North Korea

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North Korea is facing its seventh year of food shortages arising from weather-related problems. A famine killed tens of thousand of people in 1996-97. (Washington Times; December 8, 2000; Thomas Wagner, Associated Press) Thousands crossed the border into China looking for food.

(Washington Post; July 23, 2001;Pg. 16; John Pomfret, Washington Post Foreign Service) A large percentage of the population remains susceptible to malnutrition and their living conditions continue to worsen as energy shortages shut down factories and further reduce the ability of the country to feed itself. Although the Korean War ended in 1953 with an armistice, tensions remain. As a consequence, the regime continues to spend huge sums and devote scare resources to feeding and maintaining a huge and menacing army.

Environmental Changes as Causes of Acute Conflict
Information on developments and trends within North Korea's borders is difficult to obtain. It is therefore difficult to determine with certainty to what degree North Korea's current problems are due to incompetent leadership, to the failures of a planned economy, or to environmental changes. That said, it is clear that recent changes in northeastern Asia's weather have played a role in undermining the North Korean regime. "The realization that North Korea was in deep trouble began with an act of nature. On the sticky midsummer day of July 26, 1995, the skies over the country darkened. Rains began to pound the earth, rains that were heavy, steady, and unrelenting and that soon turned into a deluge of biblical proportions. The DPRK Bureau of Hydro-Meteorological Service recorded 23 inches of rain in ten days; in some towns and villages, according to the United Nations, as much as 18 inches of rain fell in a single day, bringing floods that were considered the worst in a century." (The Two Koreas; Pg. 370; Don Oberdorfer). Notably also, commenting on this summer's drought in North Korea, the Washington Times quoted North

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