|Case-Studies: North Korea Famine (1995 to
An estimated five million people out of a total population of
24 million are malnourished in North Korea. This includes 800,000
children. The United Nations says that 80,000 of these children are
on the brink of starvation. About 85% are thought to be
malnourished, 29% severely. The average daily ration per person is
about 600 calories or about one-fourth of what the body needs to
function and maintain itself. In some areas people receive even
less. Almost everyone in the country is impacted in some way by the
famine. Those that are further from the capital suffer greater.
North Korea recently released data indicating that 220,000 people
died of malnutrition-related illnesses between 1995 and 1998.
United Nations officials believe that more than a million people,
particularly children and the elderly, have died.
120,410 sq. km
Annual growth Rate:
Infant mortality rate:
Highly centralized communist
Exports - $1.95 billion
Imports - $42 billion
Per capita income:
The World Food Program, a division of the United
Nations, has an increasing number of food monitors on the ground in
North Korea to track food shipments. North Korea is expecting a
shortfall of 2 million tons of grain - an amount proportionally
higher than experienced by Ethiopia during its famine in the
mid-1980s. People who have visited the area have said that the
condition of the children was comparable to what they'd seen in
Ethiopia in the mid-80s famine.
None of the credible relief organizations
discriminate on the basis of political affiliation - Ronald Reagan
once said, "A hungry child knows no politics." Some critics have
said that the Stalinist regime of North Korea is perhaps the
world's least deserving government. North Korea's million-man army
makes the country one of the most heavily armed areas in the world.
And failed agricultural policies made in Pyongyang, North Korea's
capital, have contributed more to the famine than floods or
drought. People must distinguish between North Korea's authorities
and its innocent people, most of whom were born under the current
regime and none of whom have the freedom to choose their
In order to prevent further famines, the North Korean
government is looking at improvements to its farming practices. On
one occasion, several North Korean farmers were invited to
Switzerland to watch and learn from Swiss farmers. Some agencies
have donated seeds to help North Korea's farmers grow more food.
Another long-term solution would be economic development, as right
now, with the country's currency crisis, chemical fertilizers are
Some argue that the North Korean government has the resources
to stop the famine by purchasing grain on the international markets
if it would only reduce its military spending. In fact, the North
Korean economy is very unstable and the government cannot purchase
anything on credit because of its poor credit rating. North Korea's
currency is not exchangeable on international markets so it cannot
be used to purchase food.
Unfortunately, many people say they do not believe that the
food that is being provided really goes to the hungry people.
Instead, they say, it feeds North Korea's dictators and armies and
only if anything is left by then does it go to the starving