Food shortages were suspected in North Korea in the 1980s, but the situation grew more serious in the 1990s, following several years of unfavorable weather and economic decline.
Below are several high-resolution (20 m) SPOT images showing the impact of drought and floods during 1996 and 1997 on North Korea's agricultural situation compared to a relatively normal 1994 crop season.
China/North Korea Border (Images 1 and 2) The deep red vegetation in China is predominately forest. Mixed grain and vegetable crops are grown in the floodplain of the Yalu River separating China and North Korea. Extensive rice paddies surround the North Korea city of Sinuiju. The non-forested hillsides are mainly planted to corn.
- Image 1 - August 19, 1994 - Rainfall and temperatures were very favorable in 1994, resulting in normal output of rice and corn.
- Image 2 - July 12, 1997 - Severe flooding in 1996 buried large areas of cropland in the Yalu River floodplain with silt and debris. Summer drought in 1997 delayed rice planting and seriously affected non-irrigated crops.
Central North Korea - North of Pyongyang (Images 3 and 4) This is a mixed-crop area adjacent to the Taedong River in central North Korea. Rice paddies are located near the river and its tributaries, while corn is produced throughout the region. Forest cover is spotty.
- Image 3 - July 26, 1994 - Favorable rainfall resulted in good vegetative growth across the area.
- Image 4 - July 13, 1997 - Yellow/green patches indicate poor vegetation. Drought had serious impact on corn yields.
Southern North Korea( Images 5 and 6) The images focus on a reservoir located in a mountainous region of southern North Korea. Rice paddies are visible in the stream valleys; corn and natural vegetation elsewhere.
- Image 5 - August 11, 1998 - Heavy summer rainfall filled the reservoir and supported healthy vegetative growth in this area.
- Image 6 - August 13, 1997 - Low reservoir level and sparse vegetation clearly show the impact of drought.
For more examples of satellite images of North Korea, see the Korea Page, Production Estimates and Crop Assessment Division, Foreign Agricultural Service.