North Korea’s recent food problems have gotten so dire that reports this week suggest that people are resorting to cannibalism—with one case involving a man murdering his own children for food.
The isolated communist country executed a North Korean father by firing squad after he killed his two children to eat them during last year’s “hidden famine,” which may have killed as many as 10,000 people, reported The Sunday Times. Another man also reportedly dug up his grandchild’s corpse for food and ate it after boiling, because he was “driven mad by hunger,” the Times said, citing a reporter from Asia Press.
The reports claim that most of the people who were killed in the famine were in North and South Hwanghae provinces.
“In my village in May, a man who killed his own two children and tried to eat them was executed by a firing squad,” said one informant to the Asia Press, which has said it has citizen journalists in North Korea, according to The Independent.
“While his wife was away on business he killed his eldest daughter and, because his son saw what he had done, he killed his son as well. When the wife came home, he offered her food, saying, ‘We have meat,’” he added, speaking about the first father who was killed via firing squad.
“But his wife, suspicious, notified the Ministry of Public Security, which led to the discovery of part of their children’s bodies under the eaves,” the informant said.
Asia Press correspondent Jiro Ishimaru said, “Particularly shocking were the numerous testimonies that hit us about cannibalism,” according to the paper. Other informants detailed the arrests of the two other men who were alleged to have been cannibals.
Last year, the South Korea-based Yonhap News Agency reported that three North Koreans were executed in recent years on charges of cannibalism, noting that cannibalism has been a rumor for a long time in the Stalinist state.
The Times report also juxtaposed the instances of alleged cannibalism with an opulent banquet that was held for young ruler Kim Jong Un, highlighting the disparity between North Korea’s ruling elite and commoners. The New York Times reported that a huge banquet was held in late December for the scientists who successfully launched a satellite via a rocket into space.
Earlier this month Kim gave out one kilogram (2.2 pounds) of candy to every child to mark his birthday, reported AFP, which cited the state-run North Korean Central Broadcasting Station.
North Korea was hit by a massive famine throughout the mid-1990s, killing as many as 3.5 million out of a population of 22 million. Columbia University says that “as many as one million North Koreans died in one of the worst famines of the twentieth century.”
The famine was triggered after Pyongyang stopped receiving aid and stopped trading with the Soviet Union, which collapsed in 1991. As a result, North Korea was not able to respond to the food shortage.
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