North Korea faces worst drought in 50 years; South says aid unlikely

A North Korean woman works on an apple farm near Pyongyang on April 10, 2012.

Story highlights

  • This could be the driest May in North Korea since 1962
  • Less than a quarter inch has been recorded in major cities
  • Little food aid is expected from South Korea and the United States

North Korea is facing possibly its worst drought in 50 years, state media reported this week.

May is on track to be the driest since 1962, with rainfall of less than a quarter of an inch (2-5 mm) recorded in major cities, including the capital, Pyongyang, the Korean Central News Agency said.

The dry conditions are expected to continue into early June, North Korea's Rodong newspaper reported, citing a state weather official.

Rain during the last 30 days has been lower than normal in the North, according to Jang Hyun-sik with the South Korean Meteorological Administration.

"On average, it is supposed to rain in the range of 70-90 mm (2.75 to 3.5 inches) during this period," Jang said, noting that South Korean forecasters do not directly communicate with their counterparts in the North.

Rodong reported that the drought has delayed the planting of corn and has already damaged crops like wheat, barley and potatoes, but said irrigation "can fight off the damage."

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North Korea's food shortages are well documented. The World Food Program says more than 6 million people in the reclusive nation don't have enough to eat.

South Korean Unification Ministry's spokesman Kim Hyung-suk Seoul is open to allowing private organizations to provide humanitarian aid to the North.

No food aid is likely to come from the United States. Washington canceled its plan for food shipments after Pyongyang launched a rocket on April 13.

North Korea said the launch was to put a satellite into orbit, but much of the international community saw it as a cover up for testing its ballistic missile technology.

The move torpedoed a deal reached in February under which Pyongyang agreed to suspend its nuclear activities in exchange for food aid shipments.

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