Will North Korea Ever Be Food Self-Sufficient?

As North Korea enters its sixth straight year of serious food shortages, it is becoming apparent that the isolated Communist country is going to require substantial food aid for many years to come.

The irony is that the policies that led to North Korea’s food disasters were designed by North Korea’s leaders to make the country independent of the rest of the world. Pushing an extremely xenophobic ideology, beginning in the mid-1970s North Korea’s leaders sought to limit all contact, including economic, between that country and the rest of the world.

The upshot of North Korea’s totalitarian policies, however, have required not only increasing contacts but about eight million North Koreans who are totally dependent on the World Food Program to provide the food for their survival.

WFP executive director Catherine Bertini recently returned from North Korea and told the BBC that even if that country experiences several years of excellent weather and good harvests, it will still require extensive food aid for the foreseeable future. According to Bertini,

…for the foreseeable future — at least for the next few years — even with improved harvests, even with good weather, there will be a need for food aid.

One point where Bertini was clearly incorrect, however, was in her assertion to the BBC that it was “no crime” for North Korea not to be self-sufficient. In fact, when a totalitarian government abuses human rights to such a degree that it results in the outright starvation of millions of people (as many as two million people have starved to death in North Korea), that most certainly is a crime.


N Korea faces desperate future. The BBC, August 21, 2001.

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