Tag Archives: famine

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North Korea Hit by ‘Worst Drought in 100 Years’


by KIM TONG-HYUNG, Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea says it has been hit by its worst drought in a century, resulting in extensive damage to agriculture during its main planting season.

The official Korean Central News Agency said the drought has caused about 30 percent of its rice paddies to dry up. Young rice plants normally need to be partially submerged in water during the early summer.

“Recently in our country, there has been a severe drought with sudden extremely high temperatures and nearly no rain,” Ri Yong Nam, a senior North Korean weather official, told The Associated Press on Wednesday. “Now the drought is causing a water shortage and great damage to agriculture, and we foresee this drought will continue for a while.”

He said temperatures in May were 5-7 degrees Celsius (9-12 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than normal.

Both North and South Kore have had unusually dry weather this year.

South Korea’s Unification Ministry said precipitation in North Korea was abnormally low in May, and food production could decline significantly if the shortage continues. However, a ministry official said he couldn’t confirm NorthKorea’s claim that it was experiencing its worst drought in a century.

Jane Howard, a spokeswoman for the World Food Program in Rome, said North Korea has been experiencing water shortages since late last year because of low rain and snowfall. “The lack of water now could seriously affect the main crop season later this year,” she said.

The main crop season is planted in June-July and normally accounts for 90 percent of total food production, she said in an email.

“We are very concerned that if there is poor crop production this year, there will be a significant increase in malnutrition especially among children,” she said.

KCNA said South Hwanghae province was one of North Korea’s worst-hit areas.

Farmers at Gangan Cooperative Farm in the province said they have been unable to grow rice seedlings.

“This is the first drought damage in my 20 years of farming experience,” Sin Jong Choi, head of a work team at the farm, told AP. He said the seedlings dried out, so farmers plowed the fields again and planted corn instead.

But even the corn plants “are completely burned to death,” said Bae Tae Il, the farm’s chief engineer. “We are launching all-out efforts to overcome the drought damage.”

In Pyongyang, the capital, the water level of the Taedong River was very low Wednesday.

The United Nations said in a report in April that about 70 percent of North Korea’s people face food insecurity, and more than a quarter of children under age of 5 experience chronic malnutrition.

It said North Korea continues to restrict proper monitoring of aid operations, while international financial sanctions targeting the country’s nuclear and missile programs have added to the difficulties of aid distribution.

International aid donations to North Korea have fallen in recent years as it continues to pursue nuclear development. The U.N. report said it is seeking $111 million for North Korean operations this year, its lowest such funding appeal since at least 2009.

North Korea suffered a devastating famine during the 1990s that is believed to have killed hundreds of thousands of people. The famine is also believed to have loosened the authoritarian state’s control over the economy by damaging its public food distribution system and paving the way for private economic activity in unofficial markets.


Associated Press writer David McHugh in Frankfurt, Germany, contributed to this report. Featured image via YouTube/YTN. 

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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25 Years of KoreAm Covers: Documenting Tragedy

To mark the 25th anniversary of KoreAm Journal, we’re revisiting some memorable covers from the magazine’s archives.

Take a look at some of the creative talent, athletes, influential figures, social issues and tragic events that have appeared on our cover. The panoply of images, we hope, will serve as a historical flashback, a glimpse into the people that inspired us, the issues we explored and the events that called for deeper reflection over the last 25 years.

Here are some of the tragic events KoreAm has covered in the past 25 years. 


The Silent Famine in North Korea (Dec. 1998): A deep dive into North Korea’s famine and Korean Americans’ efforts to address the humanitarian crisis.


Sept. 11, 2001 (Oct. 2001): KoreAm dedicated an entire issue to the tragic events of 9/11 with stories, photo essays and reflections from members of the community.


Hurricane Katrina (Oct. 2005): Then-Senior Editor Corina Knoll traveled to Louisiana two weeks after Katrina hit and chronicled the path of devastation left in the wake of the storm.


Virginia Tech (May 2007):  In the aftermath of the Virginia Tech massacre in which student Seung-hui Cho went on a shooting rampage that left 32 dead before taking his own life, KoreAm took a close look at the grief felt around the country and community.

In the next installation of “25 Years of KoreAm Covers,” we’ll share some key social issues that have been featured on the KoreAm cover.

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Read the previous chapter, “Influential Figures”

This article was published in the April/May 2015 issue of KoreAm. Subscribe today! To purchase a single issue copy of the April/May issue, click the “Buy Now” button below. (U.S. customers only. Expect delivery in 5-7 business days).

