U.N.: N. Korea faces food crisis
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- North Korea faces a looming food crisis due to floods last year, the U.N. food agency said.
Food prices at North Korean markets have doubled while state rations are dwindling, the World Food Program said Wednesday.
Key donors such as China and South Korea are not expected to send as much direct assistance to the North as they have in the past.
"The food security situation in the (North) is clearly bad and getting worse," Tony Banbury, WFP Asia regional director, said in a statement. "It is increasingly likely that external assistance will be urgently required to avert a serious tragedy."
Jean-Pierre de Margerie, WFP's country director in North Korea, said by telephone from Pyongyang that North Korean officials were admitting for the first time that the state ration system -- already erratic in providing food to the country's 23 million people -- was breaking down.
"It's a bit of a perfect storm shaping up," he said.
Prices of staple foods have doubled in the past year in the capital. A kilogram (2.2 pounds) of rice now costs about a third of a typical worker's monthly salary of 6,000 won (about US$2), WFP said.In another blow to the food situation, direct aid from North Korea's two top donors -- China and South Korea -- is also expected to decline this year.
Due to rising food prices, China has restricted its exports and is not expected to send as much to its communist ally as in the past, de Margerie said.