Severe flooding hits North Korea, kills 88
SEOUL (Reuters) – Severe flooding across North Korea has killed 88 people and left tens of thousands homeless, state media reported late on Saturday, threatening to make the poverty-stricken country’s already chronic food shortage still worse.
The floods caused by torrential rains and a typhoon this month caused “big human and material losses”, North Korea’s official KCNA news agency said, stranding nearly 63,000 people.
Since the mid-1990s, North Korea’s farm sector has often been devastated by both floods and drought.
Even before the rain and typhoon this summer, the country’s dysfunctional food distribution system, very high inflation and foreign sanctions imposed because of Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs had contributed to what appears to be severe hunger in the North.
But in April, after a North Korean rocket launch failed, the isolated state abandoned an agreement with the United States, after Washington suspended 240,000 metric tons (264,555 tons) of food aid it had promised to the North as part of the deal.
Talk that North Korea’s young leader, Kim Jong-un, plans to reform the broken economy is helping drive rice prices higher, at a time when most families can no longer rely on paychecks from moribund state-run enterprises.
Kim, who is in his late 20s, took over as head of the dynasty last December on the death of his father, whose rule took North Korea deeper into isolation, abject poverty and large-scale political repression.
The young ruler, dropping his father’s reclusive leadership style, surprisingly confirmed this week that he was married and gave the thumbs up to a performance featuring show tunes and Mickey Mouse.
He is also gearing up to experiment with agricultural and economic reforms after purging Vice Marshal Ri Yong-ho for opposing change, a source with ties to both Pyongyang and Beijing told Reuters.
A recent United Nations report classified 7.2 million of the 24 million population as “chronic poor” and said one in three children were stunted due to poor nutrition.
(Reporting by Ju-min Park; Editing by Tim Pearce)