Magazine article Anglican Journal

N. Korea Famine Worsens: People Beat Each Other for Food

Magazine article Anglican Journal

N. Korea Famine Worsens: People Beat Each Other for Food

Article excerpt

T'umen, China

Two emaciated boys appeared out of nowhere on the far bank of the T'umen River separating the northerly corner of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) from China, near the Russian border-about 100 km from Vladivostok. After looking left and right, the small one stripped off the rags he wore and waded out into the shallow water, while the tall one remained on the shore on the lookout.

A group of South Korean tourists gathered at the water's edge of this Chinese border town wondering what the two were up to. They didn't have long to wait.

Swimming further out into the river, the boy retrieved plastic bags and tossed them to his partner on shore. The bags contained food and had been thrown into the water minutes before by tourists riding on a motorboat.

"North Koreans show up regularly to pick up food from the river so it has become a tourist attraction," said an ethnic Korean who rents motorboats. "Food is so scarce over there they will do anything to get fed. The sense of shame is something that can't cross their desperate minds."The other tourist attraction is even more macabre - corpses of drowned North Koreans too weakened by hunger to swim the 300-metre wide river in their desperate search for food. In a recent press release, World Vision estimated 120,000 North Koreans have already died this year. The total may reach 5.5 million - one quarter of the country's population.

For those still unconvinced of the horrific famine gripping Kim Il Jong's hermit kingdom, there are many ethnic Koreans in this town, descendants of those who moved here during the Japanese occupation of Manchuria, who tell of their first hand encounter with mass starvation in their ancestral homeland.

"(Chinese) corn farmers had to sow seeds three or four times this year because hungry North Koreans crossed the river and dug up the seeds to eat them," one farmer complained.

"We used to serve bowls of cooked rice to many North Koreans who crossed the river because we considered them our brothers. But they came too frequently and stole our stocks and grains. This has put our brotherly love to a severe test." The five-metre wide, 400-metre long T'umen Bridge leading to Namyang illustrates the chilled relations between ethnic Koreans here and their hungry neighbours. …

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