In hyper-secretive North Korea, an extremely rare conference of its ruling “Workers’ Party” is expected to pave the way for 20-something Kim Jong-un to be confirmed as successor to his father, Kim Jong-il as the country’s third hereditary Communist dictator.
Meanwhile, the few fortunate enough to have escaped their regime tell stories of people starving in the streets as the economy performs even more disastrously than usual. Famine is nothing new in North Korea. In 1998, a visiting research team from the US Congress estimated that at least 900,000, and possibly as many as 2.4 million, had died of hunger over the previous 3 years.
The following year, overseas aid reduced the number of deaths, but in 2000, there were still reports of famine in most parts of the country outside the capital Pyongyang, and it was estimated that 10 million people were undernourished.
Earlier this month, North Korea was hit by Typhoon Kompasu, which, according to the official state media, destroyed more than 8,300 homes and 230 public buildings, as well as damaging roads, railways and power lines. “Several dozen” people were killed.