North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un speaks in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on March 7, 2021, about the first short course for chief secretaries of city and county party committees in Pyongyang, North Korea.

KCNA | via Reuters

North Korea’s ruler Kim Jong Un has reportedly admitted that the food situation in the secret country is worrying amid reports of food shortages and inflated staple prices.

North Korea’s authoritarian leader said the food situation is now “strained” after the country’s agricultural sector “failed to meet its grain production schedule due to typhoon damage last year,” state media reported in Pyongyang.

Speaking at a plenary meeting of the Central Committee of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea, Kim said, “Having a good harvest is a militant task that our party and our state must fulfill as the top priority in order to enable people to live stable lives and to successfully advance in building socialist construction “reported the Pyongyang Times.

Comments at the plenary session, which began on Tuesday and lasts all week, mark a rare admission of problems with the communist regime, which traditionally does not publicly admit problems in the country.

In North Korea there are no independent media in which state media serve as the mouthpiece of the regime. Instead, the media extol the virtues and wisdom of Kim Jong Un, the “Supreme Leader” and the Kim Dynasty. All comments from Kim are carefully recorded and reported.

Kim’s comments come amid reports of rising food and staple food prices in North Korea amid the crisis exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic and typhoon in 2020. NK News (an independent North Korean news service not based in the country) has reported the price hike, with a source in the country reporting examples of shampoos for $ 200 a bottle and a kilogram of bananas for $ 45 a bottle.

North Korea has few allies in the world and has relied on China (its largest trading partner) for much of its imports, but the closing of its border with China during the pandemic has resulted in food and fuel shortages. North Korea’s agricultural sector has always been vulnerable to the typhoon season in the region and has experienced regular flooding in recent years.

Kim chaired the Labor Party’s plenary session this week, alluding to the economic troubles but insisting that things get better.

Kim said that “the conditions and environment for the revolutionary struggle have deteriorated since the beginning of this year, but the country’s economy as a whole has improved,” the state-run Pyongyang Times reported.

Kim put items on the Central Committee’s agenda, saying “to direct all efforts this year towards agriculture” and to deal with the “protracted nature” of the pandemic, to analyze the “current international situation” and “the issue of stabilization and improving people’s living standards ”. “And the party’s childcare policy is a top priority, state media said.