Now the Korean Peninsula has been HIT HARD by the summer monsoon.
AND UP NORTH of the border FLOOD DAMAGE along with COVID-19 and international sanctions IS looking to AGGRAVATE the PLIGHTS of PEOPLE there.
For more on this I have our North Korean affairs correspondent Hong Yoo here in the studio.
So Yoo let's start with the impact on North Korea's economy.
Sunhee, to begin with, there has been a lot of flood damage in the western and southern regions of North Korea such as the South and North Pyongan provinces and North Hwanghae province due to pouring rain of up to 300mm per hour.
The regime, in response, has dispatched troops to these areas to minimize crop damage.
Last year, North Korea lost around 458 square kilometers of farm land due to floods, and they were 1-million tons short of food.
The American Friends Service Committee that runs a program helping North Korean farmers raise productivity said last week that flooding is a threat to food production, and given the added pressure of the pandemic and sanctions, there is a concern for food security among ordinary North Koreans.
North Korea's borders have been closed for more than half a year now in efforts to prevent an outbreak of COVID-19 and so North Korea's trade with China has dropped by 57 percent on-year for the month of July.
It's not only trade but also the tourism industry that has ground to a halt.
Around 1.2 million Chinese tourists used to visit North Korea each year, pocketing the regime some 360 million U.S. dollars in hard currency.
Global credit agency Fitch Ratings predicts that North Korea's economy will shrink 8.5 percent this year,…its worst growth rate in 23 years.
I understand that North Korea has also bolstered its COVID-19 containment measures amid the summer Monsoon.
Tell us more about this.
North Korea's state newspaper Rodong Sinmun reported Monday that they have strengthened monitoring in areas near lakes and rivers for flood waters and debris.
The regime is also conducting water analysis and sterilization of sewage.
They also have vehicles with loudspeakers broadcasting disease preventive measures to its citizens.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un convened an executive policy council meeting of the Worker's Party last Wednesday.
In the meeting, he ordered special aid for the city of Gaeseong, currently on lockdown over concerns of the virus.
According to the North's state media Korean Central News Agency, over 550-thousand relief items in more than 30 categories including food have been sent to Gaeseong since the start of lockdown.
In late July, the regime imposed "preemptive total lockdown measures" on Gaeseong-- shortly after a "runaway" who had defected to the South three years ago returned to the North, allegedly with symptoms of COVID-19.
And as a precautionary measure, the regime put the city under a complete lockdown.
Well it looks like North Korea is determined to keep its borders SEALED until the end of the year.
What other challenges is it facing?
Sunhee, in fact, UNICEF said Thursday that their projects are being hindered by the border closure and the regime's disease prevention measures.
Only 25 percent of UN employees in Pyeongyang still remain in North Korea, while others are telecommuting from elsewhere.
And due to the tight regulations on movement, the team has not been able to work in the field.
UNICEF says with the COVID-19 pandemic, more funds will be needed for humanitarian aid to North Korea.
But they are 62 percent shy of the 22-milion dollars needed for such project.
WHO announced last Wednesday that a total of 4,380 people have been quarantined after a suspected case of COVID-19 in Gaeseong.
It added that the test results of the suspected case were inconclusive but extensive contact tracing is being carried out.
Among those quarantined, 64 are first contacts and 3,571 are secondary contacts of the suspected case.
WHO has requested the regime to share more information about the suspected case.
Meanwhile I hear Seoul is looking to RESTART cross-border interaction.
Do tell us more Yoo.
Sunhee, South Korea's new unification minister Lee In-young pressed for the resumption of talks regarding humanitarian cooperation between the two Koreas.
During a meeting last week, he said that low-level exchanges in dealing with disasters in border areas could develop into much larger cooperation between the two Koreas.
The Ministry of Unification, in fact, decided last Thursday to provide 10 million U.S. dollars to fund a World Food Programme project supplying food and nutrition to children and women in North Korea.
This is the first humanitarian aid by the government after the inauguration of Lee In-young as the minister of Unification.
Let's take a listen:
"This decision will mark the beginning of steady humanitarian cooperation, different from those in the past that were short-lasting and dependent on political and military circumstances."
The WFP welcomed South Korea's decision to support their project.
8-million dollars is planned to be used for nutrition aid and the remaining 2-milion for job-creating projects.
Thank you as always for that coverage Yoo.
Hope to have you back soon.