North Korea The pandemic isolated North Korea in an unprecedented way, and in addition to the threat of famine, there is growing public dissatisfaction: “Ideological props no longer work”

UN sanctions continue to severely punish food production. The population may even be threatened by a crisis similar to the famine of the 1990s.

From North Korea has heard many alarming signs this summer.

Manager Kim Jong-un admitted in mid-June the food situation is tense. The leader weight loss was noted, and citizens was told to be sad about it.

The new law is being used more and more harshly against foreign media. Most recently was told redundancies due to a “fatal” error in coronavirus operations.

Is the crisis escalating in a closed state?

Exceptional there has at least been a level of closure, notes a professor of Korean research Hazel Smith From the SOAS Department at the University of London. The country closed its borders as early as January 2020 and has since been more isolated than ever.

“This is not the first time, but the largest in its scope that has been seen. North Korea doesn’t have enough drugs, supplies or staff, so it responds to pandemics by closing borders, ”Smith says.

The administration has claimed that there have been no cases of coronavirus in the country at all, but the claim could not be confirmed. In late June, North Korea reported a “serious case” related to the coronavirus.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un fired several senior officials in late June over a “fatal” coronary error.

“This seems to suggest that they now have a cluster of infections. It was unlikely all the time that they would have no cases at all. It’s a state of poor testing capacity, ”Smith says.

“North Korea does not have enough medicines, supplies or personnel, so it is responding to pandemics by closing borders.”

Tight the lock has had far-reaching effects. The reason is unofficial smuggling, which has been a lifeline for North Koreans for decades.

“After the famine of the 1990s, the North Korean economy is no longer under the control of the regime. There are two parallel economies: people and government. Citizens support themselves through smuggling and trafficking, ”Assistant Professor of Korean Studies, University of Central Lancashire Sojin Lim says.

The blockade put an end to smuggling and exacerbated an already existing food shortage. For example, oil is essential for agriculture, and food was also imported across the border.

“When Kim Jong-un came to power, he promised that the people would never need to starve again. Now he himself declared that there was a new ‘laborious march’ ahead of him, which was called the famine of the 1990s, ”Lim says.

In an effort to maintain its credibility, Kim Jong-un invokes the international corona crisis. According to Limi, the competence of the administration can still be questioned.

The mother stroked her malnourished child in December 1999, when North Korea was suffering from a severe famine. The current difficult situation is believed to affect children and other vulnerable sections of the population in particular.

Professor According to Smith, behind the collapse of food supply are the UN sanctions that began in 2016. They initially focused on military activities, but in 2017 expanded to include oil imports. They also prevent agricultural machinery, spare parts and fertilizers from entering the ground.

“It’s a complete fiasco. There is an administration that is only interested in staying in power, but also in UN sanctions, which in practice target civilians, ”Smith notes.

The pandemic blockade has also made it more difficult for aid organizations to enter the country, but Smith says the ultimate problem is the country’s own withered agriculture. In addition to sanctions, it has also been punished by weather phenomena such as typhoons.

“Food production is so weak that no humanitarian aid could make up for the shortage,” Smith notes.

The North Korean government has rarely acknowledged the existence of food shortages, but the country’s media has still also published images of fertile fields like the one above. This undated image of South Hwanghae was released on June 8, 2021.

Smith also points out that the UN has never once assessed the effectiveness of its sanctions, despite previous promises. The harmfulness of sanctions is stated, for example The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Food Program (WFP) mixed Research Institute under NYU Law reports.

“Food production is so weak that no humanitarian aid could make up for the shortage.”

Extremely in addition to the poor food situation, the administration also sees foreign influences as an internal threat. They have been adopted, for example, from American and South Korean films and series that have been smuggled into the country in large numbers on memory sticks and cards.

“South Korean expressions, hairstyles and clothes have started to be used in the country. The leader is increasingly aware of the serious threat to governance, especially among the younger generation, ”Lim says.

Read more: Media: Whistle jeans and buttocks were banned in North Korea

The pandemic blockade has also become an opportunity to try to get the people ideologically fed. BBC and The Washington Post reported in June that sanctions for the use of illegal foreign material have tightened up to three times. The director has also written on the subject to the country’s media as well as women’s and youth organizations.

In June, Kim Jong-un instructed members of the country’s Socialist Women’s Alliance to protect children from “alien ideology”. Pictured are union members performing a flag dance in June.

Kim Jong-un insists on taking care of the appropriate behavior of others as well, calling foreign styles of speech, hair and clothing a “dangerous poison”.

Mixed Smith and Lim consider the success of the project unlikely.

“This is a sign of despair. They can no longer reverse development. Ideological props no longer work, ”Smith notes.

“Changing people’s opinions is not easy. Nor can boundaries be kept forever. The North Korean regime can no longer go back to the 1980s or 1970s – the country has changed, ”says Lim.

According to Limi, there is dissatisfaction among the citizens and two kinds of speech – in public and in front of the administration, the homeland is praised, but those close to it can already be said otherwise.

“Food shortages and hunger mean that North Koreans do not have time for political organization.”

Uprising however, the possibility is non-existent.

“Food shortages and hunger mean North Koreans don’t have time for political organization,” Smith says.

The regime is not ready to back down even if the people go hungry. In the short term, Smith sees a partial lifting of sanctions as necessary.

“Sanctions against agriculture and energy, which began in 2017, should be lifted. It would help food production immediately, ”Smith notes.

A North Korean jumper looked at pictures of the famine of the 1990s in April 2007. Hundreds of jumpers gathered at the time to form an organization that pushed for the democratization of their former homeland.

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