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The Guardian: "Imperialists' poisoned candy" - North Korean government urges starving population not to count on Western support

22-2-2023 |

The major North Korean state newspaper Rodong Sinmun has said that relying on external aid to cope with food shortages would be the same as taking “poisoned candy”, amid a national crisis and a reported increase in deaths from starvation.

North Korea has suffered food shortages in recent years, brought on by natural disasters, international sanctions aimed at curbing its nuclear and missile programmes, and a sharp cut in trade with China due to border closures and Covid-19 lockdowns.

In an editorial on Wednesday, the Rodong Sinmun urged economic self-reliance and warned against receiving economic help from “imperialists” using aid as a “trap to plunder and subjugate” recipient countries and interfere with their internal politics.

“It is a mistake to try to boost the economy by accepting and eating this poisoned candy,” said the commentary in the Workers’ party paper.

Most UN agencies and western relief groups have left North Korea, with China remaining one of the few sources of external food assistance.

South Korea’s unification ministry, which handles inter-Korea affairs, said on Tuesday that there appeared to have been a recent increase in deaths from starvation in some North Korean provinces.

“Food production dropped from last year, and there is a possibility of distribution issues due to a change in their food supply and distribution policy,” a ministry official told reporters.

In December, South Korea’s rural development agency estimated the North’s crop production had fallen 3.8% from 2021, citing heavy summer rains and other weather conditions.

Food availability is, by one metric, at its worst since North Korea’s famine in the 1990s, according to analysis from Hundreds of thousands of people are estimated to have died in this period.

The South’s unification minister, Kwon Young-se, has said Pyongyang asked the UN’s food agency, the World Food Programme, to provide support but there was no progress because of disagreements over monitoring issues.

In 2022 the World Food Programme estimated that 10.7 million people – or more than 40% of North Korea’s population – were undernourished and required humanitarian assistance. Experts say this number has likely grown in the last year, with climate-related disasters like droughts, floods, typhoons and heatwaves reducing agricultural production.

Source: The Guardian