North Korea’s giant leap backwards: Last year’s disastrous currency reform wiped out savings and caused healthcare to collapse–now many fear another famine

by Barbara Demick

Many North Koreans lack food and basic medical care, a report by Amnesty International said this week Photo:Gerald Bourke/AP

For North Koreans, the definition of success is when you can eat an occasional egg, preferably with a bowl of rice, instead of the unappetising concoction of corn and weeds on which most of the population survives. Until recently, a sizeable segment of the North Korean population could afford the basic foodstuffs that are taken for granted elsewhere. Through their hard work and ingenuity, North Koreans had pulled themselves out of the famine of the 1990s that had killed 2 million people, almost 10% of the population. This wasn’t prosperity by any definition of the word, but it was at least survival.