Adults can be seen selling noodles, potatoes and kimchi on the streets, seemingly oblivious to the starving children wandering around them, combing the ground for anything edible.
It was a scene from a video shown to journalists Friday by an associate professor at Kansai University. Lee Young Hwa, a Korean descendant who was born in Japan, said the video was shot in North Korea by a North Korean refugee who sneaked back into North Korea from China.
He said the 90-minute video, “Inside North Korea,” was shot in early October by the refugee, whom he had met in China in August and handed a video camera. The footage shows black markets and starving children in two unnamed towns in a central section of North Korea.
The scene described above came from one of the markets, which Lee said attracts about 10,000 people a day. As the footage continues, a little girl is about to drink muddy water from a puddle when the camera catches her attention.
The girl says she had escaped from what Pyongyang calls a “relief station,” into which hundreds of elderly people and children are crowded and where they receive a ration of two spoonfuls of a corn-and-water mixture each day. “Two years ago, people would still care about those children, give them soap and food,” said Lee, 45, who earlier this decade spent about a year in Pyongyang as an exchange student.
The video footage also shows malnourished orphans, some terribly frost-bitten and others without the strength to even stand upright.
Lee maintains that this is probably the first time a North Korean has taken footage of his country in an attempt to show the reality of life there to the outside world.
The refugee sneaked the film and camera, both in a small bag fastened around his waist, while illegally fleeing the country for a second time. He crossed the heavily guarded Chinese border at a river, Lee said, and is now living in China as an illegal immigrant.
Lee and his group, Rescue the North Korean People!/Urgent Action Network, has financially helped North Koreans who cross the border into China.
Lee also is campaigning on behalf of North Koreans in China, asking that they be regarded as political refugees and that Chinese authorities stop arresting them and forcibly sending them back to the impoverished communist nation.
Lee is using proceeds of the video, copies of which he sells for 1,000 yen, to fund his organization’s activities. For further information, call 03-5394-0283.
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