The year-end address, summarized by state media outlet KCNA on Saturday, made brief reference to “emergency epidemic prevention work.”
While the North Korean leader did not detail the degree of food scarcity, the World Food Organization warned of severe shortages in the country in 2021 including a shortfall of hundreds of thousands of tons of rice.
The problem was compounded by severe flooding in some of the country’s most fertile rice producing regions.
This isn’t the first time that Kim has acknowledged the food situation in the nation over the last 12 months.
In April, KCNA reported Kim urged people to undertake another “Arduous March,” while addressing a top-level political meeting.
The term “Arduous March” refers to a period of devastating famine in the early 1990s, when North Korea’s economy spiraled downward following the collapse of the Soviet Union, which ended the flow of aid into the country.
Hundreds of thousands of people — or as many as 10% of the country’s population — were estimated to have starved to death in this period.
On Saturday, KCNA also reported Kim’s acknowledgment of “unfavorable conditions this year” and his wish to “increase the agricultural production and completely solve the food problem of the country.”