May 18, 2022

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North Korea has a pop culture obsession with potatoes, and it’s a dangerous sign

DPRK state media has been replacing images of white rice — a symbol of prosperity — with the more humble spud

North Korean media’s recent focus on potatoes could mean difficult times for regular people. Food has always carried a political meaning in the DPRK, and images of North Koreans happily munching away on white rice — a traditional symbol of prosperity — are now being replaced with the more humble spud.

This year, North Korea is facing serious economic hardship caused by economic sanctions, three back-to-back typhoons, COVID-19 border closures and a destructive flooding season. Coincidentally — or perhaps not — state media also appears to have fostered in the return of the golden potato in news reports and cooking shows.