News

 

DATE=  10/6/97

TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT

NUMBER=5-37710

TITLE=NORTH KOREA SITUATION

BYLINE=ROGER WILKISON

DATELINE=BEIJING

CONTENT=

VOICED AT:  



INTRO:  THERE ARE INCREASING SIGNS THAT NORTH KOREA IS PREPARING 

TO ANOINT ITS DE FACTO LEADER, KIM JONG-IL, AS HEAD OF THE RULING

WORKERS' PARTY,  LATER THIS MONTH.  V-O-A'S ROGER WILKISON 

REPORTS FROM BEIJING THAT  FORMAL CEREMONIES ARE LIKELY TO TAKE 

PLACE DESPITE THE COUNTRY'S SEVERE FOOD PROBLEMS.



TEXT:  RETURNING TO BEIJING SUNDAY FROM A FIVE-DAY TRIP TO NORTH 

KOREA, A SENIOR  UNITED NATIONS OFFICIAL SAID HE SAW CLEAR 

EVIDENCE THAT THE NORTH KOREAN GOVERNMENT IS PREPARING FOR KIM 

JONG-IL'S FORMAL ASSUMPTION OF POWER.   NAMANGA NGONGI, DEPUTY 

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE WORLD FOOD PROGRAM, SAID THERE IS 

ANTICIPATION IN PYONGYANG THAT MR. KIM WILL SOON TAKE OVER ONE OF

THE TOP POSTS HELD BY HIS LATE FATHER, KIM IL-SUNG, WHO DIED 

THREE YEARS AGO.  KIM JONG-IL IS ALREADY THE HEAD OF THE ARMY, 

BUT HE HAS NOT ASSUMED THE JOBS OF PARTY CHIEF OR HEAD OF STATE, 

IN WHAT COULD BECOME THE COMMUNIST WORLD'S FIRST DYNASTIC 

SUCCESSION.



MR. NGONGI'S REMARKS TO REPORTERS IN BEIJING CAME AFTER A RUSSIAN

COMMUNIST, OLEG SHENIN,WAS QUOTED BY THE TASS NEWS AGENCY AS 

SAYING HE MET WITH THE SECRETIVE NORTH KOREAN LEADER LAST MONTH. 

CONFIRMING THE EXPECTATIONS OF WESTERN DIPLOMATS, MR. SHENIN TOLD

TASS THAT MR. KIM IS EXPECTED TO BECOME SUPREME PARTY CHIEF ON 

OCTOBER 10TH, THE ANNIVERSARY OF THE PARTY'S FOUNDING.



THE NORTH KOREAN MEDIA HAVE BEEN REPORTING THAT LOCAL COMMUNIST 

PARTY CADRES AND THE NATION'S POWERFUL MILITARY HAVE ENDORSED MR.

KIM AS PARTY LEADER. THE MEDIA HAVE ALSO  REPORTED THAT 

MYSTERIOUS EVENTS -- SUCH AS THE  BLOOMING OF FRUIT TREES IN 

AUTUMN AND FISHERMEN CATCHING A RARE WHITE SEA CUCUMBER -- 

SIGNIFY THAT THE TIMES ARE AUSPICIOUS FOR MR. KIM'S SELECTION AS 

THE COUNTRY'S OFFICIAL LEADER.



FLOWERS MAY BE BLOOMING, BUT FAR TOO LITTLE FOOD IS GROWING IN 

NORTH KOREA, DUE TO A TWO-YEAR PERIOD MARKED BY FLOODS AND 

DROUGHT.  MR. SHENIN SAID HE DID NOT SEE ANY ACUTE FOOD SHORTAGES

DURING HIS THREE WEEKS IN NORTH KOREA.  BUT HE SAID MR. KIM 

ACKNOWLEDGED HIS COUNTRY HAS FOOD PROBLEMS.



NORTH KOREAN MEDIA HAVE VIRULENTLY DENIED REPORTS LAST WEEK IN 

HONG KONG'S  SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST (NEWSPAPER) THAT UP TO ONE 

MILLION PEOPLE MAY HAVE DIED FROM STARVATION.  THE REPORTS WERE 

BASED ON INTERVIEWS WITH NORTH KOREAN REFUGEES AND ETHNIC KOREAN 

CHINESE TRAVELERS INTO THE HERMIT STATE.



THE WORLD FOOD PROGRAM'S MR. NGONGI SAID THE FOOD SITUATION IN 

NORTH KOREA IS STILL SERIOUS BUT NOWHERE NEAR THE LEVEL OF 

DESPERATION PORTRAYED IN THE NEWS REPORTS.  HE SAID INTERNATIONAL

FOOD AID HAS STAVED OFF CATASTROPHE, AT LEAST FOR NOW.



         /////NGONGI ACT ONE/////



 IN A NUTSHELL, I WOULD SAY THAT THE FOOD AID HAS REALLY MADE A 

DIFFERENCE.   THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY HAS RESPONDED VERY 

GENEROUSLY AND THE FOOD  HAS BEEN DISTRIBUTED.  IT HAS REACHED 

THE BENEFICIARIES.  AND THERE IS NO EVIDENCE WHATSOEVER THAT THE 

FOOD HAS BEEN DIVERTED BY THE GOVERNMENT.



          /////END ACT/////



BUT MR. NGONGI SAID NORTH KOREA WILL NEED TWICE AS MUCH 

ASSISTANCE NEXT YEAR BECAUSE IT WILL HAVE A FOOD SHORTFALL OF 

BETWEEN TWO MILLION AND TWO AND A HALF MILLION TONS, AFTER THE 

CURRENT HARVEST, COMPARED TO A ONE-POINT THREE MILLION TON 

SHORTFALL THIS YEAR.



HE ALSO SAID HE HAD ASKED NORTH KOREAN OFFICIALS TO ALLOW 

INTERNATIONAL AID MISSIONS TO TRAVEL FREELY THROUGHOUT THE 

COUNTRY TO CLEAR UP DISCREPANCIES ABOUT THE NUMBER OF VICTIMS.



        /////NGONGI ACT TWO/////



 IF PEOPLE WERE ABLE TO GO THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY, YOU COULD HAVE

A MORE BALANCED VIEW.  IF YOU ARE ONLY LOCATED IN A SMALL 

COMMUNITY IN WHICH THERE HAVE BEEN A SIGNIFICANT AMOUNT OF DEATHS

AND YOU EXTRAPOLATE THROUGHOUT THE POPULATION, YOU COULD PROBABLY

HAVE VERY SKEWED FIGURES.



          /////END ACT/////



MR. NGONGI WAS REFERRING TO A SURVEY CONDUCTED LAST MONTH BY THE 

U-S PRIVATE RELIEF GROUP, WORLD VISION, AMONG NORTH KOREANS IN 

CHINA.  THE SURVEY ESTIMATED THAT ANYWHERE FROM HALF A MILLION TO

THREE MILLION PEOPLE COULD HAVE DIED FROM STARVATION.  WITHOUT 

DISMISSING THOSE FIGURES  ALTOGETHER, HE MADE CLEAR HE DOES NOT 

BELIEVE THERE HAS BEEN MASS STARVATION.  MR. NGONGI SAID HE DOES 

NOT KNOW HOW MANY PEOPLE HAVE DIED SO FAR OR HOW MANY MORE COULD 

DIE THIS WINTER. (SIGNED)



NEB/RW/FC



06-Oct-97 4:23 AM EDT (0823 UTC)

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Source: Voice of America

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