A pair of unverified reports provide a window into what life might be like in North Korea right now. The first is a letter NBC News obtained that was written by North Korea's ambassador to the UN about food shortages in the country. In it, Kim Song asks for food relief and states that "food rations per capita for a family of blue or white collar workers" were last month slashed from 19 ounces to 10.5. As for the driving forces, he cites what he says was an assessment carried out in concert with the UN's World Food Program (which did not immediately confirm to NBC it did such an assessment) that found the country's food production dropped by 503,000 tons in 2018 as compared to 2017. He cited high temperatures, both too much and too little rain, and sanctions that restricted its access to "farming materials" as contributing factors.
NBC News notes it's highly unusual for North Korea to admit sanctions are having a detrimental effect, leading some experts to suggest it was a move designed to get President Trump to ease up on sanctions in his meeting with Kim Jong Un next week. As for the North Korean leader, the Wall Street Journal reports a South Korean think tank founded by a defector from the North has come out with a report alleging a new purge of as many as 70 people who aren't in favor of Kim's overtures with the US and South Korea, with the Journal describing those purged as "exiled, imprisoned, or executed." The report, based on interviews with current and former North Korean officials, says the wealthy elite have also been targeted and had their assets seized, in a move that was framed as an anti-corruption effort but that analysts say was a way for the cash-hungry regime to access millions. (Read more North Korea stories.)