North Korea Warns Its Citizens of Upcoming Famine Crisis
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has told citizens to prepare for hard times ahead, following warnings from rights groups that the country faces dire food shortages and economic instability.
Speaking at a party conference, Mr Kim appeared to compare the situation to the devastating 1990s famine, estimated to have killed hundreds of thousands.
North Korea has shut its borders due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Trade with China, its economic lifeline, has come to a standstill.
This is on top of existing international economic sanctions over Pyongyang's nuclear programme.
In a rare admission of looming hardship, the authoritarian leader of the single-party state on Thursday called on officials to "wage another, more difficult 'Arduous March' in order to relieve our people of the difficulty, even a little".
There have been warnings for months that the people of North Korea are struggling.
Reports of hardship appear to be coming especially from towns near the Chinese border, where smuggling would have been a huge earner for many.
"Deaths by starvation have been reported, as has an increase in the number of children and elderly people who have resorted to begging as families are unable to support them."
It is unclear whether any aid at all is currently coming into the country. North Korea has rejected offers of external aid and almost all diplomats and aid workers, including staff of the UN's World Food Programme (WFP), have left.
Reports suggest North Korea restricted imports of staple foods from China last August and then cut almost all trade, including food and medicines, in October./bbc
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