North Korea has turned to another “silver bullet” to combat chronic hunger: eating black swans.
Last weekend, Ri Jong Nam, general secretary of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea in North Korea’s South Hamgyong Province, opened a black swan breeding center at the Kwangfu duck farm on the country’s east coast.
The ceremony, which was broadcast on state television, was part of a broader campaign to promote black swan consumption, as North Korea grapples with a self-confessed “food crisis”.
Describing black swan meat as “delicious” and “medical value”, the ruling party’s Rodong Sinmun newspaper claimed that it would “effectively contribute to improving people’s lives.”
State media also praised black swan meat as an “exceptional healthy food for the 21st century with a unique taste and extremely high nutritional value.”
Pelicans – black or white – are not known as a delicacy either in South or North Korea. But North Korea, constantly grappling with chronic food shortages, has a history of promoting exotic meat as inspiring solutions.
In the 1990s, Kim Jong Il, the late father of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, responded to a devastating famine by promoting rabbits and ostrich meat as future foodstuffs.
“Instead of fixing North Korea’s food problems by incentivizing farmers to increase their yields through market mechanisms and decentralized decision-making, or bringing in food imports for things they cannot practically produce at home, the government is instead looking for magic solutions — said Peter Ward. , a North Korea expert at the University of Vienna, based in Seoul, said the pelican is just the latest iteration.
Market incentives are an ideological taboo, and potentially very problematic politics. It is classic Soviet-style thinking, which would have been comical were it not for the level of hunger in the country, which is worse now than it has been for a long time.”
A few weeks ago, Kim called on officials to improve living standards in North Korea, acknowledging the “unprecedented difficulties” and “dreary situation” facing the country.
North Korea is operating under the combined effects of international sanctions, closing self-imposed borders to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and a miserable harvest after crops were damaged by heat waves and floods.
According to the Seoul-based NK News, the coupons for money produced by the North Korean central bank are scattered throughout the economy.
Analysts said the increase in coupons indicated a potential shortage of ink and paper as well as the effects of the foreign exchange crackdown that began before the outbreak of the pandemic.
Last week, Thomas Ojea Quintana, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea, told reporters that the country’s hunger crisis was worsening, with children, the elderly and prisoners most at risk of starvation.
“Even before the onset of the pandemic, more than 40 percent of people were food insecure, and many were malnourished and stunted,” Quintana said.
The number of homeless and street children is increasing. “Those who have been discharged from compulsory military service and are returning home have no jobs, income or food to survive,” Quintana said.
Despite its economic problems, development of North Korea’s illicit missile program appears to be continuing at a rapid pace. This month, it conducted its first test of a submarine-launched ballistic missile since 2019.