Food scarcity in North Korea has forced its government to take urgent measures, including encouraging the consumption of black swan meat and by using coupons replacements for cash.
South Korea’s intelligence agency, the National Intelligence Service, told a group of lawmakers in a closed-door parliamentary briefing on Thursday that the country’s leader Kim Jong-un had issued orders to secure every grain of rice and devote all-out efforts to encourage farming to plug the food shortage, reported Reuters.
Earlier this week, state media promoted swan meat and encouraged black swan breeding so that it could serve as a viable source of protein.
“Black swan meat is delicious and has medicinal value,” the ruling party’s Rodong Sinmun newspaper said on Monday.
Authorities, however, have asked schools, factories and businesses to grow food and rear animals to boost self-sufficiency since 2019, according to Seoul-based NK News.
Several media outlets have also cited unidentified sources to suggest the country’s central bank was printing coupons worth $1 (£0.73) to plug the shortage of Korean won bills, reported Reuters.
The news agency, however, could not independently verified the use of these bills.
Earlier this month, a UN investigator’s report said that while 40 per cent of North Koreans were food insecure before the pandemic, stringent restrictions imposed in the last two years have put the country at risk of starvation.
The report highlighted how restrictions on travel between cities, border shutdowns and restricted imports of non-essential items had affected the country’s food supply chain.
The country is also taking steps to reopen its borders with China and Russia in the coming months, the spy agency said.
UN agencies said there were also signs that the country was receiving humanitarian aid from China.
The country’s food crisis has also been compounded by sanctions from the UN for pursuing its nuclear programme.
The “main obstacles to the government’s efforts to achieve the sustainable development of the country” include the “continued sanctions and blockade on the DPRK [North Korea],” the country said in July in a report submitted to the UN.