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North Korea exhorts citizens to harvest more rice

North Korea exhorts citizens to harvest more rice
Kim Jong Un has conducted several field guidance visits in North Korea in the wake of typhoons and floods. State media said Monday more efforts are needed to guarantee a successful rice harvest.  Photo by KCNA/EPA-EFE

Sept. 21 (UPI) -- North Korea state media is urging the population to increase rice production in the aftermath of typhoons, floods and curtailed trade owing to the coronavirus pandemic.

Korean Workers' Party newspaper Rodong Sinmun stated Monday harvesting must be pursued with force and must occur at the right time.

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"If the grains [of rice] are not shaken in time and pile up, their nutritional value will be reduced and lost to damage from animals," the Rodong said.

North Korea's statement on the urgency of the fall harvest comes after Kim Jong Un visited Kangbuk-ri village in North Hwanghae Province. KCNA said last week the soldiers had removed "all traces" of typhoon damage and rebuilt the area into a "socialist fairyland."

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Evidence points to North Korean authorities hiding the food shortage with new price controls, however, according to South Korean newspaper Hankook Ilbo on Monday. The controls may have artificially deflated the price of rice, which returned to the 4,000 to 4,500 North Korean won ($3.43 to $3.86) range after April, after jumping 24.5% to 5,630 won ($4.83) in February, according to Daily NK.

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South Korean analysts are skeptical the North's food supply is sustainable, according to the Hankook Ilbo.

"Due to limited supplies, if Chairman Kim releases rations to a specific area, the food situation in the surrounding area will worsen," said Cho Han-bum, a senior research fellow at Seoul-run Korea Institute for National Unification, referring to a trade-off the state must make when allocating food.

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North Korea could be urging an all-out effort for the rice harvest in preparation for the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Korean Workers' Party on Oct. 10.

KCNA reported Monday the state has issued new propaganda posters that include symbols of the party -- the hammer, the sickle and the brush -- against a background of exploding firecrackers, a metaphor for celebration.

South Korean military officials have said Pyongyang could test a submarine-launched ballistic missile around the time of the anniversary.

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