Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Border Traders Get Firsthand Look at N. Korean Hunger China, Others Seek to Gauge Gravity of Crisis

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Border Traders Get Firsthand Look at N. Korean Hunger China, Others Seek to Gauge Gravity of Crisis

Article excerpt

About 200 to 300 trucks a day cross the bridge over the Yalu River, hauling sacks of food and other desperately needed goods to North Korea.

When the traders and drivers return, they bring back tales of starvation and desperation in the ailing Stalinist state.

A group of Chinese truck drivers waiting at the foot of the bridge last week reported that they have seen starving children in North Korea. A man who would give only his surname as Re said that on a recent trip he saw one dead child and two other children nearly dead, apparently from hunger, who were left abandoned by the roadside. "I've seen schoolchildren staggering like drunkards because they are so hungry," said a trader named Liu, who has a small medicine shop and who was in North Korea a few days ago. "Kids are coming to towns from the countryside to beg." Another Chinese trader, who recently visited relatives and villages in North Korea, said: "People are too weak to plant. And even if they could plant, they'd be too weak to harvest." These are just some of the tales told in Dandong, a Chinese city facing North Korea across the Yalu. The most important of four major points for the dwindling trade across the river, Dandong is a good listening post in the effort to measure just how grave a food crisis North Korea faces. Gauging the gravity of North Korea's crisis is a critical issue as other nations try to decide whether - and how much - to help the Communist-style dictatorship. The floods of the last two years have compounded woes that have been mounting since the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union, North Korea's longtime patron. Foreign governments want to prod North Korea into opening up its closed, repressive society, but they also want to prevent chaos. On Tuesday, the United States, eager to lure North Korea into talks on peace and arms, announced that it was adding $15 million worth of food to earlier announced donations. …

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