South Korea says June rain has eased drought crisis in North

 A rice paddy cracked by drought in Ganghwa, a seaside border area west of Seoul.
A rice paddy cracked by drought in Ganghwa, a seaside border area west of Seoul. PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL (AFP) - June rainfall has helped alleviate what North Korea has described as its worst drought for a century, although key rice-producing areas remain badly affected, the South Korean government said Friday.

"It seems that ... the situation has considerably eased," Unification Ministry spokesman Jeong Joon-Hee told reporters.

The ministry said that, following an extremely dry May, rainfall in June had reached 90 percent of the level recorded a year ago.

Nevertheless, Jeong said crucial rice-producing provinces such as Hwanghae and Hamgyeong were "still grappling with a prolonged drought" that would require close monitoring.

North Korean state media has called the drought the "worst in 100 years" and, according to the UN World Food Programme, early-harvest crops, mainly wheat and barley, have already been affected.