News

Voice of America 3/13/97

NORTH KOREA CRISIS

BYLINE=GIL BUTLER
DATELINE=BEIJING
CONTENT=
VOICED AT:

INTRO: UNITED NATIONS OFFICIALS SAID THIS WEEK (WEDNESDAY) NORTH KOREA WILL BE FACING A DESPERATE FOOD SHORTAGE BY JUNE AND OTHER ANALYSTS SAY THE LACK OF FOOD IS LEADING TO A POLITICAL CRISIS IN THE ISOLATED COUNTRY. VOA BEING CORRESPONDENT GIL BUTLER HAS A BACKGROUND REPORT ON THE RANGE OF PROBLEMS FACING ONE OF THE LAST STALINIST REGIMES ON EARTH.

TEXT: TO START WITH, THE FOOD CRISIS: U-N DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM REPRESENTATIVE ARTHUR HOLCOMBE TOLD REPORTERS HERE THAT CURRENT FOOD STOCKS WILL DRY UP IN NORTH KOREA IN JUNE AND THE NEXT HARVEST IS NOT UNTIL SEPTEMBER. MR. HOLCOMBE SAYS NORTH KOREA'S LEADERS DESCRIBE IT AS A DIFFICULT TRANSITION PERIOD.

// HOLCOMBE ACT //

THEY RECOGNIZE THAT UNDER EXTREME RATIONING THE POPULATION IS PRESENTLY UNDER, THE POPULATION IS HARD PRESSED. THEY ARE GOING INTO A PERIOD WHERE HARD WORK IS REQUIRED. THEY DO SEE THEY HAVE TO MAKE ALL POSSIBLE EFFORTS TO GET ADDITIONAL FOOD AVAILABLE TO THE POPULATION, DURING THIS PERIOD.

// END ACT //

THE U-N OFFICIAL SAYS SOME CABBAGE IS AVAILABLE AND PEOPLE ARE ALSO CONSUMING EDIBLE GRASSES. THE UNITED NATIONS IS ASKING FOR DONATIONS OF 121 THOUSAND TONS OF GRAIN AND HOPING THE GOVERNMENT IN PYONGYANG WILL BE ABLE TO REACH AGREEMENT WITH A PRIVATE AMERICAN FIRM, THE CARGILL COMPANY, TO BUY AN ADDITIONAL HALF MILLION TONS OF GRAIN.

U-N OFFICIALS SAY THE LAST TWO YEARS OF FLOODS HAVE HASTENED THE DECLINE OF NORTH KOREA'S COLLECTIVE SYSTEM IN AGRICULTURE AND INDUSTRY. THE PROCESS BEGAN WITH THE BREAKUP OF THE SOVIET UNION IN 1991 AND THE RESULTING DISAPPEARANCE OF NORTH KOREA'S MAIN PATRON. FOOD SUPPLIES HAVE BEEN BELOW HUMAN SUSTENANCE LEVEL FOR TWO YEARS AND FUEL SHORTAGES MEAN MANY FACTORIES ARE SHUT DOWN.

NORTH KOREA'S AGRICULTURE MINISTER WAS RECENTLY REPLACED. BUT POLISH JOURNALIST KRZYSZTOF DAREWICZ -- ONE OF THE FEW FOREIGN JOURNALISTS ACTUALLY ACCREDITED TO REPORT ON NORTH KOREA -- SAYS SUCH SHAKEUPS MEAN NOTHING -- THE WHOLE COMMUNIST SYSTEM IS AT FAULT.

// DAREWICZ ACT //

WHAT DOES IT MEAN, REPLACING AN AGRICULTURE MINISTER? THE PROBLEM OF THIS FOOD CRISIS IS ACTUALLY NOT AGRICULTURE ITSELF, IT'S THE WHOLE SYSTEM. AND THE NORTH KOREAN REGIME STILL HAS TO ADMIT THAT THEY ARE TO BLAME; NOT THE WEATHER, NOT IMPERIALISM, NOT SOUTH KOREA OR THE UNITED STATES. IT IS THE SYSTEM.

// END ACT //

THE FOOD CRISIS, THE DEFECTION OF A LEADING NORTH KOREAN IDEOLOGUE TO THE SOUTH KOREAN EMBASSY IN BEIJING AND THE SHAKEUP IN NORTH KOREA'S GOVERNMENT HAVE LED SOME ANALYSTS TO CONCLUDE THAT COLLAPSE IS INEVITABLE.

INDEED, THE ONLY QUESTION FOR SOME PYONGYANG-WATCHERS IS HOW SOON A COLLAPSE WILL COME. A RUSSIAN JOURNALIST WHO HAS COVERED PYONGYANG EXTENSIVELY, SAYS HE IS LEANING TOWARD THE BELIEF THAT A COLLAPSE COULD COME WITHIN ONE OR TWO YEARS.

BUT WHILE THE SITUATION IN NORTH KOREA APPEARS TO MANY OBSERVERS TO BE WORSENING, THERE HAVE BEEN SOME POSITIVE DIPLOMATIC DEVELOPMENTS.

NORTH KOREAN OFFICIALS LAST WEEK TALKED FACE-TO-FACE WITH SOUTH KOREANS IN NEW YORK. THE PRELIMINARY MEETINGS COULD, SOMEDAY, LEAD TO FOUR-WAY TALKS, ON BRINGING PEACE TO THE KOREAN PENINSULA AMONG, NORTH AND SOUTH KOREA, CHINA AND THE UNITED STATES.

UNITED STATES AND NORTH KOREAN OFFICIALS TUESDAY HELD BILATERAL TALKS ON ESTABLISHING LIAISON OFFICES AND ON RECOVERING THE REMAINS OF AMERICAN SOLDIERS LOST IN THE KOREAN WAR.

EVEN DOMESTICALLY, U-N OFFICIALS SAY, THERE ARE SOME MOVES TOWARD OPENING UP TO THE OUTSIDE WORLD. THE U-N DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM'S IAN DAVIES IS PROUD OF THE RAJIN-SONBONG FREE TRADE ZONE, ON THE NORTHEAST COAST OF THE COUNTRY. MR. DAVIES SAYS IT HAS ATTRACTED SIZABLE FOREIGN INVESTMENT, ALTHOUGH HE SAYS THE LONG-TERM SUCCESS OF THE VENTURE CANNOT BE ASSURED, UNLESS IT ALSO ATTRACTS MANUFACTURING PROJECTS. IN AN INDICATION OF THE DESPERATE SHORTAGES BEING FACED IN NORTH KOREA, THE U-N OFFICIAL SAYS FOREIGN INVESTORS ARE BEING ASKED TO PAY FOR LAND IN THE ZONE WITH GASOLINE, FLOUR, AND OTHER FOOD. (SIGNED)

NEB/MGB/FC/CF

13-Mar-97 4:35 AM EST (0935 UTC)
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