North Korea experiencing worst drought in years, says expert

The drought is affecting a major crop-growing region inside North Korea.
By Elizabeth Shim  |  May 12, 2015 at 11:12 AM
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SEOUL, May 12 (UPI) -- North Korea is experiencing its worst drought in years, and the water shortage is plaguing over a hundred lakes and reservoirs.

Using Google Earth satellite imagery, Curtis Melvin of the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University told Radio Free Asia the bottoms of lakes and reservoirs are exposed at a total of 124 locations.

Melvin said the drought has taken hold in the crop-growing province of Hwanghae, and that 121 locations out of the total 124 are in the region crucial to North Korea's food supply.

A lake adjacent to Kim Jong Un's vacation house, where Kim enjoys water sports, was also showing signs of a dry spell.

A side-by-side comparison of satellite imagery from November 2012 and March 2014 showed Kim's lake of leisure was drying up -- with its bed increasingly exposed.

A water shortage at a reservoir in Changsong county could affect hydroelectric power generation, said Melvin.

South Korean television network KBS reported North Korea has called for "national mobilization" in response to the threat of increasing drought.

On a recent front page of North Korea's state newspaper, the Rodong Sinmun, the state declared the drought the worst and called on North Korean civilians and military personnel to engage in action.

North Korea's state television KCNA also advocated for less water when planting crops.

A North Korean farmer identified as Chang Chol San told KCNA, "We have begun to plant the season's first crops in glory's vegetable field. This year we will make this the victorious site of increased grain production."

Various regions of North Korea, however, have shown signs water levels are down by 50 percent.

Curtis Melvin said the drought needs to be watched, as it is expected to continue into 2016.

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