Nov. 11 (UPI) -- North Korea's closure of its borders at the start of the coronavirus pandemic has had an adverse impact on the food supply, U.N. agencies say.
The Food and Agricultural Organization and World Food Program say in their November early warning analysis that concerns prevail over food insecurity in North Korea, owing to "economic constraints resulting from efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic." The FAO and WFP also said North Korea is not included on its hotspot list in its November report "due to minimal evidence," or lack of access.
C. Jerry Nelson, professor emeritus of plant sciences at the University of Missouri, told Radio Free Asia it is estimated about 60% of North Korea's population consumes less than 2,100 calories a day due to restrictions amid COVID-19. According to the FAO, the average minimum daily energy requirement is about 1,800 calories.
Nelson also said the border shutdown and sanctions have led to a reduction of grain imports from China and Russia and that North Korea's crop productivity is declining, according to RFA.
The right to food is recognized in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but North Korean defectors have said food and other rights are violated in the country.
Ambassador Robert King, the former U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights, told RFA the position he once occupied has remained vacant since 2017, but could soon be filled under the administration of President-elect Joe Biden.
King also said the appointment of a North Korea rights envoy would be a positive first step for the United States, and the next government will take greater interest in North Korean human rights than the Trump administration, according to RFA.
North Korea media has said the country is recovering from typhoons and flood damage, but has kept silent about the issue of food insecurity. Leader Kim Jong Un has instead focused on economic development projects.
Pyongyang propaganda service Meari said Wednesday the state's Nakwon Machinery Factory is developing and producing new construction machinery. Under Kim, North Korea has been conducting "speed campaigns" to finish major construction projects in record time.