Kim told the Workers’ Party of Korea’s plenary meeting that the country was experiencing a “tense food situation,” the Korea Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on Wednesday.
He said the ruling party meeting should take stock of the problem, according to KCNA.
Kim did not disclose the extent of the shortages, but they appear to be serious. In April, KCNA reported that Kim had urged people to take another “hard march,” while addressing a high-level political meeting.
The term “hard march” refers to a period of devastating famine in the early 1990s, when North Korea’s economy collapsed following the collapse of the Soviet Union, which ended the influx of aid into the country.
It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of people, or up to 10% of the country’s population, have starved to death.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has estimated that North Korea is short of about 860,000 tonnes of food, enough for just over two months of supply.
In a report released on Monday, the FAO said North Korea officially plans to import only about a fifth of the food it needs to fill gaps in domestic shortages. He said that while North Korea has increased its agricultural plantings in 2020, the growth “mainly compensates for yield losses due to floods and storms” that the Korean peninsula experienced from early August to early September 2020.
The FAO has warned that if the supply gap is not covered by imports or aid, North Koreans could experience “a harsh lean season between August and October 2021”.
KCNA said the plenary meeting will focus on directing all efforts towards agriculture this year and dealing with the epidemic situation. Other topics listed in the report included the current international situation and the corresponding leadership of the ruling party, improving living standards and childcare, and discussing organizational issues.