A report by aid organization Good Friends stating that widespread starvation is happening again in North Korea has been vehemently denied by inside sources.
In the June report, Good Friends, citing its own sources, asserted that the Chosun Workers’ Party had dispatched an investigation team to each area of the country following the June 7th Supreme People’s Assembly meeting, and that the teams had found up to two hundred people dead in each district of South Hamkyong Province.
According to Good Friends, “The first report from South Hamkyong reached the central party on June 18th, saying that for the four months from March to June in Hamheung, Heungnam and Sinpo, 100 or so people had died of starvation.”
However, a Daily NK source from Hoiryeong who recently visited Chongjin in North Hamkyong Province was incredulous when informed of the report, saying, “Who told you that? I have heard nothing about so many people dying of starvation in either Hoiryeong or Chongjin.”
Another source from Yangkang Province who said he visits Heochon County in South Hamkyong regularly said, “Although it is hard to live in South Hamkyong, people who made it through the ‘March of Tribulation’ know very well how to survive. There are newly harvested potatoes, and if you are really struggling then you can always eat herbs.”
NK Intellectuals Society (NKIS), a leading defector organization, agrees that the report is false, saying, “We have checked the report of widespread starvation in South Hamkyong with a resident of Danchon, and he has confirmed that no such thing has happened. Some elderly people with immune systems weakened by spring food shortages have died of disease, but that number is not more than ten or twenty in Danchon.”
Good Friends has tended to warn of impending mass starvation almost every year, but inside informants and the South Korean authorities often assert otherwise.
In a separate report, Good Friends also recently claimed that there was to be no more public distribution as of late last month, and that market transactions had been fully liberalized to allow the people to look after themselves.
The so-called “May 26th Measure”, Rev. Bomryun of Good Friends said at the time, was “reluctantly done as a result of a lack of the anticipated food aid from China after Kim Jong Il’s visit,” and claimed, “This time, the starvation cannot be dealt with over a short period of time, and might result in a larger number of deaths like in the mid-1990s.”
However, the actual existence of the May 26th Measure has not been proven, and markets in Sinuiju, Pyongyang, Hyesan and other main cities remain open from 10 AM to 6 PM as normal.
Won Sae Hoon, South Korea’s National Intelligence Service chief, also testified before the National Assembly’s Intelligence Committee last Thursday that North Korea probably has enough food overall to survive, saying, “This year, North Korea seems to have more than 4.3 million tons of grain, including its own production and imports, and food supply difficulties can be managed.”