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article imageNorth Korea: Water shortages and water parks

By Karen Graham     Dec 4, 2014 in Environment
Pyongyang - North Korea is a country full of enigmas. Isolated and repressive, and governed by a supposed much-loved dictator, little is known about what really goes on within its borders. But some things are impossible to hide, like droughts and water shortages.
North Korean state media today issued a statement from Kim Jong Un that continued to place emphasis on a campaign to "secure water" as the country reels from a devastating drought and shortage of water in its rivers, reservoirs and wells. Although this round of droughts and crop failures is not new, the threat of not having enough water for spring seed-planting is a real concern.
In the 1990s, the regime went through three years of floods and droughts that resulted in famine and the loss of many lives. According to a study by Ben Habib with the School of Political and International Studies at Flinders University in Australia, flooding is going to become more common in North Korea because of the monsoon season becoming more unpredictable due to climate change.
This year's drought was covered by Reuters in June. At that time, Reuters reported that state media was saying the country was experiencing the worst spring drought in over three decades. Despite the lowered water levels and drought, leader Kim Jong-un announced that "increasing agricultural production is a main target," and state media called overcoming the drought “not simply a practical issue but an important task to fulfill the party’s lofty intentions.”
A large portion of the country's military was put to work diverting water from rivers into reservoirs in an attempt to save water for planting. It seems the regime is more fixed on having water enough for crops rather than seeing that people have enough water to drink. The plight of the North Korean people has become dire, with two-thirds facing chronic food shortages and over half the population living in squalid poverty.
Water, the essential needed for life, and every aspect of our living in this world, has become a great concern. The lack of water is evident everywhere one looks. Dusty fields, dry stream beds and rivers reduced to trickles are seen everywhere. Water for use in everyday routines, like washing clothes, bathing, drinking and cooking is in short supply now.
The water shortage in North Korea was of little concern, apparently to the beloved leader, because on October 30, it was reported in the Daily NK that water shortages in Pyongyang were being exacerbated because of water being diverted to the Munsu Waterpark. It is part of a plan instigated by Kim Jong Un to show the world North Korea is a nice place to live in and visit. So to that end, millions of gallons of precious water are circulated through miles of tubes, slides and water courses for the pleasure of very, very few people.
On opening day, the park was well-attended by a mass of people, watched carefully by armed soldiers. The strange thing is that the park is not visited in the winter, yet the water flows on, just as if it was summer. This is happening even with some hydroelectric plants being shut down because of a lack of water. Go figure.
More about North korea, Water shortages, prolonged drought, Munsu Waterpark, campaign to secure water
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