Oxen suffering from foot-and-mouth disease in North Korea pose a serious threat to the nation since it is reliant on those animals for agriculture and the planting season begins in May, Bloomberg reports.
"During the rice planting season you can see more oxen than tractors in the country," Kwon Tae Jin, a vice president of the Korea Rural Economic Institute in Seoul, told Bloomberg.
As leader Kim Jong Il struggles with sanctions applied by the United Nations and the U.S., at least 10,000 oxen have been infected with the scourge that has killed thousands. Pigs and cattle also are vulnerable to the outbreak.
"Oxen are so important in North Korea's agricultural industry that the government owns them all," said Kwon, whose specialty is the agriculture industry.
With an embattled constituency, North Korea is staring at a very difficult immediate future, according to another analyst.
"It takes only a small cut in food supply to trigger a huge shock to North Koreans, who are already barely surviving in normal times," Cho Bong Hyun, a research fellow at the IBK Research Institute in Seoul, told the news service.
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