Kim Jong-un touts national agenda as North Korea faces food shortage
Rocket man or radish man?
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, marking his tenth anniversary in office, delivered a speech at a Korea Workers’ Party conference in which, according to official media summaries released on Saturday, he avoided rhetoric belligerent. Instead of, Reuters reported, the dictator focused on domestic portfolio issues.
Kim broke with precedent by making only vague allusions to lingering tensions with South Korea and the United States. However, he pledged to make “radical progress in solving the problem of food, clothing and housing for the population.”
The still island North Korea closed its borders in January 2020 to prevent the spread of COVID-19, according to the BBC. State media claim that North Korea has not had any cases of the virus, but most outside observers doubt this claim.
This self-imposed isolation has led to food shortages. NPR reports that “North Korea’s trade with China, its largest trading partner and economic pipeline, declined by about 80% in 2020 before plunging again by two-thirds in the first nine months of the year. ‘last year”. According to News week, North Koreans were paying more than $ 20 a pound for bananas in June 2021.
Chad O’Carroll, founder of Seoul-based North Korean analytics firm and NK News news service, tweeted that this change suggests that “North Korea is more or less in survival mode for 2022 – and doesn’t really know what to do about foreign policy just yet.”
In addition to keeping much-needed food out, the authoritarian nation’s increased border security and strict restrictions on internal movement have also held people back. Defections in South Korea fell from more than 1,000 in 2019 to just 229 in 2020, according to the Center for Strategic & International Studies. This number continued to decline in 2021.
Defects from South Korea to North Korea are much rarer, but on New Years Day a South Korean made it through North Korea, Reuters reported. The South Korean military has called a special hotline asking that the man is not injured, but cannot confirm if he is still alive.