Life in North Korea is getting more difficult. Those who once had a home are now finding themselves living on the streets. Hunger is the great equalizer affecting both children and adults alike. Despite food aid from abroad, there is not enough for everyone. Even the soldiers are stealing corn from farms. Troops are fed by the government, but recently have not been receiving enough food rations. Some soldiers are so undernourished that they have difficulty in walking.
A fifty-year-old man, dressed in rags, tells an undercover journalist in a whisper, “Not only are children wandering the streets; adults are too. “Last year, I worked in a coal mine which was not run by the state. I was able to earn more money there than in a government operated mine. The government is no longer able to pay the workers’ wages or to give them food rations so it is best to work in private mines.
“But in North Korea all workers are assigned to state companies and are not allowed to work for a company that is not managed by them. The government discovered that I was working in the privatised coal mine so they had me turned out of my house. I’ve been living on the streets for a year now. The authorities confiscated my house. My wife and daughter died. Now I’m trying to sell lumps of coal. It’s the only way to survive.”
The national director of the world food program speaks about the state of the children in North Korea, “Most of the children suffering from hunger are considerably smaller than you would expect at their age. The situation is made worse by the harsh winter, floods and poor harvest. Parents can no longer provide for them so many children start to wander the streets or end up in ‘orphanages’. But in these homes, children are not cared for and they eventually die.