North Korea Mobilizes Army as Nation Faces Worst Drought in Over Three Decades
As North Korea's rivers, streams, and reservoirs run dry in one of the country's worst droughts in years, the isolated nation has begun to mobilize some of its million-strong army in an effort to protect precious crops affected by the lack of rain.
The drought is reportedly North Korea's worst in over a decade and some regions have seen the lowest rainfalls since 1961. In other parts of the country, farmers have experienced up to 70 days without rain, fostering rising concerns across the region.
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The country has also mobilized office workers, farmers, and women, with instructions to direct water into the parched floors of rice fields and rice paddies, state media reports said.
The alarm is perhaps partially stemmed from concerns that the food shortages of the 1990s will be repeated. During this period, devastating food shortages led to a country-wide famine and resulted in over a million people dead.
Despite the alarmingly high death toll the famine did have, it also gave rise to North Korea's black market where citizens could find food which the government is no longer able to provide.
However, this year's famine has definitely brought back fears that another widespread, and deathly food shortage could strike the nation.
The drought has received further attention after leader Kim Jong-un announced this year that increasing agricultural production is a main target.
Linda Lewis, of the American Friends Service Committee, confirmed reports that North Korean farmers have indeed seen lower-than-usual rainfall levels in the months of March and May.
Lewis also confirmed to Reuters:
"They expressed concern about 'serious drought' conditions and the impact this was having on spring ploughing and paddy field preparation."
Around two-thirds of North Korea's population already faces chronic food shortages and, according to the United Nations, close to half of the nation lives in chronic poverty.