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Friday's Link Attack: North Korea, Roy Choi, Hines Ward

Special Report: Crisis grips North Korean rice bowl

In a pediatric hospital in North Korea’s most productive farming province, children lay two to a bed. All showed signs of severe malnutrition: skin infections, patchy hair, listless apathy.

“Their mothers have to bring them here on bicycles,” said duty doctor Jang Kum Son in the Yellow Sea port city of Haeju. “We used to have an ambulance but it’s completely broken down. One mother travelled 72 kilometers (45 miles). By the time they get here, it’s often too late.”

It’s also getting late for North Korea to get the massive amount of food aid it claims to need before the harsh winter sets in. The country’s dysfunctional food-distribution system, rising global commodities prices and sanctions imposed over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs had contributed to what appears to be a hunger crisis in the North, even before devastating summer floods and typhoons compounded the emergency.

Restaurateur provides a waystation for North Korean defectors
Christian Science Monitor

A Korean American man’s restaurant in Ansan, South Korea aims to help North Korean refugees.

Restaurateur Dan Kang runs the Seoul City Mongolian Grill, which trains North Korean defectors in the restaurant industry. The long-term goal: Return them to the north after Korea reunifies.

Undiscovered musician? He’s unbelievable
Orange County Register

You probably never heard of Ray Choi.

He runs a little music shop in Garden Grove, where he sells an odd instrument with 37 strings. It looks like a zither, which is to say it resembles nothing you’ve ever seen. Or maybe something your grandmother strummed last century.

But when Choi hugs it to his chest and plays?


That’s because Choi plays his autoharp 10 hours a day. Sometimes more.

He’s on a mission to win the Super Bowl of autoharp – the Mountain Laurel Autoharp Championship, in Pennsylvania.

“One time, my daughter asked, ‘Why don’t you go to the movies? Or talk with friends? Or travel? Why are you always playing autoharp?’ I told her. ‘I’m going to be champion.’ “


Food trucks as a vehicle to sit-down restaurant success
Los Angeles Times

Probably the most famous pioneer of the hip food truck movement is Roy Choi, whose Kogi BBQ operation has gotten international attention. But back when he and his partners started rolling in 2008, the prospect of starting a restaurant seemed like a distant dream.

“We had $1,500, no job, a career of self-doubt, and no one watching or caring what we did,” Choi said. “There is no way we could have gone a traditional route with all the bells and whistles.”

Choi has helped open two restaurants: A-Frame in Culver City and Chego in the Palms neighborhood of Los Angeles.

Eateries Expand Koreatown’s Turf
Wall Street Journal

A neon-lit strip of 32nd Street dotted with karaoke bars and greasy, all-night restaurants is, incongruously, one of the priciest retail strips in the city.

Now fierce demand for locations in the core of Manhattan’s Koreatown—on 32nd Street between Broadway and Fifth Avenue—has prompted restaurants to breach the boundary of Fifth Avenue for the first time in decades in search of more affordable space.

Several Korean restaurants have opened on Fifth Avenue in recent months, with another, Dong Chun Hong, set to open by the end of November.

In South Korea, American Official Apologizes Over Rape Case
New York Times

A senior American diplomat apologized on Friday in connection with the rape of an 18-year-old South Korean woman for which an American serviceman has been accused, and the United States military imposed a monthlong late-night curfew on its troops in South Korea.

The apology by Kurt M. Campbell, the assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, and the curfew reflected Washington’s sensitivity over crimes involving American soldiers, which have set off protests here.

Asian American Ballplayers In MLB: 2000-2011 (Part 1)

Terrmel Sledge, on April 6th, 2004, made his debut with the Montreal Expos in 2004, their last regular season in Montreal before moving to Washington in 2005. He hit the first Home Run in Washington National’s history. He was later traded to the Texas Rangers in December 2005, and then dealt to the San Diego Padres in 2006. Following the 2007 season, he signed with the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan, playing there until 2010 when he signed with the Yokohoma Baystars.

Sledge is half Korean American and half African American. His mother is Korean, whereas his father is African American.

Hines Ward challenges Steelers’ offense to step up
The Sporting News

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward says it’s time for the team’s offense to give the defense more help.

“The defense has carried us for many years now,” Ward told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “And now they’re going through this situation. We need to be there for our teammates and this organization. … We have to go out and make more plays. … We have a lot of guys who are (ticked) off right now.”

