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  • » 02/25/2011, 00.00

    NORTH KOREA

    Hunger reaches alarming levels as people resort to eating wild grasses and dirt

    Joseph Yun Li-sun

    Five NGOs sound the alarm after their teams come back from Pyongyang. People are desperate and thousands could die. Source warns AsiaNews that hunger might cause a popular uprising and lead to a mass exodus to the South.
     Seoul (AsiaNews) – Juche, the ideology of self-reliance launched by dictator Kim Il-sung in the 1950s, is wiping out North Korea. So many North Koreans are hungry that they are resorting to eating wild grasses, when they find it, or just starving to death. Looming on the horizon is a popular uprising that might lead to a mass exodus to the South, this according to officials from five US-based aid agencies who have sounded the alarm after returning from a trip to North Korea

    The five NGOs, Christian Friends of Korea, Global Resource Services, Mercy Corps, Samaritan’s Purse and World Vision, were in North Korea on the invitation of the government. Their teams report that 50 per cent to 80 per cent of the wheat and barley planted for harvesting in the spring has been wiped out by the bitter cold of the past two months. They also said that hospitals reported an increase in malnutrition over the past six months.

    The issue is complex. North Korea’s main foreign donors (United States and South Korea) cut humanitarian aid following North Korean military provocations last year. The sinking of ROKS Cheonan, which left 46 sailors dead, and the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island incensed South Korea’s conservative government. In a statement, President Lee Myung-bak said that his administration would not provide aid until Pyongyang officially apologised.

    The United States stopped aid out of concern that it would be used for North Korea’s rulers and armed forces, and not the people. ‘Dear leader’ Kim Jong-il has in fact refused to allow international monitors into the country, and has always insisted that aid be handed over at the border to his military.

    Compounding the situation are the government’s disastrous economic policies and currency reform that pulled whatever rug was left under the population’s feet.

    “It is all true,” a Korean source told AsiaNews. “People have nothing to eat. I have seen personally children eat dirt. The danger is that, without outside help, people might rise up and be mowed down by the army. Or they could pour across the border into the South. Seoul however would not be able to handle such a flow and could decide to send them back.”

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    See also

    16/05/2005 NORTH KOREA – SOUTH KOREA
    Seoul and Pyongyang to restart talks
    A South Korean delegation arrived this morning in Kaesong, a city in North Korea, for the start of two-day talks. It will discuss restarting the six-nation nuclear talks and humanitarian aid for the North.

    11/08/2006 SOUTH KOREA - NORTH KOREA
    Seoul sends 14 million dollars worth of aid to north

    The aid package includes rice and building materials to face the emergency that arose due to recent floods. Official South Korean sources said: this aid is given unconditionally; it is purely humanitarian intervention. Aid was suspended after missile tests conducted in July.



    24/10/2008 KOREA - UN
    North Korea: public executions to foster a climate of terror
    The charge comes from a human rights expert, at the UN general assembly, highlighting the atmosphere of "intimidation" in the country. The government is blocking telephone calls outside of the country, and setting up sanctions against those who try to leave. UN-South Korea dispute over the food crisis in the north.

    17/08/2006 NORTH KOREA – SOUTH KOREA
    North Korea: Floods claim 54,700 victims and leave 2.5 million homeless

    A humanitarian aid NGO said this was the worst disaster ever to hit the country. The harvest is at stake in a country already hard pressed to feed its people.



    20/07/2006 NORTH KOREA – SOUTH KOREA
    Pyongyang stops family reunification meeting

    The move has been interpreted as retaliation for the adoption of a UN Security Council resolution on missile test launches in the north. Seoul has announced its intention to seek to dialogue with the north through unofficial channels.





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