Hunger Still Widespread In North Korea

Download Audio

One of the biggest challenges facing North Korea's new leader, Kim Jong-un, is his response to the country's food shortage. The United Nations estimates one quarter of the population is starving.

Five U.S.-based humanitarian organizations are working to get food aid into North Korea, but so far the U.S. Agency for International Development hasn't responded to their request.

One of those groups is Mercy Corps, headquartered in Portland, Oregon. David Austin, the North Korea Program Director for Mercy Corps, says the food crisis there is growing more dire, with children, pregnant and nursing women, and the elderly most vulnerable.

In February, he went to a maternity ward, where an administrator told him that 25 percent of children there are born under weight, or under four pounds.

"We walked down to the maternity ward, there were three children who had been born that week... and they were all under four pounds...[And] All three of the babies were full term... It's an indicator that the mother hadn't had enough nutrition," he told Here & Now's Robin Young.

Austin says that though hunger in North Korea is dire, it has improved since the famine of the 1990s.


  • David Austin, Mercy Corps North Korea program director

This segment aired on December 28, 2011.


More from Here & Now

Listen Live