(Fixes typo in first paragraph)
By James Pearson
SEOUL, June 23 North Korea's rivers, streams and
reservoirs are running dry in a prolonged drought, state media
said on Monday, prompting the isolated country to mobilise some
of its million-strong army to try to protect precious crops.
The drought is the worst in North Korea for over a decade,
state media reports have said, with some areas experiencing low
rainfall levels since 1961.
Office workers, farmers and women have been mobilised to
direct water into the dry floors of fields and rice paddies, the
official KCNA news agency said.
In the 1990s, food shortages led to a devastating famine
which killed an estimated million people but gave rise to a
fledgling black market that in some areas now provides the food
the government can no longer supply.
Linda Lewis, of the American Friends Service Committee, a
Quaker-led NGO, confirmed the media reports and said managers on
its North Korean partner farms had seen lower-than-usual
rainfall levels in March and May.
"They expressed concern about 'serious drought' conditions
and the impact this was having on spring ploughing and paddy
field preparation," Lewis told Reuters via email.
In some areas, she said, farm managers had experienced 70
days without rain.
Higher-than average temperatures have exacerbated damage,
affecting wheat, barley and maize, state media said.
North Korea has previously blamed drought and floods for
chronic food shortages which observers say are the result of bad
planning and a highly centralised economy.
(Additional reporting by Kahyun Yang; Editing by Nick Macfie)