‘I defected ’cause I starved in North’

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‘I defected ’cause I starved in North’

A 21-year-old North Korean resident surnamed Kim who defected to the South by passing through the demilitarized zone and into Cheorwon County, Gangwon, on Feb. 15, says he escaped because he was starving in the North, according to South Korean intelligence officials.

“Kim, who was discharged from the North Korean People’s Army last year, crossed the border while waving his arms in surrender 1 kilometer [six-tenths of a mile] away from our guard post,” said a South Korean official. “It was obvious that he has been starving for ages.”

Kim was discovered by South Korean military personnel at about 5 p.m. and immediately expressed his desire to defect. He was then transferred to South Korean intelligence and is currently being questioned about his motives for the escape.

Despite his age, government sources described Kim as being just 154 centimeters (5 feet) tall and weighing only 46 kilograms (101 pounds). The defector also told the officials he has been yearning for a life in the South.

“By witnessing the size of recent North Korean defectors, it seems like the DNA of North Korean residents has completely changed over the past 60 years,” a government source said.

According the Korean Agency for Technology and Standards, a South Korean adult man has an average height of 174 centimeters and weighs 69 kilograms. That’s at least 15 centimeters taller than the average North Korean adult man, the agency said.

And, Daily NK, an online news site dedicated to North Korea, reported that “North Korea has decreased its physical standard for soldiers to 137 centimeters in height from 140 centimeters.”

A South Korean government source said that “it seems like military camps, public sectors and areas outside Pyongyang are having trouble distributing food.” But it is unclear if starvation is occurring.

The Washington Post recently reported that food shortages are a serious problem within the North Korean army because of a poor grain harvest and an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.

Good Friends, a South Korean non-profit, reported that North Korea is feeding its soldiers corn instead of rice and that soldiers are suffering from malnutrition, which has led to a halt in winter training.

A regular soldier requires between 700 and 800 grams of rice per day, Good Friends said. But North Korea has been feeding its soldiers rice only four to five months of the year since 2000, during times when the food situation is better, it said. Soldiers now regularly receive corn for meals, sometimes less than 300 grams a day, the group said.

By Kim Su-jeong, Yim Seung-hye [enational@joongang.co.kr]

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한국의 20대 남성의 평균 신장 1m74㎝, 몸무게 69㎏(2010년 기술표준원 자료)에 비하면 키는 20㎝, 몸무게는 22㎏이나 덜 나간다. 이 당국자는 “같은 민족인 남북한 주민의 유전자(DNA) 구조가 60년 새 달라진 것 같다”고 말했다. 북한 주민들의 평균 신장은 1m58㎝~1m64㎝(탈북 주민 조사)로 추정된다. 남한 국민의 신체는 경제성장과 더불어 비약적으로 커진 반면 북한은 식량난에 따른 영양 부족으로 오히려 줄어들었다. 갓 전역한 김씨의 귀순은 북한군의 식량 배급체제까지 무너지고 있다는 점을 방증한다.

정부 당국자는 “북한의 식량 사정이 아사자가 나오는 정도는 아니지만 평양 이외의 지역이나 군대 및 공공 부문에 배급이 안 돼 어려움을 겪는 것으로 안다”고 말했다.

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