International aid organizations are hoping the recent diplomatic breakthrough over North Korea's nuclear weapons program will pave the way for increased food donations to the impoverished North.
Current shortages may also have increased Pyongyang's willingness to make concessions at the nuclear weapons bargaining table, experts say. Paul Risley, Asia spokesman for the United Nations World Food Program, says "There is a deficit of about one million tons of food cereals - that means rice, wheat, and corn - that are not available to the population in North Korea, and in fact have been in years past."
Risley says the most dangerous time of year for North Korea is just ahead - starting in late March. "When you get into April and May of this year that's what agronomists refer to as the lean season," Risley says.
Tim Peters, a Seoul-based activist with Helping Hands Korea who helps North Korean refugees gain passage to other countries, said earlier this year that the "lean season" would begin even sooner.
"Donor fatigue and donor utter disenchantment has set in to such a degree that North Korea will be facing another extremely severe lack of rations for its own people," Peters says.
[Excerpt of an article by Kurt Achin, VOA]