Sunday, July 17, 2011

North Korea faces famine: 'Tell the world we are starving'

More than a decade after North Korea was struck by a famine that killed up to a million people, the country's poorest are once again facing starvation, reports Peter Foster in Yanji.

It was an ice-cold day in the North Korean border town of Musan when a small crowd gathered round what looked like a bundle of rags on the platform of the railway station.

"I went up to see what they were looking at," recalled 63-year-old Lee Sun Ok, a North Korean farmer who had come to the city to sell some small rice-cakes she had made to earn money. "And then I saw it was the body of an old man with a piece of cloth placed over his face.

"I asked if he had fallen down because he was sick, but the people shook their heads and said, 'No, he was just too hungry and died for lack of something to eat.'"

Mrs Lee's account is among shocking first hand testimony about the dramatically worsening living conditions in the secretive Stalinist state obtained by The Sunday Telegraph last week.

In almost 10 hours of interviews during clandestine meetings with The Sunday Telegraph just inside China, four North Koreans who recently risked their lives to flee across the tightly-guarded border from their homeland described the desperate plight of those left behind. (more)