News / Asia

North Korean Defections Continue Amid Food Shortage

Visitors look at a painting of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, painted by North Korean defector Sun Moo, at the Korea War Memorial Museum in Seoul, South Korea, 26 Oct 2010.
Visitors look at a painting of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, painted by North Korean defector Sun Moo, at the Korea War Memorial Museum in Seoul, South Korea, 26 Oct 2010.

The South Korean government says that more than 10,000 North Koreans reached the South during the past three years.

South Korea's government said Monday the total number of North Korean defectors has surpassed 20,000 since the end of fighting in the Korean War in 1953.

Unification Ministry spokeswoman Lee Jong-joo says number 20,000 arrived in South Korea last Thursday.

"The 20,000th defector was a 41-year-old woman identified only as Kim. She came from Yanggang province, North Korea, with her two sons," Lee said.

About half of the defectors have arrived since 2007. Around 2,900 defected just last year.

Unification Ministry officials say they expect the number of defectors to steadily increase because of continued economic hardship and hunger in the impoverished country.

The two Koreas are divided by a heavily fortified border, so most travel through China before reaching here.

Aid groups say tens of thousands more defectors may be hiding in China. The Chinese government returns any it finds to North Korea.

The number of defectors began rising after North Korea was swept by famine in the mid-1990's.

The food situation in the North has again become critical.

Victoria Sekitoleko is the Food and Agricultural Organization's regional representative, and most recently visited North Korea in September. Monday she said that more than 30 percent of all North Koreans are facing substantial undernourishment.

"I have visited homes, I have visited schools, I see these people along the road. I go where they go," she said. "Wherever I go you look in the eyes of somebody and you see a starving person."

Sekitoleko says it would not take much additional outside assistance for North Korea to reach a basic level of self-sufficiency when it comes to food.

"If they can have the amount of fertilizer of 700k tons annually. If they can have the seeds - because until now, they do not have good high-tech seeds. And if they could have the fuel, plus the spare parts (for farm equipment) I'm sure they can produce enough food to feed their country," Sekitoleko states.

Aid officials say sanctions on Pyongyang, because of its nuclear program, have made donor nations reluctant to provide aid. China, South Korea and the U.N's World Food Program are the primary sources of food assistance for North Korea.

FAO's Sekitoleko says the U.N. programs tasked with helping reduce the food shortage are underfunded. "The world has told us to be there but they are starving us of any resources," Sekitoleko said.

The U.N.'s World Food Program executive director, Josette Sheeran, who visited North Korea earlier this month, says her agency has only about 20 percent of the money it needs to fund its project to boost nutrition among women and children in North Korea.

The FAO is expected to release its latest report on the food situation in North Korea early this week.

The food shortage has worsened in recent years because of flooding. The FAO says the most recent flood hit at the peak of the vegetable-growing season.

You May Like

Mali's Female Basketball Players Rebound After Islamist Occupation

Islamist extremists ruled northern Mali for most of 2012, imposing strict Sharia law, and now some 18 months later, the region is slowly getting back on its feet More

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

Many Chinese-made products go unsold, for now, with numerous Vietnamese consumers still angry over recent dispute More

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid