When the Korean War ended in 1953, the Korean Peninsula was in much worse condition than Japan had been just after the Second World War. In North Korea, the carpet bombing was several times greater than Japan had seen in World War II.
North Korea received particularly generous help from East Germany and Hungary, Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union, Mongolia and China …. In 1959, only six years after the war, North Koreans returning from Japan arrived at Pyongyang and were astounded by the high-rise apartment buildings lining the street in front of the station. This was a surprise to the entire world.
[However, the food situation] in North Korea has not been improved since the mid-1960s. It appears that Kim Il Sung and the top Labor Party members abandoned their efforts to improve the national economy; they gave themselves over to luxury. … Still, we heard nothing of the new "starvation hell" until the 1990s.
The starvation in North Korea became critical primarily due to several major external elements: the collapse of the Soviet Union; the fall of the Berlin Wall; the end of the socialist system in Eastern Europe; the recognition of South Korea by China; and the diplomatic ties with South Korea that China and Russia concluded.
Domestically, the farming methods failed, including terraced fields and high-density farming, as instructed by Kim Il Sung, who was an absolute amateur in the field. The personality cult system led to disapproval of engineers. At the same time, they had difficulty securing adequate transportation and storage, electric power, fertilizers, and petroleum. In addition, unfair distribution of profits discouraged people from working.
All these factors contributed to the worsening of their food situation. The current starvation was brought about by the external and internal factors mentioned above.