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During a meeting with senior officials on Wednesday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un admitted the country is experiencing food shortages, and the situation "is now getting intense."
Last year, typhoons caused devastating floods in North Korea, and farms were unable to produce enough grain, Kim said. North Korea closed its borders to keep COVID-19 from spreading, but the country relies on China for food and fuel, and trade between the two nations has nearly come to a standstill. There are reports that food prices have skyrocketed, with NK News saying that two pounds of bananas costs more than $30.
Kim's first hint that there was trouble came in April, when he told officials they needed to "wage another, more difficult 'Arduous March' in order to relieve our people of the difficulty, even a little." In the 1990s, following the fall of the Soviet Union, aid to North Korea dropped, and the country experienced a famine. North Koreans use the term "Arduous March" to refer to their suffering at the time; it is estimated that up to 3 million North Koreans died in the famine.