Scores of children dead in North Korea famine
U.S. lawmaker says 'gigantic' disaster in the making
April 8, 1997
Web posted at: 2:02 p.m. EDT (1802 GMT)
In this story:
PYONGYANG, North Korea (CNN) -- North Korea has acknowledged
for the first time that children in the country are dying of
malnutrition and that almost one child in seven is suffering
as a consequence of severe food shortages, a spokesman for
the U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF) said Tuesday.
Aid agencies in Pyongyang were told that 134 North Korean
children had died of malnutrition so far in the country's
food crisis, according to UNICEF's Hans Olsen speaking in
Geneva. No time period for the deaths was given.
'Slow starvation on a massive scale'
Even North Korea's military is suffering, according to a
"stunned" U.S. congressman who recently spent four days in
the northern part of the peninsula.
Ohio Democrat Tony Hall said he saw soldiers whose uniforms
hung off their bodies.
Tony Hall reacts to the situation in North Korea...
It's a disaster of gigantic proportions...
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The children are starving...
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A push for help...
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"Everyone is systematically starving together," he told
reporters in Tokyo, adding that he saw
"evidence of slow starvation on a massive scale."
Hall said the evidence included families eating grass, weeds
and bark; orphans whose growth has been stunted by hunger and
diarrhea; people going bald for lack of nutrients; and
hospitals running short of medicine and fuel.
"I was stunned by what I saw ... and by how much worse
conditions have gotten since I was there last August," he
said. Nevertheless, Hall said he saw no sign that hunger
was on the verge of spurring a popular revolt against the
North Korean government.
Aid slow in coming
Floods have devastated North Korean farmland during the last
two summers, but Hall said
part of the blame for the food crisis also fell on South
Korea and Japan. He accused them of holding out on aid hoping
to force North Korea into peace talks.
A L S O
North Korea to decide soon on peace talks
Despite the faults of North Korea's secretive and repressive
communist government and massive military, the Ohio
representative urged the world to do far more to help feed
"South Korean can do more. Japan can do more. The European
Union can do more," Hall said.
Others seem to believe so, too. The United Nations appealed
on Monday appealed for $126 million in emergency aid for
North Korea. Separately, South Korea religious and civic
groups announced plans to ship 110,000 tons of corn to their
Many countries have been slow to respond to international
appeals for food aid to North Korea out of fears that
donations would be diverted to the 1.1 million-strong armed
forces, who consume about a quarter of the impoverished
Since 1995, Washington has given $18.4 million in cash, food
and medicine to the North, the State Department says. That
is more than any other country has donated but far more is
needed, Hall said.
First U.S. grain sale to north since the Korean War
In a related development Tuesday, American food conglomerate
Cargill Inc. revealed the first direct sale of American
grain to North Korea since the 1950-53 Korean War.
The company did not disclose the size of the sale but in
Seoul, traders close to the Cargill deal said North Korea
had agreed to barter about 4,000 tons of zinc for about
20,000 tons of wheat.
A sales license granted by the U.S. government to Cargill is
an exception to the strict 47-year-old U.S. embargo on North
Korea, imposed following the outbreak of hostilities between
North and South Korea.
Tokyo Bureau Chief John Lewis and Reuters contributed to this
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