SEOUL, Sept. 19 (Yonhap) -- North Korea's food situations may have improved, compared with the first half of the year, on the back of an increase in crop harvest and imports, South Korea's unification ministry said Tuesday.
With deaths from starvation reported in some regions, North Korea has reportedly been facing serious food shortages, as its prolonged COVID-19 border closure and disruptions in state-controlled food supply have aggravated the situation.
"There is a possible change in the North's food situations, as the country has boosted food imports and harvests of barley and wheat have significantly made progress," a ministry official told reporters on condition of anonymity.
The official said the North seems to have suffered a food crisis in the first half due largely to problems in food distributions, rather than an absolute shortage of food.
Russia is ready to offer food aid to North Korea, but Pyongyang said it can "do without foreign help as it has good harvest," Russian Ambassador to North Korea Alexander Matsegora said in an interview with Russia's state-run news agency TASS.
The North is known for chronic food shortages that have been apparently aggravated in recent years amid global sanctions for its nuclear and missile programs, unfavorable weather and border lockdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.