Once again, the stark contrast between North Korean media reports and international assessments of conditions in the country has become clear.
Over the weekend, footage of Kim Jong Eun enjoying a lighthearted show in Pyongyang emerged, seemingly notable mostly for the presence of Disney characters and a mystery woman on Kim’s right. This was just one of many examples that the North Korean media has been putting forward of late to propagate the “man of the people” style of the new Kim regime.
However, a Voice of America (VOA) report released on Friday highlighted the point that a lot of places in North Korea are living rather differently, with accounts from a Danish aid group, Mission East, revealing that the conditions for many of the North Koreans they are caring for in Haeju are quite desperate.
Mission East is in the middle of a three month spell of tending to 20,000 children and 1,500 vulnerable pregnant women in the coastal city in South Hwanghae Province. The group is providing a total of 12 tons of food aid to orphanages, kindergartens and nurseries.
However, even the most seasoned aid workers are apparently shocked by what they are witnessing. A veteran, Mission East Managing Director Kim Hartzner told VOA that he has never seen such severe conditions of malnutrition before.
“I am a medical doctor,” Harztner stated, “and in my 21 years of being engaged in relief activities I have never ever seen something like what I saw in Haeju.”
Kim went on to retell in graphic detail the physical condition of the children he is dealing with: “extended bellies,” “extremely thin limbs,” “listless expressions, apathetic expressions.”
“I saw a 4-year-old girl who looked like a one and-a-half-year-old girl, who could barely walk,” he said.