A possible food crisis is what the authorities of the Asian country fear, a point discussed on the eve of the start of the third session that the North Korean Workers’ Party holds this year. Among the measures addressed, the aim is to strengthen the agricultural sector and face the prolonged situation of the pandemic.
This Tuesday, the 3rd Plenary Meeting of the 8th Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea began, with a thinner than normal Kim Jong-un.
In the international media there has been no lack of comments about a possible illness that the North Korean leader hides. According to Hong Min, an analyst at the Korean Institute for National Unification in Seoul, cited by AP, Kim’s apparent weight loss is more likely to be an attempt to improve his health, rather than a sign of illness.
But, the physical appearance of Kim, 37, began to be less relevant when he sat in the center of the great room, accompanied by senior officials, to tell his government assistants that the country must make great efforts to improve the economy.
The North Korean leader projected a possible food shortage that the population could suffer and asked citizens to prepare for the extension of restrictions due to the coronavirus health crisis.
So far, North Korea has not officially confirmed any cases of contagion, however, that claim is disputed by officials in neighboring South Korea. Since the start of the pandemic, Pyongyang has imposed strict measures including border closures and national travel restrictions.
In search of measures to address the “tense” food situation caused by the pandemic
If in recent decades North Korea has been a completely hermetic country in terms of the internal functioning of its Government, in this last year it has been even more so to protect itself against the Covid-19 pandemic.
North Korea’s economy has deteriorated amid border closures that choked off trade with China, its main ally and economic livelihood, as well as devastating typhoons and floods last summer that ruined crops. Added to this is an energy and food shortage exacerbated by international sanctions.
According to the North Korean government news agency KCNA, the committee set goals to achieve its new five-year economic plan outlined in the last session of February, including increasing food and metal production.
“The food situation of the population is becoming tense now that the agricultural sector did not comply with its cereal production plan due to the damage caused by the typhoon last year,” said Kim.
On the other hand, the North Korean leader stressed that the economy had improved in the first half of this year, with a growth in total industrial production of 25 percent compared to the previous year.
Recycling to survive shortages
Border closures in North Korea have delayed imports of products such as plastic from China, so the Kim Jong-un government has turned its environmental policies around and emphasized recycling as a way to build a more self-sufficient economy.
According to state news agencies KRT and KCNA, a law passed in 2020 now requires organizations to recycle discarded and unused material, including plastic, cloth, paper, glass, scrap metal, rubber, used oil, and industrial waste.
In North Korean households, the trend towards recycling is not voluntary but mandatory. Residents can deliver their waste to state recycling centers or stores where they receive consumer goods such as notebooks or shoes when they deposit materials that no longer serve them.
North Korean state media say Pyongyang’s recycling centers, for example, have produced about 70,000 building bricks, 8,000 tons of fertilizers and hundreds of kilograms of aluminum from municipal waste, including coal ash.
“We have to bet our fate on recycling. This is the way to survive,” a worker at a North Korean plastic products factory said on a state television broadcast, quoted by Reuters.
With AP, Reuters and EFE