Kim Calls North Korea Crisis 'Worst Ever'

He compares nation's current economic woes to catastrophic '90s famine
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 9, 2021 2:15 PM CDT
Kim Jong Un Calls for an 'Arduous March'
In this photo, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un delivers a speech in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Thursday. The content of this image is as provided by the North Korean government and can't be independently verified.   (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has called for waging another "arduous march" to fight severe economic difficulties, for the first time comparing them to a 1990s famine that killed hundreds of thousands. Kim had previously said his country faces the "worst-ever" situation due to several factors, including the coronavirus pandemic, US-led sanctions, and heavy flooding last summer. But it's the first time he publicly drew parallel with the deadly famine, per the AP. North Korea monitoring groups haven't detected any signs of mass starvation or a humanitarian disaster, but Kim's comments suggest how seriously he views the current difficulties, which foreign observers say are the biggest test of his nine-year rule. "There are many obstacles and difficulties ahead of us," Kim told lower-level ruling party members on Thursday, per the Korean Central News Agency.

He then added: "I made up my mind to ask the WPK (Workers' Party of Korea) organizations at all levels ... to wage another more difficult 'arduous march' in order to relieve our people of the difficulty, even a little." The term "arduous march" is a euphemism North Koreans use to describe the struggles during the 1990s famine, precipitated by the loss of Soviet assistance, decades of mismanagement, and natural disasters. The exact death toll isn't clear, varying from hundreds of thousands to 3 million, and North Korea depended on international aid for years to feed its people. Some experts say the North's current difficulties won't lead to famine because China won't let that happen, noting that China worries about North Korean refugees flooding over the border or the establishment of a pro-US, unified Korea.

(Read more Kim Jong Un stories.)

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