Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Famine Looms in North Korea as Grain Prices Soar 250%

A growing number of critics say that skyrocketing grain prices in North Korean markets are a prelude to another potential mass starvation.

North Koreans heavily depend on grain consumption as a source of nutrition, a family of four needing at least 60 kilograms a month, or 720 kilograms a year. If the cost of fuel, side dishes, and other necessities are calculated, a family of four will need at least 400 to 500 dollars a year.

It is difficult to estimate North Korea’s national per capita income, but it is believed between 368 and 389 dollars for a family of four.

Other experts on North Korean affairs, such as Seo Jae-jin, a chief researcher at the state-run Korea Institute for National Unification, and Dong Yong-seung, head of the Economic Security Team at the Samsung Economic Research Institute, said that the possibility of mass starvation in the North is slim as the North now has markets, which are run under the principle of supply and demand.

“Mass starvation occurred in mid-1990s because the markets did not have the strength to stand on their own because the government’s ability to meet the demand was paralyzed. However, the situation is different now,” said Dong.

In a press conference held in Washington, Ven. Beopryun, head of Good Friends, an aid organization for North Korean refugees, argued that the international community should immediately send food aid to the Stalinist regime as some 200,000 to 300,000 North Koreans might die of starvation in May and June.

[Excerpt from Dong-A Ilbo]

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