“Worse Than the Arduous March”
Citing unnamed sources, Good Friends (via the Hankyoreh) is reporting that North Korea is now in its “worst ever” food crisis, as food rations remain suspended even in the main grain belts and the capital. In an unprecedented step, authorities announced that Pyongyang citizens will not get rations until September this year. No word on how long the provinces will have to wait. Never before has such a drastic move been taken. Even more foreboding:
A grim prediction is spreading that there will be massive deaths from famine in provincial areas of the impoverished country around May, [the Good Friends report] also said.
Rumors are circulating around major cities such as Pyongyang and Hamhung and Chongjin, both on the North’s east coast, that the North will begin to see massive deaths from famine from this month, [an unnamed North Korean] official claimed.
As rumors of famine circulate, North Korea is now threatening “unspecified countermeasures” against the South, after South Korean military authorities refused to apologize for a hypothetical remark made by Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Kim Tae-Young at a hearing before South Korea’s National Assembly earlier this week. According to the Mail and Guardian, North Korea will cease all dialogue with the South. However, how extensive the cessation will be was not made clear. Mail and Guardian talked to two North Korea analysts who believe the North will continue to rachet up tensions:
Yang Moo-Jin, of the University of North Korean Studies, said the North is following a pre-set plan to raise tensions.
Yang, speaking before the KCNA announcement, said it was expected to ban officials from crossing the land border and was “highly likely to engage in military muscle-flexing”.
“It may fire short-range missiles in the Yellow Sea, have its warships manoeuvre near the Northern Limit Line [sea border] and engage in provocative activities along the [land] border.”
Kim Yong-Hyun, of the University of Korea, forecast similar actions but said the North would be careful not to trigger an actual clash, since this would harden public opinion in the South.
Analysts believe it wants to sway the outcome of next week’s parliamentary election against the conservatives.