More than six million North Koreans have been impacted by successive poor harvests and soaring food prices, which may presage another famine, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) said.
An estimated 1.2 million of North Korea's 24-million population have been receiving food assistance from WFP. Nearly 6.4 million people are experiencing the threat of famine for the first time in a decade, a UN survey revealed.
"Millions of vulnerable North Koreans are at risk of slipping towards precarious hunger levels," Jean-Pierre de Margerie, the WFP representative in North Korea, said on Wednesday.
"The last time hunger was so deep and so widespread in parts of the country was in the late 1990s," de Margerie said at a press conference in Beijing.
The joint survey by WFP and the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organisation said food production in North Korea dropped sharply because of flooding in August 2007, subsequent poor harvests and the current high food prices in many developing countries.
The survey was conducted in eight North Korean provinces, the most comprehensive since 2004. It said close to three-quarters of households in those provinces have cut down food intake.