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EU envoy says aid not reaching remote parts of North Korea

May 24, 1997

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) _ An EU envoy warned today that food aid is not reaching the remote areas of North Korea where the secretive communist state needs it most.

Tue Rohrsted, head of the EU delegation in Seoul, accused the North of denying hunger experts access to the most hard-hit areas and instead offering ``staged presentations in flooded areas.″

``In particular, the eastern parts of the country, which are far away from main ports and main centers where food aid has been shipped, are in dire need,″ he said at a news conference.

Rohrsted’s warning came one day after the European Union announced it would provide hunger-stricken North Korea with 155,000 tons of food worth $52 million.

The envoy based his concerns on a report on nutrition and logistics filed by two European experts who visited North Korea in March to assess food shortages there.

The experts visited three nurseries in provincial towns that were not hit by floods and found 20 percent of the children under age five malnourished and three children in an advanced stage of malnutrition, Rohrsted said.

``There is no medicine. There are no drugs. There is no food,″ Rohrsted said. ``They also have found a substantial amount of absentees from the (hospital) staff obviously in search for just survival for themselves.″

North Korea’s chronic food shortages _ a result of communist agricultural policies _ reached a crisis point after devastating floods hit the country’s main agricultural regions in 1995 and 1996. The North, which has long adhered to a policy of self-reliance or ``juche,″ admitted publicly that it needed help only after the 1995 flood.

The EU is also considering a separate $11.3 million program for health care in the North, Rohrsted said.

``First and foremost, the North Koreans have to reform their own society because otherwise what is happening this year will happen next year again,″ said Rohrsted.

In Beijing today, negotiators for Red Cross chapters of the two Koreas ended a second round of talks with no agreement on the South’s offer to send 40,000 tons of food to the North.

The painstaking talks snagged on South Korean proposals on delivery and labeling of the aid.

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