News

DATE=7/9/98 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT NUMBER=2-235197 TITLE=NORTH KOREA / FOOD (L-ONLY) BYLINE=JOHN LARKIN DATELINE=SEOUL CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: NORTH KOREA HAS ADMITTED IT FACES MORE FOOD SHORTAGES THIS YEAR DUE TO NATURAL DISASTERS AND A COLD SNAP. JOHN LARKIN REPORTS FROM SEOUL THAT THE COMMUNIST GOVERNMENT SAYS MORE PEOPLE ARE STRUGGLING TO FEED THEMSELVES AND THEIR FAMILIES. TEXT - NORTH KOREA'S OFFICIAL CENTRAL NEWS AGENCY REVEALED DRY WEATHER DURING THE PLANTING SEASON AND A SUBSEQUENT COLD SNAP HAS DAMAGED MANY CROPS. THE NORTH HAS BEEN STRICKEN BY FAMINE FOR THREE YEARS AFTER SUCCESSIVE DROUGHTS AND FLOODS DEVASTATED CROPS AND RUINED ARABLE AREAS. THE LATEST ADMISSION BY THE AGENCY WAS UNUSUALLY DETAILED AND WAS VIEWED BY AID AGENCIES AS A SIGNAL OF INCREASING DESPERATION. POLITICAL ANALYSTS SAY IT WAS AN OBVIOUS PLEA FOR MORE FOOD AID. ACCORDING TO THE REPORT, NORTH KOREA DOES NOT EXPECT A HARVEST OF EARLY CROPS LIKE POTATOES, BARLEY AND WHEAT. IT SAYS AN INCREASING NUMBER OF PEOPLE ARE SUFFERING FROM THE FOOD SHORTAGE, AND PREDICTS THE SITUATION WILL NOT IMPROVE THIS YEAR. ALTHOUGH POINTING OUT THAT MILLIONS OF PEOPLE HAVE TAKEN TO FARMING THIS YEAR TO BEAT THE FAMINE, THE AGENCY SAID A LONG DRY SPELL DURING THE SOWING SEASON HAD STUNTED CROP GROWTH. THIS WAS FOLLOWED BY TIDAL WAVES AND COLD SPELLS IN JUNE, WHICH HIT DIFFERENT AREAS INCLUDING THE EAST COAST. THESE TWIN DISASTERS HAD WIPED OUT THE EARLY CROPS. INTERNATIONAL DONORS HAVE ALREADY PLEDGED ABOUT 800 THOUSAND TONS OF AID, WHICH AID GROUPS SAY IS NEEDED TO TIDE THE NATION OVER UNTIL THE MAIN OCTOBER HARVEST. THEY SAY NORTH KOREA NEEDS A TOTAL OF ONE POINT EIGHT MILLION TONS OF FOOD TO SURVIVE UNTIL OCTOBER. LAST WEEK AN INTERNATIONAL AID WORKER SAID THE CRISIS HAD EASED SLIGHTLY, BUT AID WAS STILL NEEDED. AID GROUPS SAY NORTH KOREA HAS BEEN RELIANT ON FOREIGN ASSISTANCE SINCE ITS GRAIN STOCKS WERE EXHAUSTED IN APRIL. (SIGNED) NEB/JL/FC 09-Jul-98 4:45 AM EDT (0845 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America