Saturday, October 28, 2006

Hunger driving North Korean refugees

Hunger is driving increasing numbers of North Koreans to risk their lives fleeing over the border in a humanitarian tragedy overshadowed by the nuclear crisis, a leading think-tank said.

The Brussels-based group the International Crisis Group said the numbers fleeing the Stalinist state were likely to grow amid threats of a new famine, and "humanity demands" a proper global response. It said the "humanitarian challenge ... is playing out almost invisibly as the world focuses on North Korea's nuclear programme."

The ICG said China and South Korea were not putting maximum pressure on the North to scrap its nuclear programme because they feared a torrent of refugees if the economy collapsed.

The ICG said hunger and lack of economic opportunity, rather than political oppression, was prompting North Koreans to leave.

The ICG called for action to help refugees, "both because humanity demands it and because if the international community cannot quickly get a handle on this situation, it will find it considerably harder to forge an operational consensus on the nuclear issue."


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