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article imageUN Envoy Talks of 9 Million Starving in North Korea

By Chris Dade     Oct 23, 2009 in World
In a report to the UN general assembly committee on human rights Thai professor Vitit Muntarbhorn has referred to the situation in North Korea as 'abysmal' and estimated that nine million people are starving in the east Asian country.
In his capacity as envoy Mr Muntarbhorn has been studying the human rights situation in North Korea for six years but has never been allowed to enter the country, which has constantly been in conflict with the international community over its development of a nuclear capability.
As the BBC reports Mr Muntarbhorn has relied instead upon information provided by UN agencies operating in North Korea, human rights groups and North Korean refugees to enable him to compile his report.
Among North Korea's population of 24 million Mr Muntarbhorn believes that more than one third, close to nine million people in fact, are suffering from a lack of food.
The World Food Programme (WFP) is only able to assist two million of those who are going hungry, the Guardian confirming that the flow of aid to North Korea has dried up as countries respond to the communist state's nuclear weapons program by withdrawing funding. As a consequence the number of six million previously receiving assistance from the WFP has been more than halved.
But North Korea's economic policies are also blamed for the "abject poverty" in which many of the country's population live, the BBC noting that the restrictions on the activities of women have a particularly detrimental effect on the economy. Women under the age of 49 are not permitted to trade in North Korea, nor are any women allowed to ride bicycles, the means by which they might travel to a place of work, or wear trousers.
Criticizing what he calls the "exploitation of the ordinary people" by a "ruling elite" which considers that exploitation to be its prerogative, a "pernicious prerogative" is how it is described, Mr Muntarbhorn said:The human rights situation in the country remains abysmal owing to the repressive nature of the power base: at once cloistered, controlled and callous. While many members of the population are in abject poverty and suffer the prolonged deprivations linked with shortage of food and other necessities, the country itself is endowed with vast mineral resources controlled by the authorities
According to the BBC repression in North Korea can take the form of people being sent to labor camps for simply failing to turn up for work or watching South Korean films.
Responding to the harsh criticism of the conditions in North Korea, a country led by 68-year-old Kim Jong-il, whose father Kim Il-sung was the previous leader of the country, the deputy UN ambassador appointed by the regime in Pyongyang, Pak Tok Hun, said that the report produced by Mr Muntarbhorn was a "politically conspired document, full of distortion, lies, falsity, devised by hostile forces".
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