The North Korean Famine

The people of North Korea are going through a great catastrophic crisis. Millions of people are dying of hunger. This paper is about the North Korean famine. In a world with a great surplus of food, millions upon millions die of hunger. The advance technologies we have in today’s societies allow the potential of eliminating world hunger, yet this horrible entity (hunger) still burdens people worldwide. Many ask the question, “how did this happen?” but the important question is “Who failed to stop the famine?” Although, bad weather, poor agricultural practices, and a halt in food subsidies from the Soviet Union and China were some of the causes of the famine, the real problem was the North Korean political system.1Causes of the FamineIn 1995, newspapers around the world reported about the North Korean government’s announcement of severe flooding that had devastated its agricultural regions and that the subsequent crop failure had caused widespread food shortages.2 Although the crises seem to have stemmed from natural disaster, the North Korean government refuses to blame systemic causes.

The problem was worsened by North Korea’s who has, “stubbornly refused to make any systemic accommodation to the new economic and political order in the world, and this refusal was at the root of the crisis it faced in the autumn of 1995.”3Long after the problem of starvation in North Korea was evident, “North Korea has acknowledged for the first time that children in the country are dying of malnutrition…”4 The evidence of a famine was prominent in the land. People were, “eating grass, weeds and bark; orphans whose growth has been stunted by hunger and diarrhea; people going bald for lack of nutrients; and hospitals running short of medicine and fuel.”5The communist government has caused many social and technological advances stand to a halt.

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The governing philosophy of juche is, “a neo-Confucian permutation of Marxism demanding radical self-sufficiency.”6 North Korea was known to be the “Hermit Kingdom,” it did not want to ask for help from the outside world at the time in 1994. The North Korean country has no outlet for people to speak out. There is no democratic system in North Korea, where a free press could forewarn an impending disaster.

7North Korea depended heavily on Soviet and Chinese subsidies. A tight form of trade between North Korea, Soviet Union, and the Chinese government helped the communist economy. In the 1980s, North Korean food production started to decline very sharply and Soviet and Chinese subsidies made up for the deficits.

8 The dependency of the Soviet and Chinese oil for the lack of the North Korean petroleum resources had a double harsh impact on the country. When the greater Soviet economic system collapsed in 1990-91, the North Koreans lost their food and oil supplies simultaneously.9 These details of history shows how the famine started quite earlier than 1995 as the North Korean government claims.The great North Korean famine was caused by the North Korean agricultural and economic policies. In a country that has only 15 to 20 percent of land that is arable, North Korea lacks capability of feeding its own people without importing food.

North Korea once maintained itself sufficiently because of a small sized population. After rapid industrialization in the 1960s and 70s the population grew with the help of Soviet and Chinese subsidies. After the economic collapse in the 1990s, North Korea was in for an inevitable long-term famine. The economic collapse affected the industrial capacity of the country in a very negative way.

North Korea had no resources to export products or the money to buy the food. Although famine could be avoided in an industrialized society by exporting products and importing the food, it cannot produce itself, North Korea’s economy is agragarian based. With the knowledge of the limited amount of tillable land in North Korea the future for it’s poor population seems destitute.10