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In North Korea, a packet of coffee costs $ 100 (Analysis)


North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has bigger problems right now, beyond dealing with the United States: He needs to feed his people, and his options are not good.

Pyongyang warns of "tense food situation" 0:50

Hong Kong (CNN) -

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has bigger problems right now, beyond dealing with the United States: He needs to feed his people and his options are not good.

The ruler of the secret hereditary communist dictatorship opened an important political meeting on Tuesday recognizing the terrible situation facing his country.

North Korea's food supply is restricted and "is getting strained," Kim said, according to the country's state news service KCNA.

The agricultural sector is still recovering from the damage caused by last year's storms.

Replacing domestic food supplies with imports will likely be difficult as borders remain mostly closed due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Kim Jong Un has a new second in command 0:41

In the capital, Pyongyang, the prices of some commodities are skyrocketing.

Experts say that prices for rice and fuel are relatively stable, but prices for imported staples such as sugar, soybean oil and flour have risen.

The costs associated with some locally produced staples have also skyrocketed in recent months.

Potato prices have tripled in the popular Tongil market, where both locals and foreigners can shop, Pyongyang residents said.

Residents also revealed that non-basic items, like a small packet of black tea, can sell for around $ 70, while a packet of coffee can cost more than $ 100.


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Kim did not disclose the magnitude of the shortage, but the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) recently estimated that North Korea is short of about 860,000 tons of food, or the equivalent of just over two months of national supplies.

The situation was dire enough in April for Kim to urge the North Koreans to embark on another "arduous march," the term used to refer to the devastating famine in North Korea in the 1990s that killed hundreds of thousands of people. .

The admission that the state's centrally planned economy cannot even feed its people may seem out of place to a leader whose family is portrayed in the propaganda as infallible and almost divine.

But, unlike his father and predecessor, Kim has not been afraid to admit mistakes or failures, or even cry in front of his people.

They criticize the US for a measure that favors South Korea 0:46

Kim has shaped his domestic image as a man of the people, a leader who constantly meets with the public and is dedicated to improving the daily life of one of the most impoverished countries on the planet.

His stated goal since taking power in 2011 was to improve the lives of the majority of North Koreans.

Yet short of drastically altering North Korea's inefficient centrally planned economy, freeing the nearly 120,000 political prisoners believed to be held in gulags, or withdrawing its nuclear weapons program, experts believe Pyongyang will struggle to achieve the goal. from Kim.

Relations with Washington and negotiations on sanctions relief appear to be a distant concern, at least for now.

Kim did not mention talks with the United States until Thursday, the third day of this week's important political meeting and item four on the agenda.

According to state media, Kim analyzed US President Joe Biden's policy on North Korea and now believes that Pyongyang needs to "prepare for both dialogue and confrontation."

While not exactly reassuring, Kim's attitude toward the United States was less hostile than the series of provocative statements released by KCNA last month, one of which warned of a "crisis out of control."

Kim also referred to the United States as North Korea's greatest enemy in January.

Indeed, the statement may open the door to talks with Washington, which tried in vain to get closer to Pyongyang earlier this year.

After the two sides failed to reach an agreement at former President Donald Trump's summit with Kim in Hanoi in 2019, North Korean propaganda repeatedly noted that the country was not interested in further talks unless Washington changed its so-called "hostile policy. »To Pyongyang.

North Korea is using orphans in forced labor 2:27

The Biden administration has made clear that North Korea, its nuclear program, and allegations of large-scale human rights abuses in the country are an important part of its foreign policy agenda.

In late April, the White House completed a month-long policy review, while Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, US allies with interests in the future of North Korea, were the first two leaders to visit Biden in the U.S. Sung Kim, the new U.S. special representative for North Korean policy, will travel to Seoul on Saturday to talk with his counterparts from South Korea and Japan.

Although the White House says it plans to follow a "practical and calibrated approach" that differs from the strategies employed by the Trump and Obama administrations, North Korea remains the same intractable foreign policy problem that has plagued Biden's recent predecessors. .

And like Kim, Biden arguably has more pressing issues right now.

The president's legislative agenda appears to be stuck in a deadlocked Congress.

It is also pushing for more Americans to get vaccinated to prevent a resurgence of COVID-19, especially given concerns about the spread of new, more transmissible variants.

CNN's Yoonjung Seo and Gawon Bae contributed reporting.

North KoreaFamineKim Jogn Un

Source: cnnespanol

All news articles on 2021-06-22

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