The whole world is going through turbulent time from the onset of this year and COVID-19 is like the fuel to the fire. When every nation is devising ways to combat the deadly virus, North Korea is engulfed in what the supreme leader, Kim Jong Un referred to as “the two challenges”. One of the two being the ongoing corona pandemic and the other being the heavy floods that have left the country devastated.
The figures of destruction caused by the ongoing calamity are a matter of grave concern. As reported by the country’s state media, “During the rainy season 39 296 hectares of crops were damaged nationwide including Kangwon, North and South Hwanghae Provinces and Kaesong City, at least 16 680 dwelling houses and over 630 public buildings were destroyed or inundated, lots of roads, bridges and railway sections are broken, a dam of a power station gave way and there were other severe damages in various sectors of the national economy.” The pandemic coupled with the unusually long monsoon with heavy torrential rains has left the North Korean economy crippled. The exports and imports with China have dropped severely due to the corona pandemic, the major trading partner. Also, heavy rains and flooding have doubled the concerns over food shortages.
At the 16th meeting of the country’s politburo, chaired by Kim Jong Un, the key issues were discussed and also the next best course of action. Strengthening anti-epidemic work, doing damage control that the floods have caused and also, proving relief measures to the affected families. Kim Jong Un earnestly said “The conditions and sufferings of the flood victims are indescribable as they have lost their houses and family property and are living in temporary places. Now our Party should bear full responsibility for them and find itself among them in order to share the people’s sufferings and mitigate them”.
The current conditions of the nation don’t seem to be going in sync with the commitment of the nation to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the party with grandeur and glory. Kim added that people can’t celebrate the event homeless and as such, the relief work should be carried out as soon as possible. However, the same seems unlikely because if not homeless than there is also the problem of ‘starvation’. The country is facing major food shortages as the floods have severely damaged the crops in the southern and western parts of the nation, the breadbasket of the economy. Also, the latest report on food and security worldwide put out by the US Agriculture Department’s Economic Research Service, pointed out that approximately six out of 10 North Koreans suffer from under-nutrition.
Also, in the backdrop of all these issues, the nation has denied any external assistance, which Prof Leif-Eric Easley of Ewha Womans University interpreted as to ostensibly prevent transmission of Covid-19 into the country and also not showing any weakness of the current regime, either to its domestic population or to the international rivals. But the desperation of the government can be seen from the recent clampdown on pet dogs by the government, reported by an insider source to South Korean newspaper, Chosun Ilbo. The source said some of the dogs are sent to state-run zoos or sold to dog meat restaurants.
Kim proposed to prove in practice the revolutionary nature of the government to its people by dispelling the misfortunes of the people and proving the superiority of the system, which seems unlikely looking at the current events or whether if its “Juche Ideology” will help the nation.
The author is currently pursuing post-graduation in East Asian Studies. She is highly enthusiastic in learning new languages and is interested in the culture and society of the East Asian region, particularly the socio-economic aspects and how it influences major policy decisions.