It’s certainly not a great time to be in North Korea right now. In addition to teetering precariously on the brink of a war with neighboring South Korea as well as generally facing international condemnation, with a leader who chooses to put his government's efforts into public displays of military might and consolidation of power, the country and its citizens yet again face the prospect of severe famine this coming summer. Information has come to light that an ambassador out of the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, recently asked for food aid from President Elbegdorj of Mongolia over a courtesy call. In wake of an already harsh harvest season last year, this upcoming year could prove disastrous for the North Korean economy and people, as well as the stability of the latest iteration of the Kim regime, lead by Kim Jong-Un.
The North Korean government is already in the process of delivering rations to the people, but these rations are highly concentrated in major urban areas such as Pyongyang, where the comparatively wealthier members of North Korean society mostly live. A vast number of North Koreans are rural peasants who already struggle with being able to acquire food or basic necessities of human life, and a famine could result in the deaths of scores of rural North Koreans over the coming months. According to the World Food Program, one third of all North Korean children suffer growth stunting from malnutrition, and nearly half of the population live in extreme poverty. The situation is so desperate that a few have resorted to cannibalism to stay alive.
All the while, Kim Jong-Un alone is worth $5 billion, much of it kept in bank accounts outside of North Korea all together. The Kim regime is airtight in its control of civil liberties manipulation of the media and press. Foreign journalists have frequently had to hide their identities, and are supposedly subject to a bizarrely staged and embellished version of North Korean society. Kim Jong-Un is quite literally thought of as the grandson of God (Kim Il-Sung) and holds supreme command over every single aspect of the government. In addition to this, the Military aristocracy is so totally entrenched within the country that it is widely considered to be a neo-facist Military Oligarchy.
As a result of current efforts to stop the famine early, the price of rice is plummeting. The upcoming famine will likely be of horrific consequence to a large portion of North Korea’s population, while Fascist generals look only to consolidate and concentrate their power. I can’t say I’m in favor of adding more sanctions to North Korea given the massive economic suffering the people endure already, but as Kim Jong-Un and others bark about an increasingly tense conflict between North Korea and South Korea, the citizens suffer.
The fact that the government is busy trying to show they shouldn’t be messed with to South Korea, China, and the U.S. while also begging Mongolia for food leaves me more than concerned with the possibility of widespread death and misery. If there is any way that a silver lining could be found in this situation, it is only that the economic destabilization of the country could lead to a peasant-lead regime change. Frankly, it’s hard to even envision that.