News

 

DATE=12/4/97

TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT

NUMBER=2-223647

TITLE=NORTH KOREA / FOOD (L ONLY)

BYLINE=ROGER WILKISON

DATELINE=BEIJING

CONTENT=

VOICED AT: 



INTRO:  A UNITED NATIONS OFFICIAL STATIONED IN NORTH KOREA SAYS 

THE FOOD SITUATION IN THE ISOLATED COUNTRY IS GETTING WORSE AND 

COULD REACH CRISIS PROPORTIONS BY EARLY NEXT YEAR.  V-O-A'S ROGER

WILKISON REPORTS FROM BEIJING THAT THE U-N OFFICIAL SAYS THAT 

--DESPITE INTERNATIONAL FOOD AID AND ITS OWN EFFORTS TO DEAL WITH

THE SITUATION --  NORTH KOREA FACES SEVERE MALNUTRITION OVER THE 

LONG-TERM.



TEXT:  DOUGLAS COUTTS -- WHO HEADS THE U-N'S WORLD FOOD PROGRAM 

IN NORTH KOREA--SAYS THE COUNTRY'S CITIZENS WILL GET JUST ENOUGH 

FOOD TO SURVIVE ONUNTIL FEBRUARY OR MARCH, WHEN ITS DISTRIBUTION 

SYSTEM WILL RUN OUT OF SUPPLIES.



MR. COUTTS TOLD REPORTERS IN BEIJING THAT THE NORTH KOREAN 

GOVERNMENT HAS INCREASED THE BASIC FOOD SUPPLY TO 400 GRAMS OF 

RICE OR MAIZE PER PERSON PER DAY TO TIDE ITS CITIZENS OVER THE 

HARSH WINTER AHEAD.  BUT HE SAYS THAT, BY FEBRUARY, THE COUNTRY'S

FOOD DEFICIT WILL RISE TO NEARLY TWO MILLION TONS OF GRAIN.



PLEDGED FOOD AID AND COMMERCIAL IMPORTS, INCLUDING BARTER TRADE 

WITH CHINA, ARE EXPECTED TO MAKE UP HALF OF THAT.  BUT MR. COUTTS

SAYS HE IS WORRIED ABOUT THE SITUATION OVER THE LONG TERM.



                       /// COUTTS ACT ///



         THIS IS A SITUATION WHERE VERY KEY SEGMENTS OF THE 

         POPULATION ARE  EXPERIENCING A VERY SERIOUS INCREASING 

         LEVEL OF MALNUTRITION, AND IT'S A VERY SLOW, GRADUAL, 

         BUILDING SITUATION.  IT'S BECOMING WORSE.



                         /// END ACT ///



NORTH KOREA WAS HIT BY FLOODS IN 1995 AND 1996 AND BY A DROUGHT 

AND A TYPHOON THIS YEAR.  THE EFFECTS OF THOSE NATURAL DISASTERS 

HAVE BEEN COMPOUNDED BY FUEL SHORTAGES THAT HAVE LED TO THE 

BREAKDOWN OF THE COUNTRY'S PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM AND A 

LACK OF HEATING IN SCHOOLS AND HOSPITALS.



MR. COUTTS SAYS THE WORLD FOOD PROGRAM AND OTHER INTERNATIONAL 

AGENCIES ARE UNABLE TO GET ACCESS TO MANY PARTS OF THE COUNTRY 

BECAUSE OF WHAT THE NORTH KOREANS SAY ARE SECURITY CONCERNS.  BUT

HE DISMISSES REPORTS THAT PEOPLE ARE DYING ON THE STREETS AND 

SAYS THE GOVERNMENT IS DOING ITS BEST TO COPE WITH THE SITUATION.



STILL, HE SAYS AID AGENCIES AND THE GOVERNMENT OF THE SO-CALLED 

DEMOCRATIC PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF KOREA  -- OR D-P-R-K -- HAVE 

FUNDAMENTAL DIFFERENCES OVER WHO SHOULD RECEIVE THE FOOD.  HE 

SAYS THE NORTH KOREANS WANT TO GIVE EVERYBODY THE SAME RATION 

WHEREAS AID GROUPS WANT TO MAKE SURE CHILDREN GET SPECIAL 

TREATMENT.



                        /// COUTTS ACT ///



         WE ARE IN D-P-R-K TO WORK WITH THE GOVERNMENT AT ALL 

         LEVELS -- COUNTY LEVEL, PROVINCIAL LEVEL-- TO HELP THEM 

         UNDERSTAND WHY WE TARGET CHILDREN  AND NOT EVERYBODY.  

         IN THEIR SYSTEM, THEY WANT TO GIVE THE FOOD TO EVERYONE 

         BECAUSE THAT'S HOW THEY OPERATE.



                         /// END ACT ///



MR. COUTTS SAYS 15 PER CENT OF THE COUNTRY'S CHILDREN SHOW SIGNS 

OF SEVERE MALNUTRITION AND THAT ALL CHILDREN HAVE SUFFERED FROM 

FOOD DEFICIENCIES.  HE SAYS THAT A LACK OF MEDICINE IS MAKING THE

SITUATION EVEN WORSE BECAUSE, WITHOUT MEDICINE,   MALNOURISHED 

CHILDREN WILL BE THE FIRST TO DIE.  (SIGNED)



NEB/RW/KL



04-Dec-97 6:45 AM EST (1145 UTC)

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Source: Voice of America

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