North Korea has been suffering of late from food shortages so bad that the regime has confessed to the problem in its official state media.
Leader Kim Jong-un, in comments in late July, admitted that North Korea was facing a “crisis of hardship.” Kim has also compared the present circumstances to the famine faced by North Korea in the early 1990s.
Now, a new report says there’s more bad news when it comes to North Korea and food supply- prices have risen for fruits and vegetables.
According to Daily NK, “prices of some fruits and vegetables in North Korea has recently skyrocketed to nearly twice last year’s prices.” This is the result of “scorching heat,” as well as poor pest control, both of which have caused a drop in production.
“The price of cabbage, which used to cost KPW 900, is also climbing every day,” the site’s source, based in South Pyongan Province, said. In addition, peaches now cost KPW 9,000 each, apricots KPW 12,000 each, and plums KPW 11,000 a kilogram, all of which represent doublings of the prices from a year ago.
“With good rains in spring, we got decent harvests of spinach, spring cabbage, and eggplant, cucumbers, chili peppers, pumpkins, and lettuce, so the prices were OK,” the source said.
“Recently, however, you can hardly find cucumbers, eggplant, or chili peppers, and sellers can name their price.”
The source added that the shortage has come with an uptick in the theft of fruits and vegetables.
“With more and more days pushing daytime highs of 33 to 38 degrees Celsius, there are continuous reports of damage like vegetables and fruits ceasing to develop and sunburned produce,” the source said. “In particular, in Sukchon and Pyongwon—major fruit-producing areas of the Pyongan provinces—apples, pears and peaches got hit hard by hail in June, with a drought on top of that. So people are saying there’s little to harvest.”
The food trouble in North Korea has coincided with reports that Kim Jong-un himself has dropped a noticeable amount of weight, a development which has intrigued North Korea watchers.
While starvation is a problem in North Korea, there is also said to be an obesity epidemic among North Korea’s elite class.
Meanwhile, the North Korean regime has warned North Koreans not to speculate on Kim’s health.
“As stories of health problems related to the Highest Dignity’s weight loss spread among the residents, many of the neighborhood watch units here in Chongjin made official statements to the people at their weekly meeting, saying that it is a ‘reactionary act’ to talk about the leader’s health,” a North Korean resident told Radio Free Asia earlier this month.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist, and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.