The survey -- conducted jointly by the United Nations' World Food Program and the Food and Agriculture Organization -- also shows a widening gap between how much food North Korea is able to produce or purchase and how much its population needs. The WFP called it the largest food gap since 2001 for the country of 23 million.
Said Jean-Pierre de Margerie, the WFP's country director for North Korea, "The last time hunger was so deep and so widespread in parts of the country was in the late 1990s."
The three-week survey covered 53 counties in eight of North Korea's nine provinces, the WFP said.
Under a letter of understanding, North Korea agreed to open much more of the country to aid and to allow random surveys to see whether the intended beneficiaries are actually getting the food. North Korea previously allowed food aid to 50 counties in the country, with restrictions; under the new agreement, it will allow aid to 150 counties, covering most of the country.