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North Korea's most vulnerable 'at risk of starvation': UN official

SEOUL : North Korea's most vulnerable are "at risk of starvation", with the economy worsening due to a self-imposed coronavirus blockade, and UN sanctions imposed over the country's nuclear programmes should be eased, a UN human rights expert said yesterday.

The impoverished nation has been behind a rigid blockade since early last year to protect itself from the pandemic, with the economy suffering and trade with key partner China dwindling to a trickle.

In June, state-run KCTV admitted that North Korea was facing a "food crisis", sounding the alarm in a country with a moribund agricultural sector that has long struggled to feed the population. The same month, leader Kim Jong Un said the food situation was "getting tense".

STRUGGLING

Ordinary North Koreans are "struggling on a daily basis... to live a life of dignity", and the worsening humanitarian situation could "turn into a crisis", Mr Tomas Ojea Quintana, UN special rapporteur on human rights, said in his report.

Pyongyang is under multiple sets of international sanctions over its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, which have seen rapid progress under Mr Kim.

Mr Quintana said such restrictions should be eased to protect the country's most vulnerable in the face of a severe food shortage.

"The most vulnerable children and elderly are at risk of starvation," he said. "Sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council should be reviewed and eased when necessary to both facilitate humanitarian and life-saving assistance." - AFP

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