Forever & Ever album by David Choi

Singer/songwriter/music producer David Choi is about to release his third album “Forever & Ever”. In a few short years, David has amassed over 1 million subscribers online, completed a worldwide sold out tour, won prestigious competitions, received over 100 million views online and released 2 albums. Most artists would consider a list of those accolades the end of a great career, but David’s true testament to his musical future has yet to be revealed. In his third album, David Choi will push past the normal pop music sound and delve deeper into a sound that David has spent years crafting. In a soulful lyrically challenging style, he will enthrall you on a 12 track journey into the release of his 3rd self produced album, Forever And Ever. After completing 2 previous albums, David’s sound has been tempered and tailored so that his 3rd album is potentially his most diverse and creative to date.

The Case for Food Aid to North Korea

As the North Korean food crisis rises to critical levels, the Korea Policy Institute invites the public to an urgent briefing on to take place tomorrow at the Korean Peace Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles.

David Austin, the director of the North Korean program of Mercy Corps, one of five US NGOs that furnish humanitarian food relief to North Korea, will offer an on-the-ground assessment of acute malnutrition and starvation in North Korea following this summer’s typhoon and floods.

Austin, who is featured in an interview that ran in the September issue of KoreAm, will outline the case for responsible, monitored food aid to the most vulnerable in North Korea and will explain the methods that insure delivery rather than diversion. Austin will also answer questions regarding one of the most challenging foreign policy issues facing the Obama administration today.

What: North Korea Food Aid Briefing
Where: Korean Peace Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles
3200 Wilshire Blvd., S. Tower, Ste. 1310.
When: Thursday, Sept. 29, at 6 p.m.

Acutely malnourished boy in critical condition with his mother in a pediatric ward at a county hospital in North Hwanghae in North Korea. Photo taken September 2011.

Monday's Link Attack: Anthony Kim, North Korea, Korean Sex Scandal

What they said: Anthony Kim

Here’s a Q&A with pro golfer Anthony Kim, who finished tied for 5th place at the British Open yesterday.

Q. Are you just frustrated or angry or what’s the emotion that is kind of prevalent?

ANTHONY KIM: I wouldn’t say angry. I’m in a pretty good spot in my life I’d say. I would just say I’m frustrated, extremely frustrated with how I was playing and the work I felt like I was putting in. I felt like I wasn’t getting anything out of it. So to put myself in contention on Saturday is a very nice feeling.

North Korea Starving, But Elite Open Luxury Restaurant
ABC News

Earlier this week, “The Restaurant at Hana” opened its doors in the North Korea capital. Restaurants come and go with little fanfare in most world capitals, but it get noticed when one opens in the so-called Hermit Kingdom where famine is threatening to return to the country.

Life of horror in gulags of North Korea
New Zealand Herald

“A day before the executions, prison guards would put huge banners to tell everyone what was going to happen, and on the day everyone would be ordered to attend,” the diminutive 50-year-old explains.

“They would take the prisoner to a stake, tie them up and blindfold them. The firing squad would let off 30 or 40 shots until the prisoner’s body had turned to honeycomb. Every time the bullets hit, the stake would crack backwards.”

Who Killed Kim Sah Nae?
The New Yorker

For years, I pondered the strange fate of Kim Sah Nae, a North Korean diplomat killed mysteriously in her home in Islamabad, Pakistan, more than a decade ago. The facts seemed to have been lifted from a spy movie, with hints of espionage, nuclear secrets, and assassination. Officially, Kim died in an accident, when a neighbor’s cook was loading a shotgun, and it went off. I always figured she’d been murdered. Back then, I even toyed with the idea of writing a screenplay, with Gong Li, I imagined, in the starring role.

Debbie Lee’s Poutine Truck Hits the Streets
L.A. Weekly

Chef Debbie Lee must like running the Ahn-Joo food truck because she’s launching another truck, only this one is Canadian not Korean. Along with partner James MacKinnon, the Food Network regular will debut The Poutine Truck (@thepoutinetruck) this weekend at the Little Tokyo Design Festival.

Korean DJ is Seoul’s master of Western rock
Los Angeles Times

For years, Kang [Hyung-Min] approached foreigners to plumb their musical knowledge. Now the student knows more than his teachers, and he’s sought out by expatriates here for the breadth, style and playfulness of his musical acumen.

Kang spins it all: indie, country, punk. But his specialty is the British sound of the 1980s: the likes of Spandau Ballet, Duran Duran, the Cure and the Smiths.

Former G.I., South Korean girl he befriended, reunite after nearly four decades
The News Journal (Wilmington, Del.)

Insooni, the famous biracial singer from Korea reunited with a former U.S. soldier she met in 1972.

