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Lawmaker Describes N. Korea Starvation

November 14, 1998|From Associated Press

SEOUL — An alarming number of white grave markers are popping up in North Korea's countryside, where gaunt children and adults battle starvation with a diet of twigs, leaves and cornstalks, a U.S. member of Congress said Friday.

Although the situation in the capital, Pyongyang, is improving, food shortages in rural areas are getting worse as the nation enters its fourth winter of famine, said Rep. Tony P. Hall (D-Ohio), fresh from a five-day visit to the Communist country.

Three years of floods and drought that started in 1995 devastated North Korea's collective farming and planned economy, already teetering from the loss of its Soviet bloc trading partners.

Hall said he saw children and adults roaming a countryside stripped of trees, gathering twigs and gleaning what was left of the harvest.

"Every other hill, you see a tremendous number of new, white grave markers. When you fly over the countryside or drive through it, they flash out because they are so new," he said.

Hall visited North Korea to assess what international aid officials have called a "famine in slow motion."

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