North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has urged officials to meet agricultural production targets amid reported food shortages, declaring “nothing is impossible” under the leadership of the ruling Workers’ Party.
Kim said during a ruling party meeting on Wednesday that officials should concentrate on meeting grain production targets “without fail”, increasing yields at all farms and eradicating “internal factors that have [a] negative effect on the development of agriculture”, the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.
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Kim, the third generation of his family to rule secretive North Korea, also called on officials to “substantially strengthen the political, ideological, material and technical foundations of the countryside,” the KCNA said.
“His concluding speech based on profound originality and scientific accuracy is a weapon of change that provided a springboard for an epochal leap in pushing forward with the gigantic process for implementing the programme for rural revolution in the new era…”, it added.
Kim, who is treated with God-like reverence in official media, earlier this week called for a “radical change” in agricultural production to lay the “foundation for the stable and sustained development of agriculture”.
Kim’s remarks come amid concerns that the food situation is deteriorating in North Korea, one of the world’s poorest and most isolated countries.
Last week, South Korea’s Ministry of Unification said its northern neighbour appeared to be facing a “grave” food situation and that there had been reports of deaths from starvation.
The Washington-based think tank 38 North said in a report last month that the country was teetering on the brink of famine after the 2020-21 harvest “probably failed to satisfy minimum human needs”.
North Korea has long suffered from food insecurity, with a devastating famine in the 1990s estimated to have killed somewhere between 240,000 and 3.5 million people.
Analysts have blamed recent extreme weather and border closures during the COVID-19 pandemic for the deterioration in the food situation, following decades of economic stagnation due to centralised planning, the diversion of resources to weapons development and international sanctions.
North Korea’s economy shrank by an estimated 0.1 percent in 2021, the second straight year of decline, according to South Korea’s central bank.
At the ruling party meeting, Kim laid out plans to create “rich and highly-civilised socialist rural communities with advanced technology and modern civilisation”, which would be “translated into reality in the near future”.
Despite the reported difficulties, North Korea has rejected suggestions of accepting outside assistance, with the official Rodong Sinmun newspaper last week calling for greater economic self-reliance and comparing foreign aid to “poisoned candy”.