Lewis was a 19-year-old GI when he saw 15-year-old Insoon, the daughter of a Korean mom and an American soldier who was black. Insoon was kicked out of school for being a mixed-race child. Lewis is now 58 and Insooni is 54.

“She was always sitting outside by herself,” Lewis said. “So a few of the soldiers bought her clothes and helped her as much as we could.”

But Insooni only remembers Lewis, whom she considers a big brother.

“I never forgot his eyes,” Insooni said.

Consulting firm offers tips on U.S. university admission
The Korea Herald

As more South Korean students try to get into top American colleges, they have started to turn to admission consulting companies which provide application assistance and help design extracurricular activities.

A team of experts from Manhattan Global Prep, a New York-based college admission consulting firm, offered advice to Korean students in its seminar last Saturday in Seoul on what students should know about the U.S. college admission process and what the company can offer.

The consulting fee ranges from $10,000 to $40,000, depending on a student’s grades, but guarantees acceptance to at least one school for each applicant and pledges a full refund if he or she is not accepted.

Yuliana Kim-Grant’s new novel, ‘A Shred of Hope,’ released
Korean Beacon

Korean American author Yuliana Kim-Grant‘s new release, A Shred of Hope, starts with the sudden death of an interracial couple—the main character, Jane Park, is Korean American, and her husband is African American. The tragic story unfolds and ensues as we gradually learn about Jane’s broken relationship with her parents. Jane’s Korean parents, who had rejected the idea of their daughter marrying an African American man, had cut ties with her after the couple’s wedding—a wedding they did not even attend. But when the couple one day falls victim to a psychopathic gunman in the subway, the parents must go through a grieving process that is marked not only with loss, but also the guilt and regret over a relationship that can no longer be healed.

Sex scandal rumors fly at Korean Assembly
Korea Herald via AsiaOne

The National Assembly was recently shaken by a series of sex scandals, most of them involving members of the Grand National Party.

Earlier this month, a major daily newspaper reported that a married ruling party lawmaker sexually harassed a drunken woman in a taxi and handed over money to the driver who threatened to upload the recorded file on the Internet.

July Issue: The North Korean Food Dilemma

In this 1997 photo, students and residents plant rice in a newly rebuilt rice patty over flood-ravaged farmland in Sugu village, Kujang County, about 90 minutes north of Pyongyang. One local resident at the time admitted to eating plant porridge while trying to overcome the country’s food shortage. Photo credit: Hyungwon Kang

The Food Dilemma

How hungry is North Korea, and how conditional should food aid be? Korea specialist David C. Kang provides an overview of the North Korean food aid quandary.

How bad is the food situation in North Korea?

There is considerable debate about just how bad the situation is. The United Nations’ World Food Program, along with two other U.N. agencies, have released a study concluding that potentially 6 million North Koreans, a quarter of the population, need urgent food aid, citing a harsh winter in which some crops were down 44 percent from expected levels. But even as the World Food Program has launched an international appeal for aid, there are those who oppose such assistance for a variety of reasons. Some argue that the North Korean regime’s behavior should change before any aid is given, while others contend the situation is not so dire, citing evidence that the North Korean military has stockpiled up to 1 million tons of rice, much of it possibly diverted from aid organizations. And still others believe that the regime is simply saving up its food for 2012, when it plans a major celebration for the 100th anniversary of Kim Il-Sung’s birth.

There is, however, evidence that food prices are rising in North Korea and are rising faster than world food prices. This is not only a sign that demand is outstripping supply, but also that the situation in North Korea is not simply a reflection of global food prices. That is, although North Korean elites and the military are unlikely to suffer, some ordinary citizens may be facing severe shortages. In late May, the U.S. sent a fact-finding team to North Korea to assess the situation, and the team’s report is being prepared at this time.

What is the current South Korean and U.S. government stance on providing food aid?

The overall stance of the U.S. government has been one of “strategic patience,” which means ignoring and containing North Korea until it first makes concrete steps to back down from the belligerent behavior of the past few years and to show measures intended to rein in the nuclear weapons program. The U.S. has also not yet made any decision about the humanitarian situation. South Korea’s approach is generally the same: President Lee Myung-bak has eliminated most economic and aid programs to the North until it apologizes for attacking South Korean naval vessel Cheonan and shelling Yeonpyeong Island last year. Within this overall approach, however, there is a willingness to potentially provide humanitarian aid to the North if the situation is dire enough and if the North meets certain preconditions.

