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Farmers Under Pressure to Feed Hungry North Korea

A North Korean man driving an ox cart protects himself in a rainstorm south of Hyesan, North Korea in Ryanggang province. For more than four decades, farming in North was characterized by heavy use of mechanization and technological innovations, swiftly followed by chronic fuel and equipment shortages and long-term damage caused by stopgap policies. That legacy has left its mark not only on the North Korean psyche, but on its countryside. Cows are few, but goats are everywhere. They are easier to care for and require less food, but also can eat their way into crops or overgraze fields.

North Korean Farmers Under Pressure to Feed Hungry Nation

Kim Jong-un has vowed that North Korea will 'never have to tighten its belt again'. But can this isolated, autocratic and impoverished country escape the ghosts of famine?

As every North Korean schoolchild knows, leader Kim Jong-un has succeeded in establishing his country as a nuclear power, and even sent a satellite into orbit.

Now, with the nation he inherited from his father squeezed by prolonged international sanctions and largesse from its former communist allies mostly gone, Kim is calling on farmers to win him another battle.

In one of his first public statements, in 2012, he promised the nation it will "never have to tighten its belt again" — a reference to the years of famine and economic crisis in the 1990s that left possibly hundreds of thousands dead. Even before the seeds were in the ground this spring, he made that call again.

Reporting by Eric Talmadge, Associated Press.