As temperatures drop well below freezing in North Korea and food becomes scarce, many people are missing, sources told Radio Free Asia, some of them starved or froze to death. .
Temperatures in the northeastern part of North Hamgyong province have dropped to at least -20 degrees Celsius (-4 degrees Fahrenheit), putting homeless people at greater risk from the dire situation, a local resident said Monday, speaking on condition of anonymity. told RFA’s South Korean service. for security reasons.
“We found a body yesterday morning. He probably died the night before,” the source said. “I saw the body of a dead boy. His clothes were in tatters and his stomach was bare. Kojebi keep appearing. “
Kotjebi, or flower swallows, are homeless beggar children who, like their namesake bird, wander from place to place in search of food. Sources say food shortages have increased the number of kochebi on the streets of many cities.
“The Kocebi go everywhere, begging and stealing in crowded places like train stations. Recently, many of them have been found dead,” the source said.
Kochebi first appeared in large numbers during the North Korean famine of 1994-1998, which by some estimates killed more than 2 million people, or 10% of the country’s population.
The government is trying to address this problem by setting up shelters for them.
“Police have ordered citizens to report Kocebi to a shelter because it undermines a socialist vision,” the source said. “But residents say that if we want to reduce the number of kotchebi, we must first solve the food shortage.
“Socialist visions mean nothing to people who are on the brink of starvation because of lack of food,” he said, adding that even if they were sent to shelter, they would probably die. Added wax.
“There’s no food there. The shelters can’t even feed them, they just keep them in cold rooms. They’re likely to starve or freeze to death there,” the source said.
The cold doesn’t just harm homeless children on the streets. Even those in employment have abandoned their homes and jobs to hunt and fish in remote areas because they cannot afford food, according to officials from the North Hwanghae Judiciary. is missing. Pyongyang.
“The judiciary is distributing leaflets to local police stations and guards in search of missing residents,” the official said.
A worker named Kim, who was suffering from malnutrition, left home in July and went missing in October, according to official sources.
“The county’s Department of Social Security has designated five missing persons, including Kim, as wanted.” .”
Officials say many of these people are actually looking for food in the wild, but authorities view them as criminals and claim they are trying to flee across the border to China. .
Wanted lists will be sent to areas near the border first, he said.
“Authorities say they are seeking cooperation from residents to ensure public safety,” an official said.
“But residents who have seen the wanted list know that they are people who go to remote areas to avoid starvation.”
Translated by Leejin J. Chung. Written in English by Eugene Whong.