In this 1995 photo, residents wait at a Pyongyang bus stop. Photo credit: Hyungwon Kang

Will denying North Korea food aid lead to popular unrest against the government? Continue reading

Thursday's Link Attack: NK Famine Overblown? Baltimore Murder, KA Joins Grantland

Reports of North Korea food shortages overblown, say US, South Korea
Christian Science Monitor via Yahoo News

The US and South Korea disagree with the United Nations World Food Program about the extent to which North Koreans suffer from lack of food.

Delivery driver shot Tuesday afternoon recently started his own business
The Baltimore Sun

Chong Wan Yim, who emigrated from South Korea, held a variety of jobs in Baltimore — from running his own restaurant to starting his own delivery business just months ago.

“I think he was a really hard worker. He was trying to make an honest living,” said his friend, Jay Park. “There are no words to say about what happened. We’re are realizing how vulnerable we are, even in the daytime.”

While making a stop in an unmarked box truck about 3 p.m. Tuesday at the Erdman Shopping Center in Belair-Edison, the 55-year-old was shot in the chest. He died at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.

S.Korea Soccer League ‘Could Close Over Fixing’
AFP via Yahoo News

South Korea’s only professional football league could be closed down if it becomes embroiled in another match-fixing scandal, a government minister threatened Thursday.

The K-League has been rattled for weeks by a match-rigging controversy, with 10 current players facing criminal charges so far and one more charged by military prosecutors. Another implicated player committed suicide.

Why Korean girls can’t find guys, and vice versa
JoongAng Daily

For well-educated Korean women in their late 20s, there simply aren’t enough suitable boys to go around. This isn’t just powder room or water cooler talk. The fact is backed up by hard statistics.

Theater Review | ‘Hamyul/Hamlet’ – Hamlet as Eager Korean Prince
New York Times

There’s not much indecision from Shakespeare’s prince in “Hamyul/Hamlet,” a Korean-language adaptation of the play at La MaMa. But boy, is there intensity. In a show that runs just 90 minutes, this is a Hamlet quick to rage and eager for revenge, one who jettisons his infamous uncertainty long before the final scenes.

Awl Publisher David Cho Heeds the Call of Grantland
New York Observer

David Cho is stepping down from his position as publisher of The Awl. He is relocating to Los Angeles on Sunday to work for Bill Simmons at Grantland, he told friends in a mass e-mail.

Kim Jong-il’s Train Stops Short of Russian Border
Chosun Ilbo

An armored train believed to be carrying North Korean leader Kim Jong-il was spotted heading to the Russian border on Tuesday evening. Diplomatic sources in Seoul said U.S. and South Korean intelligence officials confirmed that the armored train left Pyongyang and headed toward Hamgyong Province, and Kim was expected to meet Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Vladivostok. But the train never crossed the border, according to a source.

Continue reading

Tuesday's Link Attack: Kim Jong Il To Visit Russia, Far East Movement

Kim Jong-il traveling to Moscow, says Mainichi
Korea Herald

Kim Jong Il will make his first trip to Russia since 2002 and is set to have a meeting with President Dmitry Medvedev, according to news sources.

Pyongyang-Moscow ties have withered as Russia builds improved relations with South Korea and other western nations. Through the upcoming summit talks, Russia hopes to bolster ties with North Korea in the interest of regional security, and the North wants economic assistance.

Far East Movement in Belgium

The hip-hop quartet posted a new entry on their blog detailing their exploits in Antwerp, Belgium. The picture-heavy post offers a behind-the-scenes look at the Los Angeles-based group’s European tour.

Check out our October 2010 cover story of Far East Movement.

U.S. and North Korea: The land of lousy options
Los Angeles Times

U.S. Sen. John Kerry writes an opinion piece in the L.A. Times about the North Korea problem.

We should explore steps that can reduce the threat and return to the path toward a denuclearized peninsula. Achieving complete denuclearization will take time, but in the near term we should try to negotiate an end to the North’s enrichment of uranium, a moratorium on nuclear weapons and missile testing, the removal of fresh fuel rods capable of producing fissile material and the final dismantlement of the Yongbyon nuclear reactor. These are worthy intermediate goals along the path toward complete and verifiable denuclearization.

North Korea slashes food rations: aid worker
AFP via Yahoo News

North Korea has drastically cut public food handouts as it heads towards a new hunger crisis with people again eating grass to survive, one of the most experienced aid workers in the isolated nation said.

How to Smuggle Footage Out of North Korea
The Atlantic via Yahoo News

This article examines how a journalist recently managed to take video of starving North Korean children and smuggle the footage out of the country.