Policy Paper

North Korea’s Food Situation: Bad but not Catastrophic

in Program

North Korea’s food situation is confusing. The World Food Program (WFP) and the North Korean government have effectively conveyed the message to the world that major food shortages and, some say, perhaps even a famine, are at hand. Pyongyang as well as some experts blame United Nations sanctions. (Less fuel, for instance, means less fertilizer production, and makes it harder to run agricultural machinery.) The WFP has primarily blamed inclement weather for the lower harvests.

However, none of these explanations are satisfying. The WFP has sounded alarms many times before about looming shortages when no sanctions were in place. Bad weather alone is never a sufficient explanation. The WFP and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warn almost yearly of food shortfalls in North Korea, but these reports tend not to be followed up with corroborating evidence of increased difficulties.

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