Oct. 30 (UPI) -- North Korea is stepping up health inspections of returning guest workers, amid concerns the laborers may have solicited prostitutes overseas or received improper blood transfusions.
RFA reported Wednesday North Korean health authorities are checking workers for HIV infection at an intense level.
North Korea is inspecting returnees at Sinuiju, North Pyongan Province, and at Hoeryong, North Hamgyong Province, for AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, according to the report.
The news of health inspections comes after international journal Science reported in June North Korea had 8,362 HIV-positive people in 2018.
Kim Tae-hoon, co-founder of DoDaum, a U.S. NGO, said the AIDS epidemic in North Korea could worsen if the international community does not extend help.
North Korea is facing other critical issues, including a food shortage.
The Food and Agriculture Organization said in its early warning report on food security that North Korea's crop production has fallen to its lowest level in five years, Voice of America reported Wednesday.
Low amounts of rainfall from April to July in 2019 have significantly reduced rice and corn yields, according to the report.
The World Food Program issued a similar assessment that stated drought is expected to adversely affect crop yields in North Korea.
North Korea's agriculture is taking a hit while the regime tests missiles and has indicated little to no interest in denuclearization.
Prominent North Korean dissidents have called for changing the country from within, including defector Thae Yong-ho, who fled Pyongyang's embassy in London in 2016.
Thae, who has been advocating for North Korean human rights, recently said he plans to create a new "South-North Citizens Alliance" or coalition, according to VOA and Yonhap.
Thae said he has also been working with other defectors and youth groups to send information from the outside world to North Korean guest workers and mobile phone users in North Korea, the report says.