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Rice prices in Pyongyang jump more than 50 percent in 2 months
SEOUL, Nov. 10 (Yonhap) -- Rice prices have more than doubled in Pyongyang in just two months, a South Korean private relief group said Thursday, the latest sign of food shortages in North Korea.

   A kilogram of rice cost about 2,500 won in Pyongyang in September, but its price rose to about 3,800 won in November, Good Friends said in its regular news letter posted on its Web site.

   The North Korean won is being traded at around 3,000 won to one U.S. dollar in North Korean markets, according to South Korea's Unification Ministry. But the relief group said one dollar is traded at 4,000 won in the North Korean capital in November, up from 2,870 won in September.

   The group also said there was a pessimistic view that the rice price could top 5,000 in Pyongyang next month, adding that the price has exceeded 3,000 won per kilogram of rice across the country.

   It did not give details on how it obtained the information from one of the world's most isolated countries. Its previous reports on North Korea have later been verified.

   In September, the aid group said that the rice prices started to soar in Pyongyang on rumors that North Korean leader Kim Jong-il failed to secure much aid during his trip to Russia in August.

   Rice is a key staple food for both South and North Koreans.

   The U.N. World Food Program has said a third of North Korean children under the age of five are chronically malnourished.

   Experts have said the North's food shortages may worsen after devastating floods washed away tens of thousands of hectares of farmland in the North earlier this year.

   Still, Unification Minister Yu Woo-ik said last month that the North's food situation does not seem to be serious.

   South Korea halted unconditional aid to North Korea in 2008 and slapped sanctions on the North last year in retaliation for the sinking of a South Korean warship blamed on the North.

   entropy@yna.co.kr
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