A United Nations expert said North Korean women face increased pressure to feed their families under the country’s strict COVID measures that have spiked food prices by almost 700% in the last year.
What Happened: Elizabeth Salmon, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea, expressed her concerns about the “disproportionate impact” of Kim Jong-un COVID-19 norms on women and girls in the country as she wrapped up her first visit to Seoul since taking office last month.
Salmon, lacking access to first-hand information due to the secretive country’s policy, presented her findings from interviews with recent North Korean escapees, government officials, and civic groups.
“I learned that every institution, including women’s associations and schools, is given a quota to fulfill, which women and children have to contribute to by providing material and labor. Many children were suffering from malnutrition and stunted growth even before the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said.
“Market activities, which the women relied on for their living, were greatly reduced due to the prolonged closure of the borders,” she added.
“With no alternative source of income, they are still required to feed their family, look after sick family members, including potentially those with COVID-19, while also providing contributions to the state.”
Salmon, citing a defector who reported an increase of up to 700% in food prices last year, said the price hikes raise the possibility of starvation among the country’s 25 million people.
Earlier this week, a U.N. report accused North Korea of violating human rights amid Kim’s strengthened coronavirus-related curbs with extra restrictions on access to information, tighter border security, and increased surveillance.