North Korean party meeting scheduled to discuss ‘urgent’ food issue

Seoul, South Korea — North Korea has scheduled a major political conference to discuss the “urgent task” of improving its agricultural sector, a possible sign of worsening food insecurity as the country’s economic isolation deepens amid a provocative push of nuclear weapons.

North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency said on Monday that members of the ruling Workers’ Party Politburo met on Saturday and agreed to hold a larger plenary meeting of the party’s Central Committee in late February to consider the agriculture strategies and set new goals. He said members of the Politburo have recognized that “a turning point is needed to aggressively promote step change in agricultural development.”

“It is a very important and urgent task to establish the correct strategy for the development of agriculture and to take relevant measures for immediate agriculture…in order to promote the comprehensive development of socialist construction,” he said. said the KCNA.

The Politburo meeting came amid indications that the country was preparing to hold a massive military parade in Pyongyang, possibly this week, to glorify leader Kim Jong Un’s rule and his growing collection of weapons. nuclear-capable, which he aggressively pushed to expand despite limited resources and economic decline.

While not unprecedented, it is rare for North Korea to hold two different party plenaries in the space of two months. It is also rare for North Korea to convene a plenary meeting on a single agenda, this time agriculture, South Korea’s unification ministry spokesman Koo Byoungsam said during a briefing. Press.

“The government will closely monitor the food situation and internal trends in North Korea,” Koo said. He said South Korea estimates North Korean food production to have fallen about 4% in 2022 to 4.5 million tonnes.

After failed nuclear talks with the US in 2019, Kim said he was strengthening his nuclear weapons and missile program against ‘gangster-like’ US sanctions and pressure and urged his country to stay resilient in the struggle for economic autonomy.

But the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic has unleashed an additional shock on North Korea’s already shattered economy, forcing the country to shield its poor healthcare system with tight border controls that have stifled trade with China, its main ally and economic lifeline. The country was also hit by devastating typhoons and floods in 2020 which decimated crops.

In a study published last month on the North Korea-focused website 38 North, analyst Lucas Rengifo-Keller said food insecurity in North Korea was likely at its worst since the 1990s famine that killed hundreds of thousands of people.

It is difficult to make an accurate assessment of North Korea’s humanitarian needs given the closed nature of its regime and the poor quality of the limited statistics it discloses. But estimates of North Korea’s grain balance published by United Nations agencies and outside governments as well as sharp increases in rice and corn prices observed by NGOs and the media indicate that “the country’s food supply probably failed to meet minimum human needs,” Rengifo-Keller wrote.

Russia’s war against Ukraine has likely made matters worse by driving up world prices for food, energy and fertilizers, on which North Korea’s agricultural production depends heavily.

“Put simply, North Korea is on the brink of starvation,” Rengifo-Keller said.

The Workers’ Party Central Committee also held a plenum meeting in December, when Kim doubled down on his nuclear ambitions by calling for an “exponential increase” in nuclear warheads, mass production of tactical nuclear weapons on the battlefield targeting rival South Korea and the development of more powerful nuclear weapons. – range missiles designed to reach the American continent. At the meeting, party members also identified key economic projects for 2023, highlighted by agricultural and construction activities.


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