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TV footage shows mass starvation in North Kor -

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There are growing fears that North Korea is in the grip of famine after new TV footage revealed
that the secretive state is again facing failed harvests. The footage shot by the Reuters news
agency shows young children already suffering from chronic hunger and disease. It's understood the
state has slashed food rations to just 200 grams a day.

TONY EASTLEY: Occasionally the veil is pulled back from the secretive state of North Korea and we
get a glimpse of what life is like there.

The latest snapshot is not good. Footage shot by the Reuters news agency shows young children
already suffering from chronic hunger and disease. Faced with failed harvests, the state has
slashed food rations to just 200 grams a day.

North Asia correspondent Mark Willacy reports.

(Sound of a toddler crying)

MARK WILLACY: They lie two to a bed. One toddler scratches obsessively at his face, his bed mate
lies next to him motionless, a purple goo smeared on his face to treat a fungal infection.

This footage was shot in North Korea's South Hwanghae province by Alert Net, the humanitarian news
service run by the Reuters news agency.

While the visit was tightly controlled, Alert Net was permitted to interview selected North
Koreans, like Jang Kum Son, a doctor at the province's main paediatric hospital.

"The natural disasters of last year and this year have forced the people to live on potatoes and
corn," she says. "People aren't taking in proper nutrition. In May our number of in-patients was
about 200, since then we've had about 350 in-patients each month from July to September," says Dr

Accompanying the film crew was a team of nutrition experts from the aid group Doctors Without
Borders. At an orphanage in the province, 28 children huddled together on the floor waiting to be

The doctors found 12 of them so malnourished, they warned the children could die without proper

"Because of the flooding, the children are suffering from diarrhoea and digestive problems," says
Kim Chol Jun, a paediatrician at the orphanage. "The flooding is the reason that the malnourished
children are not recovering faster," he says.

Outside it's clear just how devastating the flooding has been.

Pak Su Dong is the manager of one of the local co-operative farms. Peeling back the leaves around a
cob of corn, he reveals how the floods have stripped the crops of all their nutrients

"We had heavy rain for two months from July, and that's why the maize couldn't receive enough
nutrients to grow properly," he says. "We now expect to harvest only 15 per cent of the maize
output we had originally planned," says Dong.

Earlier this year the World Food Program warned that six million North Koreans needed food aid and
that a third of children were either stunted or chronically malnourished.

North Korea's decision to let this film crew to glimpse behind the bamboo curtain is a calculated
attempt to attract food aid but just this week South Korea scrapped plans to send in emergency aid
to the hermit kingdom saying Pyongyang had failed to respond to its offer of assistance.

So yet again, the North Korean people are slowly starving. Their hunger a result of yet another
bitter harvest as well as their own cruel and despotic regime in Pyongyang, and the tangled web of
international politics.

This is Mark Willacy reporting for AM.