What are we to make of this horrendous story from North Korea?
News out of North Korean in notorious unreliable, but food shortages in the country have gotten so bad and people so desperate that there are now reports of men murdering their own children for food. These startling reports were compiled by independent reporters commissioned by Asia Press, a independent press agency focusing on Asia, and were published by the Sunday Times. And here’s one of the most disturbing thing you’ll read this morning:
The source said: “While his wife was away on business he killed his eldest daughter and, because his son saw what he had done, he killed his son as well. When the wife came home, he offered her food, saying: ‘We have meat.’
“But his wife, suspicious, notified the Ministry of Public Security, which led to the discovery of part of their children’s bodies under the eaves.”
And another from Gu Gwang-ho, one of the Asia Press’s citizen journalists said:
“There was an incident when a man was arrested for digging up the grave of his grandchild and eating the remains.”
The big question here is whether this is all true or new urban legends. Considering this is North Korea and taking into account the country’s propensity to keep secrets and publish propaganda pieces—we’ll likely never get real confirmation from their end. But Asia Press has worked with citizen reporters in the famine-struck regions of North and South Hwanghae for the past year, and The Independent considers their reports credible.
Judging the veracity of these reports will be difficult. As the article notes, the North Korean government engages in isolationism and is notoriously secretive, especially when it comes to domestic matters. Even the flow of information amongst its own citizens is strictly controlled by the government, and it is almost always propagandist in nature.
Facing the direst of circumstances, it is possible that some villagers in famine stricken areas of North Korea might have turned to some form of cannibalism.
The sensationalist manner in which these incidents were purported to unfold is what raises the doubtful eyebrow. The husband exclaiming “we have meat”, and presenting his wife with a tray of her own children seems better fit for a Tales from the Crypt episode.
What I imagine is happening is that there are a few isolated cases of cannibalistic like acts, and that the stories have taken on a life of their own as they are disseminated to other villages.
Last year, Mark Crislip wrote an interesting piece for Science-Based Medicine on a different cannibalism story coming out of the Korean peninsula.
If you are interested in reading more on this story, the Australian has more in-depth coverage.