Floods and natural disasters impare food security in North Korea

Gyung-Lan Jung – WNN Opinion

North Korea grandmother and child
North Korea grandmother and child. Image: Tom Haskell / UN World Food Programme

(WNN) SEOUL: It is June. The season of verdure is slowly fading out and summer is actually starting to set in. The mountains are covered with full of flowers and lush landscapes.

We Koreans still remember what was like to endure the month of June. June signals us that the harvested food from last year is almost gone and there will be still several months before this year’s harvest starts. June indicates we will need to endure hunger before the autumn.

Fortunately people in South Korea no longer suffer from hunger in June. However the same cannot be said to people in North Korea. A recent report from WFP, FAO, UNICEF reflects the current dire situation in North Korea.

In March 2011, WFO, FAO, and UNICEF published a special report on the rapid food security assessment mission to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. According to this report, North Korea has experienced a series of natural disasters, including floods last summer with an unusually harsh and prolonged weather last winter.

This has resulted in a much reduced harvest from last fall and this spring.

The reduction of international food assistance in recent years has had a considerable impact on the current food crisis and shortage of food in North Korea. This report estimates that more than six million people in North Korea will be in dire need (this year) for immediate food assistance and nutritional intervention.

In February 2010, five non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from the United States visited North Korea and published a report that North Korea is in clear need of immediate food assistance.

Specifically this report states, that according to the government officials in the North Pyongan Province, food stocks are extremely low and the Public Distribution System of North Korea will run out of food by June 14, 2011.

In other words, the Public Distribution System will be forced to stop rationing food to people in North Pyongan Province, which will substantially increase the food crisis in these regions. These reports have now alerted non-governmental organizations to the current food crisis in North Korea.

Religious organizations and non-governmental organizations have urged the South Korean Government to resume immediate food assistance and have pledged that non-governmental organizations will also initiate food assistance and interventions to relieve the current food crisis in North Korea.

It remains unclear however whether food assistance and interventions from non-government organizations in South Korea can begin. Non-governmental organizations in South Korea need special permission from the South Korean Government to contact North Koreans or provide any assistance needed to North Korea.

The current South Korean Government, having a hardline policy toward North Korea, has not been enthusiastic about providing food assistance to North Korea. Further, it is reported that the South Korean government has opposed the US government in providing food aid to North Korea.

It should be noted that not all South Koreans agree with this policy of the South Korean government. Many South Koreans believe that it is morally and ethically wrong not to provide humanitarian food assistance to North Koreans because of political considerations.

Many South Koreans believe that it will be critical for the international society to provide humanitarian aid to North Korean to relieve the current food crisis.

We (Women Making Peace / South Korea) strongly appeal to the international community to urgently carry out food aid to the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea). The international community should respond to and consider humanitarian principles.

We dare to say that this is what most Koreans want. Humanitarian food aid from the international society will likely influence the hardline policy of the current South Korean government.

South Koreans will do our best to help the six million vulnerable North Koreans suffering from hunger.

We strongly urge the international society to be a part of this humanitarian aid to help feed North Koreans.

Margaret Warner hosts a report for PBS NewsHour covering the growing food crisis in North Korea. Warner speaks with and interviews David Austin, Director of Mercy Corps programs for humanitarian aid in North Korea, who just returned from the reclusive nation. This 5:47 min March 25, 2011 video is a PBS NewsHour production.


Women Making Peace, located Seoul, South Korea, is part of 34 Korean women’s groups who have come together to work toward peace. Below is the list of those who are part of Women Making Peace:

34 Women’s Groups – Korea

Women Making Peace
Kyunggi Women’s Association United,
Gwangju-Jonnam Women’s Association United,
Daegu-Kyungbuk Women’s Association United,
Busan Women’s Association United,
Kyungnam Women’s Association
Korean Association of Christian Women for Women Minjung
Daegu Women’s Association
Daejun Women’s Association
Busan Counseling Center Against Sexual Violence
The Korean Catholic Women’s Community for a New World
Suwon Women’s Association
Ulsan Women’s Association
Jeju Women’s Association
Jeju Women’s Human Rights Solidarity
Chungbuk Women’s Association
Pohang Women’s Association
Korea Sexual Violence Relief Center
Korea Women Workers Association
Korea Women’s Associations United
Korean Womenlink
Korea Women’s Studies Institute
Korea Women’s Hotline
Korea Women Migrants’ Human Rights Center
National Solidarity for the Solution for Sexual Trafficking
The National Association of Parents for Charm/education
Women’ Social Education Center
Kyungnam Women’s Associations United
Chonbuk Women’s Associations United
Pusan Women’s Center for Social Research
Saewoomtuh for Prostituted Women
Korean Differently-Abled Women’s United
Korean Association of Women Theologians
Housewives Movement for Togetherness


South Korea Women Make Peace Commission Chairperson Gyung Lan Jung Ms. Gyung-Lan Jung is the Chairperson of South Korea’s Women Making Peace Commission.

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