NAMPHO, North Korea — North Korea is reporting a serious drought that could worsen already critical food shortages, but help is unlikely to come from the United States and South Korea following Pyongyang’s widely criticized rocket launch.
North Korea has had little rain since April 27, with the country’s western coastal areas particularly hard hit, according to a government weather agency in Pyongyang. The dry spell threatened to damage crops, officials said, as the country enters a critical planting season and as food supplies from the last harvest dwindle.
In at least one area of South Phyongan Province where journalists from The Associated Press were allowed to visit, the sun-baked fields appeared parched and cracked, and farmers complained of extreme drought conditions. Deeply tanned men, and women in sun bonnets, worked over cabbages and corn seedlings. Farmers cupped individual seedlings as they poured water from blue buckets onto the parched red soil.
“I’ve been working at the farm for more than 30 years, but I have never experienced this kind of severe drought,” An Song Min, a farmer at the Tokhae Cooperative Farm in the Nampho area, told the AP.
It was not clear whether the conditions around Nampho were representative of a wider region. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said it had not yet visited the affected regions to confirm the extent and severity of the reported drought.
North Korea has suffered chronic food shortages for the past two decades because of economic and agricultural mismanagement as well as natural disasters. A famine in the 1990s killed an estimated hundreds of thousands of people.
The country’s past appeals for food aid have been met with some skepticism, however, amid concerns that aid would be diverted to the military and Pyongyang elite without reaching the hungry.
(Excerpt) Read more at seattletimes.nwsource.com …