(MintPress) – A North Korean man was executed last week for reportedly murdering his children for food — confirming the possibility of a widespread famine in the East Asian dictatorship. Unconfirmed reports by citizen journalists working covertly for Asia Press estimate that as many as 10,000 in North and South Hwanghae have died as a result of famine.
Other reports by Asia Press, a news agency based in Osaka, Japan, indicate that many citizens, particularly in impoverished rural areas have resorted to similarly shocking tactics. The dire situation has been recorded by secret citizen journalists working undercover because of strict government censorship on all media.
One informant, based in South Hwanghae, said: “In my village in May, a man who killed his own two children and tried to eat them was executed by a firing squad.” These incidences are not isolated, according to those familiar with the ongoing problem.
Jiro Ishimaru, from Asia Press said: “Particularly shocking were the numerous testimonies that hit us about cannibalism.” Representatives from the Korean Workers Party, the sole party controlling the state, chalked up the cases of cannibalism to mental disease, refusing to acknowledge the possibility of famine.
A coalition of mostly Western countries have maintained an embargo against the North Korean regime — a policy aimed at pressuring Pyongyang to shut down its long-range missile program. The United States, South Korea and Japan maintain that North Korea’s nuclear weapons program represents a grave threat to regional stability.
The nuclear program, developed under the late Kim Jong-Il, led to sanctions and isolation for the maligned state. This, however, has not stopped Washington from offering food aid as a means to quell hostilities on a diplomatic level and prevent starvation.
Much like sanctions against Iran, embargos aimed at changing regime policies generally hurt innocent civilian populations. Current sanctions against North Korea are largely to blame for the current shortage of food and medical supplies.
Washington tried to persuade Pyongyang to end long-range missile tests by offering food aid to the isolated country of 25 million in April last year. Initial reports expressed optimism for the deal. However, the offer collapsed after Kim Jong Un — the dictator of North Korea and the son of Kim Jong Il, pushed forward with the long-range missile test — largely followed the same patterns of heavy-handed dictatorial leadership created by his predecessor.
The deal came close to being brokered by the Obama administration, a sign that the two enemy countries could potentially work to improve bilateral relations in the future.
However, North Korea has pushed forward with nuclear tests and missile launches. The U.N. responded Tuesday by extending sanctions already in place after after North Korea it held nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.
Conversely, North Korean leadership maintains that its nuclear weapons program is necessary given the routine threat of invasion by the U.S. and its allies. The U.S. currently maintains military bases in both South Korea and Japan.
Frequent military exercises by the U.S. and allies has increased hostility on the Korean peninsula. An 11-day military exercise held February 2011 involving 12,800 U.S. troops and some 200,000 South Korean soldiers significantly increased tensions.
For millions of North Koreans, the U.S. invasion during the Korean War (1950-1953) remains a reminder of the extent to which Washington will go to attempt to crush unfavorable regimes.
Amidst growing international opposition North Korea’s nuclear program, China continues to prop up Pyongyang.