Photo: Eric Testroete
The state-run KCNA news agency said temperatures have been as much as eight degrees higher than usual for May and June and, combined with historically low levels of precipitation, have left rice paddies dried and cracked.The maize crop stands a mere 15 inches tall in many places in North and South Hwanghae provinces, instead of the 60 inches that it should be by now, farmers said.
Nearly 50,000 acres in western parts of the country – known as the breadbasket of North Korea – have been affected by the drought, which will worsen an already acute food shortage. In September, the United Nations World Food Programme warned that 3.5 million people were at risk of malnutrition and starvation in North Korea, which has a total population of 24 million.
And while the nation appears to have weathered that potential crisis, a shortage of summer crops this year will lead to more shortages in the bitterly cold winter.
No such shortages are evident in Pyongyang, however, where the elite of the regime is moving into gleaming new multi-storey apartments, complete with schools, medical facilities, restaurants and a People’s Theatre, all enclosed within a lush green park.
The Changjon Street complex was opened last week to a cacophony of cheering and speeches. It is part of North Korea’s wider ambitions to be recognised as a “strong and prosperous” nation in the 100th anniversary year of the birth of its founder, Kim Il-sung, and simultaneously boost the standing of his grandson and heir to the regime, Kim Jong-un.
According to KCNA, the entire complex was completed in 12 months by “builders, shock troops and helpers who performed shining labour feats.”
“Changjon Street represents the will of the dear respected Kim Jong-un to build a thriving nation, as well as the determination of the people of the DPRK to bring about a rosier future,” Kim Song-dok, vice-chairman of the Pyongyang City People’s Committee, told KCNA.
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