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`NK Seeks More China Aid as Food Shortages Worsen`

Posted February. 25, 2010 07:48,   


Food shortages in North Korea are worsening, with the country this year getting more aggressive in receiving food aid from its closest ally, China.

A source familiar with North Korean issues said yesterday, “North Korea is attempting to gain more food than usual from China through this month. North Korea has acquired around 200,000 tons of grain from China each year.

The Daily NK, an online news media outlet based in Seoul, said Tuesday, “North Korea’s food imports have increased at the border between North Korea and China.”

A South Korean government official said, “We have said we cannot send a large amount of food without progress in inter-Korean relations. International organizations such as the U.N. World Food Program have also announced a reduction in food aid for North Korea this year. Accordingly, North Korea has no choice but to acquire more food from China.”

A person who recently visited North Korea said, “Officials in Pyongyang have openly talked about food shortages.”

More North Koreans are also dying of severe malnutrition, according to a source from Good Friends, a Seoul-based group fighting for human rights in North Korea.

“Even North Koreans working at factories in large cities face difficulty making a living since they’ve received neither food rations nor wages on time,” the source said.

The South Korean government estimates that North Korea produced 4.11 million tons of food last year, resulting in a food shortage of 600,000 to 1.3 million tons. Worse, the failure of food distribution in the wake of Pyongyang’s currency revaluation last year has also fueled food shortages.

In Seoul, Unification Minister Hyun In-taek told the Foreign Affairs and Trade Committee of the National Assembly Tuesday, “North Korea has taken several measures because it faces difficulty in the supply and distribution of food since its currency revaluation.”

Due to the severe food shortages, Pyongyang wants large-scale food aid from Seoul, not from civic organizations.

An official from the ruling North Korean Workers’ Party, Won Tong Yon, recently complained that South Korea has not kept a pledge made in October last year to send 400,000 tons of rice to North Korea. The promise was made in a bilateral meeting in Singapore on an inter-Korean summit.

Won’s complaint is seen as reflecting how serious North Korea considers its food shortages.