North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un has replaced even more party officials, reportedly for their failure to deal with a protracted food shortage, news articles said Tuesday. According to Nikkei, the COVID-19-related trade cut-off at the country's Northern border combined with below-average crop yields has created a supply problem. The announcement comes only one week after the sacking of officials was announced in connection with the ominous declaration of a "huge crisis" in the country's fight against the coronavirus.
North Korea has long been dependent on imports to meet its citizens’ nutritional needs. A lot of these goods come from China, especially since strict sanctions have cut off other sources. North Korea saw major famines in the mid-1990s but could gradually improve its food security in the following two decades. Between 2008 and 2010, the cereal import requirement, which is the amount of grain the country is lacking, exceeded 1 million tons annually as the country was battling food shortages brought about by failed harvests. In 2019, the 1-million mark was once again exceeded as the country's crops suffered from excessive heat and lack of rainfall.
From the mid-2010s onward, the number of undernourished people in North Korea has also risen more sharply again as seen in numbers by the FAO. Between 2017 and 2019 - the latest data available - more than 12 million people in North Korea were undernourished. This is despite the fact that stunting and malnourishment in children has been reigned in.