North Korea’s population lacking food, trading valuables at border, analysts say

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May 28 (UPI) — North Korea‘s economy could be susceptible to collapse because of the prolonged suspension of trade with China, according to a recent press report.

Deutsche Welle reported Thursday analysts are in agreement about the adverse impact North Korea’s border shutdown is having on the general population. Sources also said COVID-19 quarantine restrictions have been used to tighten control over daily life.

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Lina Yoon, a North Korea specialist at Human Rights Watch, told DW that based on personal accounts and other uncorroborated evidence, the situation in the isolated country could be reaching a breaking point.

“I have been hearing that the situation is dire. Food accessibility is limited and people are having a hard time accessing daily necessities,” Yoon said.

North Korea closed its border with China in January 2020, allowing few essential goods to pass checkpoints before sealing off those areas in late 2020.

Nearly all of North Korea’s trade is conducted with China. With the extended shutdown, even North Korean elites could be hurting, according to Michael Madden, a 38 North contributor.

Madden said there have been “credible reports” of North Korean elites being “caught illegally trying to sell their assets,” including gold or aluminum at the border with China.

“These are elite people looking out for their future,” Madden said, according to DW.

The analyst also said North Korea has used COVID-19 as a pretext to tighten social controls. Ordinary North Koreans could be eating fewer meals a day, he said.

Kim Jong Un said at North Korea’s Eighth Party Congress in January that the regime’s past five-year plan had failed.

Kim’s new five-year plan is being promoted in state media.

KCNA reported Thursday Kim said in a letter to the General Federation of Trade Unions of Korea that self-sufficiency should be the key to realizing the plan’s goals.

Workers should work “through our own efforts and by own technology,” and “resolutely reject proclivity to import and reliance on others,” Kim said, according to state media.