North Korean leader Kim Jong Un
North Korea's Kim Jong Un Oversees Military Parade With Horses, Dogs And Tractors Reuters

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un’s birthday on Jan. 8 has the country’s local governments in a scurry to make his birthday sweets. But while North Koreans are at the threshold of starvation, the government has compelled its citizens to pay for their leader’s birthday treats.

As the country struggles with food shortages, which can be compared to the famine that hit the nation in 1990, Kim’s nationwide birthday celebration has dented flour and sugar supplies causing prices for these ingredients to soar.

In an interview with Radio Free Asia’s Korean Service, a resident of Unsan, South Pyongan province said, “Since yesterday, the price of one kilogram of flour has jumped from 12,000 won (the U.S. $2.40) to 30,000 won ($6). The price of sugar has also jumped from 13,000 ($11.04) won to 25,000 ($21.24) won.”

Candy production lines in Pyongyang are said to have been hit the hardest. Sources who chose to keep their anonymity said the central government has required each province to produce and supply sweet treats and confections for children as a birthday token from Kim.

“To purchase the raw materials for confections, the county party directly imposed a tax of 5,000 won ($4.25) on each household,” a second source said. “They even demanded each house provide one egg for confection production. As people must purchase the eggs for donation at the local marketplace, the market is running out of eggs,” the insider revealed.

The sweet tokens given to youngsters have long been practiced in North Korea. This was started by the current leader’s grandfather Kim II Sung. In the early years of Kim Jong-Un’s rule, candies were given to daycare and primary school students and their mothers on the actual day of his birthday. But from 2019, this tradition was expanded and had since included candy gifts to all of North Korea's citizens, which are to be distributed on Jan. 1.

As border commerce has been prohibited due to COVID-19 health restrictions, the amount of imported wheat and sugar has been suffering an insufficient supply. On top of this, the widespread food shortage in the country is also attributed to the current freezing of commerce with Beijing as well as blocked borders with China, which before the pandemic, has supplied sugar to the country.

The candy production needs to meet its deadline on Dec. 20 hence why local governments have now been directly controlling the distribution of all flour and sugar causing the diminished supply in local markets and triggering soaring prices for these ingredients until all the confections are done.

kim jong un
North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un speaks during a welcoming dinner on Sept. 18, 2018 in Pyongyang, North Korea. Getty Images/Pyeongyang Press Corps/Pool


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