North Korea cancels beer festival amid reports of terrible drought
Of all the festivities in North Korea I would be most likely to miss, I think the Taedonggang Beer Festival tops the list. So it is with a sense of relief that the Daily Express reports the cancelation of the festival. No explanation from the regime of Kim Jong-un has been forthcoming, but rumors are rampant that the worst drought in 17 years might have something to do with it.
Tour company managers from Koryo Tours and Young Pioneer Tours were given no reason for the cancellation revealed they had to let their customers down.
But they revealed they believe the reason behind the festival being scrapped is a coming period of strain for Kim Jong-Un's country.
Koryo Tours believes a drought and fears the poorest of Pyongyang's citizens could suffer malnutrition and even death could be behind the festival being axed.
The Beijing-based Koryo Tours said the "optics" of hosting a beer festival are not good with image-conscious Kim Jong-un eager to control the state's reputation.
However, both companies said they were not given a reason for the abrupt end to festivities.
Simon Cockerell, Koryo's general manager said: "It won't look great for Pyongyang middle class to be having a jolly good time while people are working on drought relief.
A long dry spell over North Korea's important growing season of April to June has led to predictions of a bad growth of rice, soybean and maize.
Despite state media releasing images of shelves stocked with food, speculation is rife there is little to feed to the poor.
Last year, citizens were advised to eat dogs.
The withdrawal of the festival was sudden and unexpected – and came just one week after the nation said it would hold the event and even reveal a new wheat beer.
Last week the United Nations said North Korea is heading towards its worst drought since 2000.
However, the cancellation of the festival comes as the first possible sign there Pyongyang is expecting problems.
The secretive state was previously ravaged by a widespread famine where at least two million people are estimated to have died between 1995 and 1999.
No matter how bad the famine gets, you can bet that North Korea's soldiers will have plenty to eat. And of course, the upper echelon of the regime won't lose any weight, either.
During that last famine, it was reported that the food situation was so bad that some of the army even went hungry and were stealing food from the peasants. But Kim's predecessor, Kim Jong-il, had iron control over the military, having spent the previous two decades purging officers who showed the slightest hesitation in supporting him.
This Kim hasn't been in power long enough to cement that kind of loyalty. It remains to be seen whether a prolonged famine will lead to unrest among the soldiers, whose desperation may outweigh their fear of retribution.