UN warns of growing food crisis in North Korea

UN warns of growing food crisis in North Korea
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The United Nations is warning of a growing food crisis in North Korea that has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Tomás Ojea Quintana, the U.N. special investigator on human rights in North Korea, said in a report Wednesday that sanctions from the international community, the coronavirus pandemic, struggles with agriculture and African swine fever have contributed to an already growing food problem in the country.

Even before the pandemic, more than 40 percent of people were food insecure in North Korea, Ojea Quintana said.

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North Korea has imposed harsh COVID-19 restrictions, including restricting travel between areas in the country and cutting off imports for nonessential supplies.

“Prolonged and strict COVID-19 measures have resulted in severe economic hardship and increased vulnerability to human rights violations amongst the general population,” Ojea Quintana said. 

The number of those who are food insecure has increased as the prices of corn and rice rose since June.

Although some emergency measures have been taken by the country, Ojea Quintana said food production will continue to face trouble due to the lack of fertilizer and pesticides for the agriculture industry.

“Due to prolonged restrictions and a collapse in economic activities, families can no longer continue to support themselves,” he said. Families are selling their houses and taking out loans to survive, increasing the number of homeless.

Qjea Quintana recommended lifting some sanctions “that negatively affect humanitarian assistance and human rights, including under the COVID-19 pandemic.”

He also wants the country tried in the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes against humanity, especially in its prison systems.