North Korean food aid ‘sold on black market’

OSAKA — An Osaka citizens group supporting North Korean refugees in China showed a videotape earlier this week purporting to reveal food provided as humanitarian aid to North Korea being sold at high prices in that nation’s black market.

Lee Young Hwa, a spokesman for the group RENK, showed the press the hourlong tape, which showed 1-kg bags of corn marked with a Red Cross being sold at a street stand for 60 won — equivalent to the monthly salary of ordinary North Koreans.

The tape was secretly recorded on Dec. 22 in Chonjin, North Hamgyong Province, by a North Korean refugee who lives in China, Lee said.

The videotape also shows traders apparently selling clothes and shoes of which imports had been banned.

“This is evidence that relief food is being dealt with in black markets through the military and the Korean Workers’ Party, instead of being given to people in need,” Lee said, referring to the communist party in North Korea.

So Chung On, an official in charge of public relations at the pro-Pyongyang General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryun), said of the videotape: “It is a frameup to bash North Korea. It is not worthy of comment.”

Japan plans to provide 100,000 tons of rice to North Korea through the U.N. World Food Program, and to also send several inspectors to see whether the food is properly allocated.