State media has started referring to the birds as a “new and valuable food source” – with the country’s agriculture ministry bizarrely suggesting their meat has “anticancer” properties. The revelation comes after Kim declared a food crisis in June, and subsequently urged workers to come up with ways to tackle what he termed the Hermit State’s persistent “food problem”.
The Workers Party of Korea’s official newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, reported on Monday: “Black swan meat is delicious and has medicinal value.”
Breeding the animals on an “industrial scale” would “actively contribute to improving people’s lives”, it claimed.
The previous day, Ri Jong Nam, chief party secretary of South Hamgyong Province, officially opened a new black swan centre at the Kwangpho Duck Farm in Jongphyong county on North Korea’s east coast.
State media previously insisted black swan meat is “an exceptional health food of the 21st century with a unique taste and extremely high nutritional value”, with research into breeding what were referred to as “rare ornamental birds” for food allegedly beginning in spring 2019.
At the time, satellite imagery revealed a new construction project at the Kwangpho Duck Farm was already underway.
Last year, an agriculture ministry researcher suggested black swan meat has more protein and is easier to digest than other meats.
State media has not yet offered details about how black swan meat would be distributed or whether more centres were being built elsewhere.
The KWP has told schools, factories and businesses to cultivate their gardens and raise fish and other animals on rooftops to increase self-sufficiency.
Citizens have also been told to tighten their belts until at least 2025, the year Pyongyang plans reopen the border with China closed last year to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
An insider told Radio Free Asia: “Two weeks ago, they told the neighbourhood watch unit meeting that our food emergency would continue until 2025.”
The resident of the northwestern border city of Sinuiju, across from China’s Dandong, added: “Authorities emphasised that the possibility of reopening customs between North Korea and China before 2025 was very slim.
“The food situation right now is already clearly an emergency, and the people are struggling with shortages.
“When the authorities tell them that they need to conserve and consume less food until 2025, they can do nothing but feel great despair.”
Eating swans is considered taboo in most parts of the world.
In the UK, Queen Elizabeth owns all unmarked mute swans in UK waters.
Her Majesty still maintains an officially appointed Swan Keeper, with the ceremony taking place on the Monday of the third week in July.
In 2011, Alfred Dines, 20, become the first person this century to be prosecuted for slaughtering swans in accordance with a 1592 law introduced by Henry VIII guaranteeing them protection.