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North Korea

Yearbook 1997

North Korea is a country located in eastern Asia as listed on Alarms about crying food shortages overshadowed other news this year from North Korea Experts from UN agencies FAO, WFP and UNICEF, from the EU and from the International Committee of the Red Cross visited the country and reported on malnourished children and a famine near pure disaster. Severe droughts, ruined harvests and general economic downturns were cited as the reason why millions of people have to live on minimal food rations exuded with grass, roots and berries. For the first time, the communist regime also admitted that the famine had demanded deaths. Over 130 children were said to have died.

1997 North Korea

Data on millions of starving and on cannibalism among the hungry were rejected by the experts. The UN, the EU and the International Committee of the Red Cross, etc. sent hundreds of thousands of tons of grain to the country to meet the most urgent needs. Despite the supply crisis, North Korea imposed tough conditions to allow the enemy South Korea to send emergency aid. The South Koreans, in turn, demanded to distribute their aid themselves. Only in May, the countries' Red Cross organizations were able to agree on an initial supply of 50,000 tonnes of supplies, which began shipping via China in June. An agreement for an additional 50,000 tonnes was signed in July. However, North Korea leader Kim Jong Il warned his people to hope for imperial assistance.

On September 9, after the regime ended the country's grief following the death of President Kim Il Sung in 1994, a new time series - the Juch calendar - was introduced with the deceased's birth year 1912 as the start year. The state ideology "juche" stands for a long-driven self-confidence. One month later, Supreme Leader Kim Jong Il, the president's 55-year-old son, was elevated to the Communist Party leader, a post that has been vacant for three years. Only the presidential post thus remained to occupy.

No political course change was expected in Pyongyang following Kim's take-over as party leader. But judges in Seoul believed that the clearer power structure in the north could still facilitate the pursuit of peace. Following preparatory four-party meetings in New York, South Korea, North Korea, USA and China finally began peace talks in Geneva on December 9 for a formal end to the Korean War 1950-53. North Korea demanded, inter alia, that the United States would first withdraw all its troops from South Korea.

One of the most difficult setbacks for Pyongyang was when top politician and juche ideologist Hwang Jang-Yop, adviser to Kim Jong Il, stepped down in February during a visit to Beijing. Hwang, the tallest defender to date, came to South Korea in April.

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