now, four months after harvest. However, the price of rice and corn in private market indicates no big difference with that before the nuclear test on October 9. Since last summer, rice price has been stable from 1000 won to 1200/kg, and corn price 300~350 won/kg. Another noteworthy fact is that, although during the March of Tribulation corn price had remained sixty percent of that of rice, now it is less than 35% of rice’s. (Rice is the main cereal, while corn is regarded as inferior, less-preferable food source that rice, in Korea). Given such numbers, it is reasonable to assume WFP and South Korean government agency’s estimate, though not accurate, is closer to North Korea’s actual cereal output last year. Annual cereal production in North Korea by UN’s FAO and WFP (in million ton)제목 없음Annual cereal production in North Korea by UN’s FAO and WFP (in million ton)1995(WFP)1996(FAO)1997(FAO)1998(FAO)1999(FAO)2000(FAO)2001(FAO)2002(FAO)2004(FAO)2006(WFP)2.502.872.833.783.422.573.653.964.154.30Nevertheless, the UN data from 1995 to 1999 could be inaccurate. Former Korean People’s Party secretary Hwang Jang-yeob testified that, told by then agriculture secretary Seo Kwan-hee, 1996’s crop was less than 2 million ton. Based on data and testimonies, North Korea would be in danger if yearly food production is less than 3 million ton and would barely escape mass starvation with more than 3.5 million ton-crop. The more fundamental difference from now and then is people’s adaptation to situation. Market is widespread and more North Koreans are ready to import cereal from China incase of food shortage. In mid-90s, loyal North Koreans followed the party’s direction blindly and died, which could never happen now. In conclusion, North Korea’s cereal output is likely to be more than 3.5 million ton and many residents know how to survive through food shortage. Therefore mass starvation could be unfounded fear. RELATED ARTICLESMORE FROM AUTHOR Analysis & Opinion last_img read more