DENVER – Meet any Korean of a certain age, and you will learn about barley season, which begins in February and stretches through the cold months of early spring until the first of the winter barley crop is harvested. Few South Koreans remember those straitened months anymore, but for North Koreans, hunger in the countryside during this time of year is very real.
In past years, South Korea has been the primary external source of food, through either direct food assistance (for the immediate problem) or deliveries of fertilizer. But this year, with rising impatience and anger in South Korea toward the North Korean regime, the food and fertilizer is in doubt. And some analysts in Seoul believe that a dicey political succession in Pyongyang, combined with food shortages in the countryside, could prove too much for the North Korean regime to handle.