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Relief Agency Leaves North Korea

September 30, 1998

HONG KONG (AP) _ The relief agency Doctors Without Borders withdrew the last of its workers from North Korea today, saying the government has ordered it to stop treating the sick and hungry and to supply the local pharmaceutical industry instead.

The Paris-based group is one of about half a dozen relief agencies that have been helping North Korea cope with a famine that has left the country largely dependent on foreign aid.

But North Korea’s communist government has frustrated relief agencies by setting restrictions on how they can operate, where they can go and which sectors of the public they can treat.

Doctors Without Borders recently withdrew 11 of its 13 professionals, including nine doctors. It said the last two were leaving today.

The director-general, Dr. Eric Goemaere, said the agency was ``forced″ to pull out the two remaining doctors.

Despite the prospects of a grim winter, North Korean officials had asked the agency to stop distributing medical aid and to focus on supplying raw materials and chemicals for the production of basic antibiotics at the country’s own plants.

Earlier reports from North Korea have accused the government of using donations to feed the military and government loyalists, leaving other people without any aid at all.

Doctors Without Borders has 1,400 health centers in four provinces north of the capital, Pyongyang, where it was providing the nation with basic medical equipment and medicines and helping to train local doctors and health workers. The agency also helped more than 15,000 children at 64 feeding centers in the provinces.

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