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North Koreans nervous about food supply in wake of sanctions

The people of North Korea are increasingly blaming the Pyongyang regime for their hardships.

By Elizabeth Shim
North Koreans nervous about food supply in wake of sanctions
North Korean women wash clothing on the banks of the Yalu River near Sinuiju, across the Yalu River from Dandong, China's largest border city with North Korea. Traders in the North Korean city are being hit hard by embargoes, and sources in the country say food insecurity is rising. Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

SEOUL, March 7 (UPI) -- Ordinary North Koreans are increasingly worried about finding food in the wake of sweeping sanctions and restrictions on the flow of goods across the China border.

A cut in supplies has a lot of people worried about a second "Arduous March," the official North Korean name for the disastrous famine that killed millions in the 1990s, Radio Free Asia reported Monday.

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An anonymous source in North Hamgyong Province who spoke to RFA said a "recession" hit the country's gray markets in February and embargoes are being enforced ahead of international sanctions.

Production distribution has come to a near standstill in the border city of Chongjin, where gray markets have flourished for years.

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"Stories of a second 'Arduous March' is spreading in the marketplace, and even stable food prices have started to climb," the source said.

Another source said prices have not only risen, but soldiers who often benefit from the markets through bribery are also taking what remains of the food supply, leaving nothing civilians to buy.

Increased restrictions on trade with China, which has served as a critical lifeline for North Korea, are angering many North Koreans, Daily NK reported.

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More people are blaming the Pyongyang regime for the sanctions, sources said, and they are worried that the U.N. sanctions resolution adopted last Wednesday will add to their hardships.

A source in South Pyongan Province told Daily NK by phone that the news of the U.N. sanctions "spread like wildfire" through mobile phones, and North Koreans who previously showed no interest in sanctions are now concerned about their economic security.

Traders in the border city of Sinuiju, facing the Chinese city of Dandong, have said they have been banned from exporting minerals. Border customs in the North Korean cities of Rajin and Hoeryong could have been sealed, with no goods flowing in or out, the source said.

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During the famine in the 1990s, China supplied goods and people managed to endure, but the current block on Chinese goods is making people nervous, the source said.

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