An official from the country’s North Hamgyong province told Radio Free Asia on condition of anonymity while speaking about the country’s crisis.
The official said: “At the beginning of this month, the Central Committee [of the Korean Workers’ Party] ordered residents to actively participate in solving our food crisis this year as part of a food-saving struggle,”
“The order emphasized that the struggle not only solves the problem of how we will eat, it is a matter of protecting the socialist system,” the source added. “It also warned that authorities will step up crackdowns and punishment for any actions related to food waste.”
This comes after three consecutive typhoons in August and September that destroyed farmland and crops with the country still yet to recover from the savage economic impact of the coronavirus crisis.
RFA’s source noted that the food conservation order came ahead of major year-end holidays.
“The Central Committee also instructed us not to set the ceremonial table with foods made from grains. They have ordered a ban on rice cakes and bread, suggesting we use only fruits and vegetables. They said that simply serving noodles as a meal to attending guests is an important way to save food,” the source said.
“The Central Committee is also warning of strong legal punishment for those who waste food by secretly brewing alcohol from grains and drinking socially. There’s even an order to crack down on covert alcohol production, and an inspection team has been formed and are already operating in some residential areas,” the insider added.
A second source, also speaking on condition of anonymity, told RFA that the same order came down in the neighboring Ryanggang province.
“Farmers who have to sell grain to purchase other things they need have been greatly inconvenienced because rural residents are now prohibited from selling grain on the market,” that source said.
“Inspectors are stationed on roads just outside the downtown areas to check passing cars, carts and even luggage carried on people’s backs, to ensure people don’t transport grain. Food prices are rising in the market as grains are forbidden, and this threatens residents’ livelihoods.”
“People are angry,” the source told RFA. “They say that controlling food distribution will make everyone’s difficult situation even worse.”
Officials tasked with cracking down on food waste will also face harsh punishment if they are caught using their status to flout the order.
“They warned that if officials are caught wasting food, they will be subject to criticism and severely punished,” the source said.