국제앰네스티는 새로발간한 보고서에 담긴증언 자료를 통해 북한 정부의 정책 실패에 따른 식량난의 악화로 수 천명이 풀이나 나무껍질 같은 소위“야생음식”에 의존하게 되면서 각종 질병이 전역으로 퍼지고있다고 밝혔다.함경북도 화성에 사는24살 황모씨는 9살 때부터 혼자 살았으며집 없이 살고 있었다.그가 기아를 피하는 유일한 방법은 야생 음식을 찾는 것이었다.
황모씨는 “나는 능재(풀 이름) 같은 여러야생 식품을 먹었다.능재는 독이 있어서먹은 다음날 얼굴이부어 오른다. 이 말고도
몇몇 풀이나 버섯은독이 있어서 자칫하면죽을 수도 있다”고 말했다.
미역이나 버섯 같은야생 식품은 원래 북한 내 농어촌 등지에서 전통적인 보충 음식으로 자리잡고 있었으나, 식량난이 악화됨에 따라 북한 주민들은배고픔을 참기 위해영양가가 전혀 없는야생 음식에 더욱 의존하게 됐다.
야생 음식의 대다수는독 성분이 있어 심각한 소화장애를 일으킬수 있다. 유엔에 의하면 5세 미만 유아들이 겪는 영양실조의가장 큰 원인 중 하나는야생 음식 섭취에 의한 설사라고 한다.
국제앰네스티 북한 건강권 보고서 TheCrumbling State ofHealth Care in NorthKorea는 북한정부가 어떻게 식량문제를 해결하는 데 실패했으며 국제법을 어기고 식량 원조를 받는데 국제사회의 협조를거부했는지에 대해 밝히고 있다.
Starving NorthKoreans forced tosurvive on diet ofgrass and treebark
15 July 2010
Crippling foodshortagesexacerbated bygovernment policiesin North Korea havecaused widespread illness as thousandsare forced tosurvive on so-called”wild foods” such asgrass and tree bark, according
to testimoniesobtained by AmnestyInternational in anew report.
Hwang, a 24-year-oldman from Hwasung,North Hamgyongprovince, washomeless and lived alone from the age of nine.Foraging for wildfoods was his onlyoption to avoidstarvation.
“I ate severaldifferent kinds ofwild foods, such asneung-jae, which isa wild grass found in the fields. It’s poisonous – yourface swells up thenext day. Otherkinds of grass andsome mushrooms are also poisonous so youcould die if youpicked the wrongone,” says Hwang.
Wild foods likeseaweed andmushrooms aretraditionally asupplementary partof the North Korean diet, especially in ruralareas. But as foodshortages haveintensified, thepopulation has come to rely more on wild foods that haveno nutritionalvalue, simply tofend off hunger.
Many of thesenon-traditional wildfoods can bepoisonous and causesevere digestive problems. The UN has found thatdiarrhoea caused bywild foods is amongthe leading causesof malnutrition amongchildren under 5.
AmnestyInternational’sreport, theCrumbling State ofHealth Care in NorthKorea, reveals how theNorth Korean governmenthas been unable tofeed its peopleand,in violation ofinternational law, has refused to cooperate fully withthe internationalcommunity to receivefood aid.
The chronic foodshortages haveforced North Koreansto eating barelydigestible or even poisonous plants, consigningthe most needy tohunger and illness.
AmnestyInternational hasdocumented how NorthKoreans have beenadding grass or roots to existing foodstuffs to makefood go further,such as mixing grasswith ground corn tomake corn gruel. Hwang’s diet consisted of wildfoods and othersources that wereequally poor innutrition.
“Sometimes I mixedcorn powder withpine tree bark,which gave me bowelproblems but I needed to add something to my foodto satiate myhunger. I also atethe leftoveringredients after making corn alcohol and tofu. I knew allthese foods hadlittle nutritionalvalue, but I stillate them to fill my stomach,” says Hwang.
In the early tomid-1990s, unable tocombat the growingfood crisis andrefusing to seek international assistance, theNorth Koreangovernment activelyencouraged thepopulation to forage
for alternative or wild foods instead,such as roots,grasses and stalks,promoting them ashealthy and safe sources of nutrients. Sincethen, food rationshave either beensuspended ordramaticallyreduced.
By 1996, the heightof the famine of the1990s, the UNestimated that wildfoods accounted for some30 per cent of theNorth Korean diet. Never shaking offchronic foodinsecurity, NorthKorea again suffered a severe food crisisin 2006-2007, and aWorld Food Programme2008 assessmentfound that North Koreans’ consumption of wildfoods had increasedby nearly 20 percent since2003-2005.
Thousands areestimated to havestarved to death inNorth Korea asrecently as February
this year after a botched currencyrevaluation.
Hwang, who leftNorth Korea inSeptember 2001, wasamong a growingnumber of homeless children – or “kkotjebi” – whohad either losttheir parents due tostarvation or whoseparents had abandoned them or went to China tofind a job. He sayshis irregular andsporadic mealsbrought on digestive problems.
“I normally ate onemeal a day. I wasalways hungry. If Ihad something toeat, I would eat it all. Even ifI was full, I wouldcontinue eatingbecause I didn’tknow when I wouldhave the chance to eat again.
“Also because I washomeless, I couldn’ttake the food withme, so I justfinished it in one go. Whenever I ate too much, Isuffered fromindigestion,including stomachache and diarrhoea.”
As the foodshortages worsened,North Korea’spopulation reliedmore heavily on wild
foods and ventured to varieties thatcan be dangerous,especially amongyoung children andthe elderly.
Park, a 27-year-oldman from Chongjin,North Hamgyongprovince who leftNorth Korea in April 2007, also had adverse reactionfrom eating wildfoods.
“I foraged for wildfoods in themountains. Once Ialmost died eatingmushrooms that were poisonous. Some wild greens orroots can bedangerous ordifficult to digest. During aparticularly rough patch, I also ate food younormally feed topigs.”