North Korean Hospitality
North Koreans have harvested almost 4 million tons of food-not nearly enough to adequately feed a nation. They plant crops everywhere-from flood-recovered fields to rooftops to rocky hillsides. Children spend 12-hour days following harvesters in search of fallen grain. Despite damaging cuts in livestock feeding and heroic personal sacrifices, the food stored in North Korea’s granaries will only last for seven months.
As part of a food-monitoring consortium, a Global Impact member agency spent three months in North Korea. Team members tell stories of quiet deprivation, sickness, and desperation: “Standing on a bridge, overlooking a muddy little stream was a skinny boy of about 7 years inching along, catching minnows with his hands and holding his prize of three tiny fish skewered on a stick held firmly between his teeth. That evening, when we visited a home in the nearby village, which we knew to be doing pretty badly, we were amazed to find at least 15 different dishes laid out for us, each holding a tiny portion of food. Everyone in the village had chipped in what they had, including those three tiny minnows lying on a plate.”
Where food aid reached, daily intake rose from an average 3.5 ounces to between 8.75-14 ounces per person-still well under the recommended daily minimum of 15 ounces per person, but enough to make a significant difference in people’s resistance to prolonged deprivation. Visitors to North Korea stress that international aid has been a deciding factor in preventing a disastrous, full-blown famine.