North Korea in Dire Need of Food Security as Kim Calls for “Radical Change” in Agriculture

North Korea is facing an increasingly dire food situation, according to South Korea's Unification Ministry. The Ministry recently pointed out, without offering specific data, that deaths from starvation have been reported in some regions.[0] North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has called for a “radical change” in agricultural production in an attempt to lay the “foundation for the stable and sustained development of agriculture”. He also emphasised the importance of meeting grain production targets and transforming production.

The food crisis in North Korea has been triggered by a combination of poor harvests, extreme weather, lockdowns, and reduced trade with China due to border closures during the COVID-19 pandemic.[1] The country has long suffered from food insecurity, with a devastating famine in the 1990s estimated to have killed somewhere between 240,000 and 3.5 million people.[0]

Kim's remarks come amid concerns that North Korea is facing the worst food shortages since the Nineties. Government assessments in South Korea estimated a 3.8 percent decrease in the nation's grain output, totaling 4.5 million tonnes, from the previous year.[2] 38 North, a monitoring website, released a report last month that determined North Korea to be going through its worst food security crisis since the famine of the early 90s.

Kim went to the assembly of the Central Committee of the Korean Workers' Party, which has been charged with figuring out the “urgent tasks” for the purpose of “the rural revolution in the new era”.[3] He said that “nothing is impossible as long as the strong leadership system is established in the whole Party and there is the united might of all the people”.[4] Kim stated that the measures needed to be implemented within the coming years, though the report did not specify what these measures were.[5]

International sanctions have been imposed upon North Korea due to its prohibited nuclear and ballistic missile programs.[6] Kim's call for a “radical change” in agricultural production and meeting of grain production targets is seen as an attempt to mitigate the food shortages facing the country. It remains to be seen if North Korea is able to meet its goals and provide the necessary food security for its citizens.

0. “North Korea’s Kim calls for boost in agricultural production” La Prensa Latina, 2 Mar. 2023,

1. “N Korea paper warns against ‘poisoned candy’ amid food shortages” Al Jazeera English, 22 Feb. 2023,

2. “N Korea holds meeting on farming amid fears of food shortages” Al Jazeera English, 27 Feb. 2023,

3. “Kim Jong-un calls urgent talks to prevent North Korean famine” The Times, 27 Feb. 2023,

4. “Kim Jong Un: North Korea needs ‘radical change' to boost food production” UPI News, 28 Feb. 2023,

5. “Kim Jong Un Orders ‘Fundamental Transformation’ Of Agriculture” Benzinga, 28 Feb. 2023,

6. “N. Korea's Kim orders ‘fundamental transformation' of agriculture” The Jerusalem Post, 28 Feb. 2023,