North Korean soldiers sit in the shade near the North Korean city Sinuiju, across the Yalu River from Dandong, China. North Koreans struggle with the highest level of food insecurity in the region. Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo
May 18 (UPI) -- Levels of hunger not found in other parts of East Asia persist in North Korea, according to a report from two United Nations agencies.
The Food and Agricultural Organization and World Food Program's 2017 Global Report on Food Crisis states 17 percent of the North Korean population, or 4.4 million, are in a state of "crisis, emergency and famine," Voice of America reported Thursday.
Nearly 1 out of 5 North Koreans face the most severe form of food insecurity, classified as "phase 3 and higher," according to the U.N. scale.
That assessment makes the relatively isolated country an economic outlier in the region.
North Koreans struggling with the highest level of food insecurity have "food consumption gaps with high or above usual acute malnutrition." They are "marginally able to meet minimum food needs only with accelerated depletion of livelihood assets that will lead to food consumption gaps, even with any humanitarian assistance," according to the U.N. definition.
Another 22 percent of North Koreans, or 5.6 million people, face "stressed" levels of food insecurity, with "minimally adequate food consumption" but "unable to afford some essential nonfood expenditures without engaging in irreversible coping strategies."
The total number of North Koreans facing critical shortages is about 10 million, according to the assessment.
The report comes at a time when the international community is cutting back on food aid to North Korea as the Kim Jong Un regime refuses to give up its nuclear weapons program.
In April, the World Food Program said food aid to North Korean children might be suspended by October due to a lack of funds.