Now, the UN's World Food Programme says the hunger and malnutrition are at dangerous levels, and they themselves are unable to feed everyone.
From this Gruadian article, Tania Branigan tells us more about the WFP's statement.
The UN aid agency said it was reaching fewer than a third of those targeted and about a fifth of those in need.
It blamed a lack of international donations, with none since the state's nuclear test in May, and said it faced new restrictions from Pyongyang. It said it had received 15% of the $504m it needed.
Torben Due, the WFP's representative for North Korea, told reporters in Beijing that since January it had been delivering reduced food packages and reaching 1.7 million people. "It is amongst the lowest [number] we're ever had in the DPRK [North Korea]," he said.
The agency estimates that 8.7 million people need food aid, and the emergency operation launched last autumn aimed to reach 6.2 million. It has been distributing a tenth of the 40,000 metric tonnes it aimed to deliver each month.
"There's a need to do more, and that's why we are asking these donor countries for more," Due said.