Famine has been perpetual in North Korea since the early 1990’s. It has simply become a matter of degree-how bad will famine be this year. The North Korean state newspaper the, Rodong Sinmun began the week yesterday warning the country that more hardship is coming. The difficulty that is coming was compared to the famine of the 1990’s, and North Korean’s were told they may, “Have to travel a long distance through snowstorms with our belts tightened…” That is a frightening omen coming from a country that has been the standard of poverty, starvation, and hardship.
North Korea’s economy contracted again this last year by over 3%. Trade with other countries is down-including South Korea-down by a whopping 99%. Exports are down, and the country is cash strapped. Things are beginning to move more quickly in the wrong direction. Kim Jong Un said in a speech earlier this year to the Workers Part of Korea, “Let us further accelerate the advance of our revolution by concentrating all our efforts on socialist economic construction.” Well, the advance is certainly happening and it is accelerating in the direction that many have feared. Like the great famine of the 1990’s that killed millions of North Korean’s, it will be the people who bear the brunt of this advancement of the revolution.
It makes a person wonder, how can a nation be in such a state of perpetual famine? How can a populace of over 20 million people remain in a condition where they are either malnourished, starving, or starving to death? (The average North Korean 7 year old is about 7 inches shorter than a South Korean 7 year old. Many North Korean children can give you the exact date when they last ate protein like an egg or similar food).
Many things have led to the perpetual conditions of North Korea, foremost among them are the governments ideology, and policy. While the political cause of things must be acknowledged, I don’t write to be political, or to hammer the politics of North Korea. My concern is for the people.
When the government food distribution program ran out of food over a decade ago, the people began to clear trees of the hills to make room to plant rice and vegetables. Since North Korea is mostly mountains, there was very little farmable land. The abundance of trees proved beneficial because the people have no electricity or gas to heat their homes. So the trees were used for fuel, and the clear mountain side was to be used for farming. Then the floods came…
Since the hills were now de-forested, there was nothing to stop the torrential rains from creating massive mud-slides. In some cases, entire villages were wiped out. It was the famines and the floods that led to millions starving to death. North Korea never recovered. Now, the infrastructure is even more dilapidated, fuels are in short supply, and food is becoming scarce. The response? A populace that cannot even afford to buy socks are being told to tighten their belts. If the North Korean leadership is admitting that this is coming and that it may be this bad, then that means it could likely be very bad.
With an infrastructure that has been in a continual state of deterioration since the 1970’s, a lack of farmable land to sustain the population, and no heat for homes, this creates an entire dependence upon outside countries for the most basic supplies. But the government’s “juche” ideology will not allow for this dependence. Juche means “self-reliance.” Rather than humbling itself and asking for help, the North Korean regime instead will ask its people to “tighten their belts.”
The last famine drove hundreds of thousands of North Korean’s over the border into China. The attempt will likely happen again in this famine. Only now the North Korean border guards have been given shoot to kill orders for anyone trying to “escape” the country, and China has dramatically increased its border security. Nobody can foresee exactly what it could lead to when you have a build up of people escaping starvation, desperate to survive, and a build up of security forces trying to stop them. It certainly doesn’t sound good.
So what about us in the west? What about the church? Can we help? Absolutely! The church holds the ear of Him who holds the rain. We can pray and intercede asking the Lord for a merciful resolution. We can also ask that God would make inroads for the gospel in the midst of the crisis.
Too often we don’t pray until the crisis hits. Then our prayers are usually for God to get us out of the crisis that has already arrived. Will you pray now that God would avert or greatly diminish a crisis that is clearly coming. It is not hear yet, but it is coming. Instead of waiting until whole families begin to die in the streets again, will you pray now, that God would have mercy upon those who sit in darkness?
Pray also for Durihana’s efforts to rescue those who have, or are escaping North Korea. Pray for provision, wisdom, and protection in the rescues.