North Korea Food
North Koreans eat ice cream from a street card in Pyongyang, North Korea, Sept. 16, 2002. Getty Images

North Korean defectors revealed to reporters the customary diet of many residents in the country - one that includes pig food and dog meat. Hundreds of street markets in the country reportedly sell pig food – or the leftovers from soybean oil combined with rice and chili sauce. The popular dish, called injogogi, means “manmade meat.”

“Back in the day, people had injogogi to fill themselves up as a substitute for meat,” Cho Ui-sung, a North Korean who defected to South Korea in 2014, told Reuters. “Now people eat it for its taste.”

The Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991 wrought havoc on North Korea’s economy and food distribution system. The Soviet Union had backed North Korea as a socialist state – plunging them into famine and poverty when it failed.

“As many as three million people died,” Reuters reported Friday. “Those who survived were forced to forage, barter and invent meals from whatever they found. Since people started to use their own initiative, studies indicate, person to person dealings have become the way millions of North Koreans procure basic necessities such as food and clothing.”

Around 70 percent of North Korea’s population is food insecure, according to the United Nations’ World Food Program. A 2015 report by the U.N. revealed two in five North Koreans were malnourished, while most lacked access to basic healthcare or sanitation. Diarrhea and pneumonia were the two primary causes of death for children under the age of five, according to the report.

“The main issue is a monotonous diet – mainly rice/maize, kimchi and bean paste – lacking in essential fats and protein,” the U.N. said in a statement.

Defectors, however, told reporters the food supply has improved in the North over the last few years. Poor defectors said corn was a staple, while wealthier defectors said meat was abundant, “although it was often seasonal because electric power is too erratic to power fridges,” Reuters reported.

“I had lots of meat,” a 28-year old defector who arrived in South Korea in 2010, told Reuters. “I didn’t eat fish, because fish doesn’t go well with my stomach. I used to eat lots of pork. We had various types of meat such as rabbit meat, dog meat and goat meat.”