The potato was introduced to the Korean peninsula - probably from China - during the early 1800s. It became a staple crop during the Japanese occupation from 1910 to 1945, replacing rice exported to Japan, and saved many farm families from starvation during the Second World War.
The potato remains an essential food security crop in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. In 2007, it produced an estimated 1.9 million tonnes, placing the country among Asia's top 10 producers.
The area under potato has grown from 36 000 ha to almost 200 000 ha since 1960, while potato output has increased fourfold over the past decade.
Farmers' average yields, however, have barely improved over 1960 levels, mainly owing to shortages of agricultural inputs and the lack of virus-free seed potato. To boost production, the government is promoting a potato farming revolution - innovations include a low-input potato-rice cropping system that produces, in a relatively short growing season, 32 tonnes of potatoes and rice per hectare.