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North Korea Secretly Hoarding and Selling Ryongchon Relief Supplies

North Korea Secretly Hoarding and Selling Ryongchon Relief Supplies

Posted February. 15, 2005 22:36,   


Sankei Shimbun reported on February 15 that relief goods such as medical supplies and food aid were being traded within North Korean markets. The goods had been sent to the North by the international community including the World Food Programme (WFP), South Korea, the U.S., and Japan, after the explosion of the Ryongchon train station in North Pyongan Province last April.

The newspaper reported this fact, quoting a member of RENK, a Japanese civil group, from video clips and voice recordings taken in Chongjin last July.

The video shows sacks of rice and corn on display in stands at the Soonam market in Chongjin. Some of them have the words, “a gift from the U.S.,” in Korean and the Stars and Stripes printed on them.

A merchant said, “The goods come from Ryongchon,” and persuaded buyers, saying, “It is trustworthy as it comes from the U.N.,” regarding medical supplies.

North Korea has insisted that it is only “reusing the sacks” when people pointed out that relief goods were being sold. However, new sacks that had not been opened could be seen, according to the newspaper report.

Head of RENK, professor Lee Young-hwa of Kansai University, said, “Considering the nation’s ability to move massive amounts of goods over long distances, it is clear that North Korean authorities have secretly hoarded the goods in an organized manner.”

Hun-Joo Cho hanscho@donga.com