Saturday 3 December 2016

North Koreans warned to prepare for 'arduous march' - metaphor for devastating famine

Independent.ie Newsdesk and Agencies

Published 29/03/2016 | 09:51

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at the Paektusan Hero Youth Power Station, in Pyongyang
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at the Paektusan Hero Youth Power Station, in Pyongyang

North Korea’s state media has ordered its citizens to prepare for an “arduous march” as the country is set to be hit by yet another devastating famine.

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Pyongyang has announced a national campaign to save food.

"The road to revolution is long and arduous", an editorial in the state-run Rodong Sinmun newspaper stated on Monday. "We may have to go on an arduous march, during which we will have to chew the roots of plants once again".

The country was hit by a four-year famine from 1994, and this was when the government first coined the term “arduous march” as a metaphor for famine, the Telegraph newspaper reports.

The last famine decimated the population, as 3.5 million people died out of a population of 22 million people.  

South Korean newspaper The Chosun Ilbo has reported that every citizen of Pyongyang is being ordered to provide 1kg of rice to the state's warehouses every month, while hard-pressed farmers must "donate" supplies to the country’s military.

Last year, North Korea was hit by its worst drought in a century, resulting in extensive damage to agriculture.

The official Korean Central News Agency said the drought has caused about 30pc of its rice paddies to dry up. Rice plants normally need to be partially submerged in water during the early summer.

"Water level of reservoirs stands at the lowest, while rivers and streams (are) getting dry," it said in a report.

An official from South Korea's Unification Ministry said precipitation in North Korea was abnormally low in May.

Its production of rice and potatoes could decline by as much as 20% compared to average years if the shortage of rainfall extends to early July, he said.

KCNA said other crops were being planted in paddy fields in an attempt to reduce the agricultural shortfall.

North Korea suffered a devastating famine during the 1990s that is believed to have killed hundreds of thousands of people.

The famine is also believed to have loosened the authoritarian state's control over the economy by damaging its public food distribution system and paving the way for private economic activity in unofficial markets.

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