Worst of North Korean famine may be over

Although many North Koreans are reported to be surviving famine in that country
by eating bark and wild plants, officials with the World Food Program suggest
the worst of the famine may be over.

According to Abigail Spring, a WFP official, “I think it’s possible
that we’ve prevented a famine.” Spring noted that although children
she saw on a recent visit are in poor health they no longer seemed to be extraordinarily

Not to say North Korea might not slip into famine at any moment. Much will
depend on how much rain the country gets in the next few months.

Over the long term, however, the latest famine may be finally getting through
to North Korea’s dictators that their stranglehold on the nation’s
economy is counterproductive. In an agreement with the U.N. Development Program,
North Korea agreed to allow small farmers to sell their crops on the open market
in exchange for up to $300 million in foreign aid.

Other reforms include allowing agricultural cooperatives to trade among themselves.
Christian Lemaire, a UN representative in North Korea believes the concessions
are significant.

“It’s a different picture which is emerging,” Lemaire said.
“They acknowledge changes they have to make.”

And it only took them 40 years and millions of deaths to figure it out.


North Koreans living on bark, wild plants, aid officials say. Associated Press,
June 21, 1998.

North Korea takes steps toward market economy. Robert H. Reid, Associated
Press, June 4, 1998.

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