North Korea Claims 'Worst Drought in 100 Years'
State news agency says 30% of rice paddy fields are drying up
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 17, 2015 9:50 AM CDT
In this June 22, 2012 file photo, rice plants grow from the cracked and dry earth in Ryongchon-ri in North Korea's Hwangju County.   (AP Photo/Kim Kwang Hyon, File)
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(Newser) Failed lobster breeders should be the least of Kim Jong Un's worries. North Korea says it's battling "the worst drought in 100 years" after recording its lowest rainfall in 30 years last year as well as low levels in May, per the AP. State news agency KCNA says 30% of rice paddy fields "are parching up," while up to 80% of seedlings are withering in South Hwanghae and North Hwanghae provinces. Sky News reports mobile water pumps and pipes are helping get water to fields, but "water levels of reservoirs stand at their lowest, while rivers and streams are getting dry," KCNA says. The news raises fears of famine like that of the 1990s, which killed hundreds of thousands, though some say agricultural reforms and reserves would ease suffering, reports the BBC. The country already endures food shortages and a third of children are malnourished.

The BBC notes the very fact that the country is mentioning the drought is evidence of its seriousness and perhaps a call for help. The UN offers North Korea about $50 million in aid each year, down from $300 million in 2004, but called for $111 million in April to fund humanitarian needs. South Korea also lends a hand, though some residents question that decision. Propaganda posters in the North show citizens working together with farmers, with the caption, "Let's mobilize the masses and fight with all our strength against the drought." A rep from the American Friends Service Committee, which operates farm projects in North Korea, says farm managers are also "receiving training in dry rice planting techniques and other measures that they were trying to conserve water." KCNA adds other crops are now being planted in rice paddy fields to "reduce damage."
 

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