United Nations aid agencies warned of an impending food crisis in North Korea where summer flooding destroyed crops and worsened a chronic shortage of grain.
"The situation is indeed critical," Simon Pluess, spokesman of the UN's World Food Programme (WFP), said. "About a third of the population never eats enough and half of the population goes for periods in the year when they have an insufficient food intake."
North Korea has still not recovered from famine in the 1990s that experts say killed about 2.5 million people, or 10 per cent of the population.
The reclusive country is estimated to be facing a cereal deficit of at least a million tonnes for 2007. The WFP is feeding only 700,000 of the 1.9 million North Koreans it has identified as needing aid.
"The situation is likely to translate into increased malnutrition rates," Mr Pluess said. Analysts believe North Korea cannot produce enough food for itself even in the best crop years, and much of the food is diverted to the military.
Michael Bociurkiw, a spokesman for the UN Children's Fund, or UNICEF, said severe flooding in four provinces had "decimated" food production in North Korea.