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Cannibalism Reported in North Korea

April 15, 1998

BEIJING (AP) _ Some North Koreans are resorting to cannibalism in a desperate bid to survive their nation’s famine, according to a North Korean refugee and others interviewed by French aid workers in neighboring China.

The 23-year-old refugee said he saw his neighbors eat their daughter, the representatives from Doctors Without Borders said in a report compiled from interviews conducted during a tour of areas along the Chinese border with North Korea.

A Chinese-Korean who sometimes crosses the border to take food and other essentials to his former hometown in North Korea said one woman ate her 2-year-old child to stave off hunger, the aid workers said.

They also quoted the director of an orphanage in the Chinese border town of Yanji as saying she met an 18-year-old North Korean refugee who said her neighbor killed, salted and ate an uncared-for orphan.

There have been other persistent but unconfirmed reports of cannibalism in famine-stricken North Korea. The communist nation’s food shortages stem from economic mismanagement and natural disasters in the past three years that devastated crops.

Catherine Bertini, executive director of the World Food Program, said Sunday after returning from a four-day visit to North Korea that she had seen no sign of cannibalism and had no evidence of it occurring.

Marcel Roux, one of the French aid workers who spent just over a week in March and April interviewing people along the border with North Korea, said reports of cannibalism could not be proved because the North’s secretive government is hiding the truth from foreign aid agencies.

``Nobody can prove anything in North Korea today because no one has access to reality, with the exception of those who flee the country,″ he said in an interview Wednesday.

``We, for instance, are shown a few sick people or malnutrition cases: just what is needed to justify aid,″ he said.

In their report, the aid workers quoted an academic in the Chinese border town of Tumen as saying that cousins of his in North Korea were given a grain ration last year but ordered not to touch it.

After foreigners visited to inspect that the grain had been distributed, government officials took the sacks of grain away again, the academic was quoted as saying.

A Chinese preacher said he had twice seen sacks of Red Cross grain in a state store when visiting his brother in the North Korean border town of Sinuiju, the report said.

But the preacher said his brother had never heard of the grain being distributed, the report said.

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