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North Korea is not facing famine, says Russian envoy

North Korea, Russian ambassador, Alexander Matsegora

World

North Korea is not facing famine, says Russian envoy

In a recent interview with the state-run TASS Russian News Agency, Russian Ambassador to North Korea Alexander Matsegora called current conditions inside the DPRK “tough,” but reassured the public that “the main thing is that the country is not facing famine.”

One week after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reportedly told officials to brace for hardship and referenced a deadly 1990s famine, a top Russian diplomat said that the country is experiencing a serious shortage of food and medicine but is not in a state of mass starvation.

In a recent interview with the state-run TASS Russian News Agency, Russian Ambassador to North Korea Alexander Matsegora called current conditions inside the DPRK “tough,” but reassured the public that “the main thing is that the country is not facing famine.”

“Thank God, the Arduous March is still unlikely,” he said, referring to the official name for the North Korean famine that killed at least 220,000 people more than two decades ago. “I remember what happened here in the second half of the 1990s, so I can compare these things.”

During the interview, Matsegora also touched on the rise of DPRK food prices and declining trade in the COVID-19 era, which experienced sharp declines in 2020. He also claimed that North Korean state media did not tell citizens about the global distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, and said that he’s afraid even more expatriates will exit the country after waves of diplomats and aid workers left in recent months. On March 18, NK News reported that no foreign NGO workers or U.N. staff were left in North Korea after another group departure.

“Ambassador Matsegora — for the last couple years, he seems to be the main news reporter from Pyongyang,” said Artyom Lukin, an international relations expert based in the Russian city of Vladivostok. “Fundamentally, I read his interview as an admission that nothing is really certain … It’s not pessimism. It’s more like cautious optimism.”

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