North Korea is one of the most closed states in the world. It spends massive sums on its military and nuclear programme, yet it cannot feed its own people. Since the 1990s, with the Soviet Union cutting back on its aid, the US' sanctions, combined with disproportionate domestic agricultural land and economic backwardness, famine always appears "together"with the DPRK. The images of North Korea's hard-line leaders are in stark contrast with those of the poor and weak civilians.
On May 14, 1997, UNICEF made a survey in Korea Gangwon region, where many children are malnourished. Korea Hwang Jang Yop was quoted as saying that in 1995 a total of 500,000 people were starved to death, including 50,000 party members, and until mid-November 1996 about 1 million people have starved to death among whom there are about 500,000 military industry workers and over 2,000 most skilled workers. Half of the people had to lie in bed due to hunger.