Soldiers in North Korea’s army are being given months off at a time to scrounge around fields to find food, according to a new report that describes the dire state of the reclusive country’s food rations.

A photo purportedly showing North Korean soldiers rummaging through a corn field was published recently on Daily NK, a Seoul-based website that covers the North through a network of informants.

“The officers know better than anyone that they must feed their soldiers in order to maintain morale, and that rations of cornmeal with very few calories only serve to instill disillusionment among them,” a source from the northern Ryanggang Province told the website.

Other sources said many residents have been “expressing pity about the situation” and officers in Ryanggang Province have been “giving soldiers 2 to 3 months leave to gather food.”

The website says a poor harvest, a drought and international sanctions have left the government with reduced food rations.

“Even though the price of rice hasn’t changed much in the markets, people are especially worried that the effects of international sanctions will continue to mount and soon cause even more problems,” a source told Daily NK.

Two North Korean soldiers have defected to South Korea in the last two months, with one of the soldiers found to have an enormous number of parasitic worms in his stomach. The worms, one of which was 11 inches, pointed to the hygiene and food problems that are commonplace in the Hermit Kingdom.  MORE