27 February 2023
North Korea has held a major agriculture conference as experts warn about worsening food shortages in the country.
State media reported North Korean leader Kim Jong Un began the high-level meeting of the ruling Workers' Party on Sunday.
Officials said the purpose of the conference was to discuss ways to improve agriculture to strengthen North Korea's economy. The official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported Workers' Party leaders are seeking ways to establish a "rural revolution" for North Korea.
The report said the meeting was meant to help identify "immediate, important" agricultural issues to help improve the state of "national economic development." KCNA did not say whether Kim spoke during the meeting or how long it would last.
International experts have warned that food insecurity issues have worsened in North Korea. The difficulties are linked to economic restrictions placed on the country over its nuclear weapons and missile programs. In addition, lockdowns related to the COVID-19 pandemic severely hurt the economy.
Earlier this month, South Korea's unification ministry said the planned meeting to discuss agriculture added to evidence that the food situation in North Korea "seems to have deteriorated."
The U.S.-based 38 North program is a policy group that watches developments in North Korea. It said in a report last month that "food availability has likely fallen below the bare minimum with regard to human needs." The group noted that food insecurity was at its worst level since severe starvation rates affected the country in the 1990s.
Most experts have said North Korea's current food situation is not near the extremes of the 1990s, when hundreds of thousands of people died of starvation. However, some experts have said the country's food insecurity is likely at its worst point since Kim took power in 2011.
North Korea needs about 5.5 million tons of grain each year to feed its 25 million people. Last year, the country's production was estimated to be 4.5 million tons. That was a 3.8 percent drop from 2020, South Korea's government estimates showed.
It is not clear what action the meeting will result in. Some experts say North Korea will use the gathering to increase public support of Kim during his disputes with the United States and its allies over his nuclear weapons program.
Although North Korea's economic situation remains difficult, Kim has pushed to expand his nuclear weapons and missile programs. He has sought to position North Korea as a nuclear power and has called for economic restrictions on the country to be removed.
Last year was a record year for weapons testing activities in the country. This month, the North launched ballistic missiles and carried out tests on other weapons too.
I'm Bryan Lynn.
The Associated Press and Reuters reported on this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the reports for VOA Learning English.
Words in This Story
deteriorate – v. to become worse
the bare minimum – n. the least possible amount
ballistic missiles –n weapons that fly long distances across the Earth using rocket power and carry explosive devices