Arms profits 'to feed North'

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 September, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 16 September, 1996, 12:00am

The starving state of North Korea may be selling arms to buy food, a local aid worker said last night.

Kathi Zellweger, who returned from a visit to flood-struck areas last week, said she saw peasants collecting roots and grass to eat.

The situation was dismal and likely to get worse next year, the director for international co-operation at Caritas Hong Kong said.

A woman harvesting herbs and roots by the roadside had told her they were eating the worst food since the Korean War.

She assumed the proceeds from weapons transfers were paying for imported rice.

'That to me shows how desperate they are, that they have to sell arms to get food.' Ms Zellweger, who has visited the country eight times, said people she had been dealing with for a long time were visibly affected.

'Everybody is thin, you can see that,' she said.

Hong Kong is among the international donors to the people of North Korea. The Government gave $1.7 million last year and Caritas has raised US$4.5 million (HK$34.92 million).

It is a country which cannot afford to feed its own people but is reported to be producing its own weapons for sale.

A military expert said: 'It is about the only thing that can earn them money.'