North Korea Is Emphasizing Potato Production. That Might Be a Bad Sign
November 10, 2020 Topic: Economics Region: Asia Blog Brand: Korea Watch Tags: North KoreaPotatoesRiceFamineCrop Failure

North Korea Is Emphasizing Potato Production. That Might Be a Bad Sign

How bad is the food situation getting in the Hermit Kingdom?

The North Korean economy’s primary food product is rice. However, the country’s state media of late has been featuring less rice, and more potatoes.

According to a new report by NK News, that’s not a very positive sign for how things are going in that country.

“Food has always carried a political meaning in the DPRK, and images of North Koreans happily munching away on white rice—a traditional symbol of prosperity—are now being replaced with the more humble spud,” the report by NK News said.

Examples of this have included North Korean cooking shows and news reports emphasizing the potato. This, per the report, is the result of various crises that have affected the country in the last couple of years, including coronavirus, the effects of economic sanctions, and multiple typhoons.

Daily NK reported earlier this month that North Korea has been cracking down on “homemade” alcohol production, and that “this year’s harvest of potatoes in the country’s northern regions was not as good as last year’s.”

Meanwhile, North Korea is said to be sitting on trillions of dollars worth of valuable minerals, with no way of extracting them.

North Korea is said to spend 25 percent of its GDP on its military, as many of its people go hungry. Meanwhile, coronavirus has reportedly devastated the country, with the return of students to school repeatedly delayed. There are also reports of a pig shortage in the country, due to African Swine Fever, and also that economic consumption in North Korea has been reduced significantly.

Daily NK had reported last October that households in North Korea’s Ryanggang Province were given priority of potatoes in last year’s harvest. That province is the nation’s largest potato-producing region. And an AFP story in July of 2018 stated that Kim Jong-un had chosen to visit a potato farm in the Samjiyon region that month, rather than meet with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on his visit to North Korea. That visit took place during the brief diplomatic opening between the United States and North Korea.

North Korea is said to have a propaganda song called “Potato Pride” which, according to its page at, is “a North Korean propaganda tune in which the elder of the village receives his government ration of potatoes and shares it with his fellow villagers. On one hand it’s a cheesy song a la the big big smile on the guy singing it in the YouTube version shown below, but on the other it makes a very serious statement about North Korean poverty and forced allegiance to the government.”

Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to 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.

Image: Reuters