North Korean Food Insecurity: Is Famine on the Horizon?


Marcus Noland

Asia Pacific Issues, No. 154


Honolulu: East-West Center

Publication Date: August 2022
Binding: Paper
Free Download: PDF
Children eat breakfast at a North Korean kindergarten


North Korea is a complex humanitarian emergency with food insecurity at its core. Data on grain prices and quantities depict a deteriorating situation, made worse by the regime’s self-isolating response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine. The grain supply appears to have fallen below minimum human needs, but the situation is neither as dire as the 1990s famine nor as severe as conditions elsewhere in the world today.

Food insecurity in North Korea is not only a humanitarian issue, but it is a strategic issue as well. From the perspective of donors, given the lack of regime accountability, at the present time aid is unlikely to be an effective lever in achieving other diplomatic goals, nor does North Korea appear to be the potential recipient of greatest need.