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2008/06/19 11:29 KST


34 North Korean Students Study in U.S. Universities

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- As of the end of January of this year, 34 North Korean students were studying in U.S. universities, while 68 others had already obtained a bachelor's degree or higher, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported on June 11.

   The report made by the RFA was based on information from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

   According to the report, the number of North Korean students entering the U.S. over the past five years is as follows: six in 2004, 12 in 2005, four in 2006, 10 in 2007, and two in January 2008.

   The students who entered the U.S. in 2004 and 2005 resided there for 3-4 years while completing a bachelor's degree or higher, the RFA reported.

   Over the past five years, however, at least 100 North Korean students have quit their studies and left the U.S. for personal reasons.

   The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's statistics show that North Korean students in the U.S. have student visas (F, M) or exchange visitor visas (J), and are enrolled in a variety of institutions, including accredited four-year universities and graduate schools, language schools and vocational training establishments.

   Data from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security does not, however, contain specific information on the North Korean students, including where or what subjects they are studying, revealed the RFA.

   Kim Yong-Il, a representative from the South Korea-based North Korea Human Rights group "People for Successful Corean Reunification," attended the U.S. Department of State's International Visitor Leadership Program this past April. While there, Kim heard from an official of the U.S. Department of State that "most of the North Korean students are restricted from any outside contact and live in disguise, so it would be difficult for the average person to identify a North Korean student."

   The official also said, "It's difficult for North Korean students to come directly to study in the U.S., so most study in Europe and then enter the U.S. as short-term exchange students." He added, "North Korean international students’TOEFL scores are far higher than South Korean students."

   In addition, a North Korean defector who spoke on condition of anonymity said, "North Korean international students in the U.S. may include factions from the Chochongryon or pro-Pyongyang Association of Korean Residents in Japan, but also mixed in are those North Koreans sent to train spies on collecting and analyzing outside information," added the RFA.


Two N. Koreans Defect by Sea to S. Korea

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Two North Koreans defected to South Korea by crossing the West Sea in a small boat on Sunday morning, the local coast guard agency said on June 15.

   The male and female are believed to have reached South Korean waters around 7 a.m., when their boat was first spotted by South Korean fishermen.

   "The two identified themselves as fishing people who lived in the same neighborhood and are currently under investigation, as they have expressed their intention to defect to South Korea," an official of (South) Korea Coast Guard Service said.

   The latest defection comes amid reports that the hungry nation may face yet another food crisis due to soaring grain prices and poor harvests.

   Defections by boat are rare, with the majority of North Koreans coming to the South by crossing into China and Southeast Asia by land. Up to 12,000 North Koreans have fled to South Korea since the 1950-53 Korean War.

   The North has been suffering from a chronic food shortage, with some observers estimating that between 200,000 to 300,000 people could die of hunger this year.

   North Korea needs at least 5.42 million tons of food a year, according to South Korea's Unification Ministry, and requires at least 1.42 million tons of humanitarian aid this year, it says.

   Washington has agreed to send 500,000 tons of food aid following Pyongyang's recent submission of documents related to its plutonium program dating back to 1990, but Seoul has said it will not send food unless North Korea officially requests it first.

   Until last year, Seoul had sent grain through the World Food Programme, as well as separate rice aid as a loan.


N.K. Document Indicates Seriousness of Food Shortages: Aid Group

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- A recently obtained North Korean government document indicates that the country is facing grave food shortages, a local aid group said on June 18.

   The document released by Good Friends, which is working to help hungry North Koreans, says the resolution of the impoverished country's food shortage is a "life-or-death question" for defending national dignity and rebuilding its economy.

   "Resolving today's food problem is very important for preserving the socialism of our own style and improving the living standards of the people," said the document, calling for the redoubling of the country's campaign to increase this year's crop production.

   The document allegedly reflecting the stance of the top North Korean leadership was distributed in April for political indoctrination sessions across the country, the group said, without specifying how it obtained the document.

   "Cooperative farms have never suffered as serious shortages of farm materials as this year," the document said, apparently referring to chemical fertilizers. "If things go this way, there could be irrevocable consequences in this year's farming."

   However, the document also partly blamed the difficult food situation on the U.S. and South Korea's policy toward the North.

   South Korea has provided 300,000 tons of fertilizer and 400,000 tons of rice in humanitarian aid to North Korea annually in recent years.

   Inter-Korean relations have deteriorated since South Korea's conservative, pro-U.S. government took office in February. Seoul maintains that it would only consider giving aid this year if Pyongyang requests it first.

   North Korea has spurned the South Korean suggestion, heaping scorn on the new South Korean president, Lee Myung-bak.

   Aid groups say tens of thousands of North Koreans may die of starvation in two months if there is no emergency foreign aid.

   The Seoul government estimates that the North needs at least 5.42 million tons of cereals annually, but is 1.24 million tons short this year.