North Korea area hit by floods face soaring food prices

SEOUL, Sept. 22 (UPI) — Areas of North Korea destroyed by floods are facing a new crisis: escalating food prices.

Due to road and railroad damage in the country’s northeast, the distribution of food to the population has become challenging and has led to the near doubling of food prices, according to Japanese news service Asia Press.

The soaring cost of daily staples is mostly taking place in North Hamgyong province.

In the cities of Hoeryong and the Namyang district of Onsong County, 1 kilogram or about 2 pounds of rice now costs 8,000 North Korean won, and 1 kilogram of corn sells at 2,000 won, according to Asia Press.

Before floods destroyed state infrastructure prices were lower with rice costing about 4,300 North Korean won per kilogram, and corn 1,000 won per kilogram.

Prices are also substantially lower in Pyongyang, where, according to a source, rice costs about 5,000 North Korean won per kilogram.

There is no official exchange rate between the North Korean won and U.S. dollar, but unofficially, it’s 7,900-8,000 won to the dollar, according to sources in the country.

Cities that have been less affected by the natural disaster include Hyesan, in Yanggang province, where food prices and the exchange rate against the Chinese yuan have been stable.

Asia Press founder Jiro Ishimaru said inflation is a sign transportation has yet to be restored in some areas, despite reports from Pyongyang of a successful recovery.

Ishimaru said the railroad traveling to Hoeryong has not been restored but North Korea is not reporting the extent of the damage.

On Thursday a North Korean propaganda outlet instead focused on the 67th death anniversary of Kim Jong Suk, mother of former leader Kim Jong Il.

Uriminzokkiri called Kim a “heroine” and a “woman warrior of [Mount] Paektu” who worked for “national liberation and for the people’s happiness.”

Kim died in 1949.

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