North Koreans leave Russia's Far East to protect homeland - paper
MOSCOW, November 26 (RIA Novosti) - North Korean citizens working in Russia's Far East rushed home after the recent military skirmish between North and South Korea, Russian popular daily Moskovsky Komsomolets said on Friday.
North Korea opened artillery fire on the South's Yeonpyeong Island in the Yellow Sea Tuesday, killing at least two South Korean marines and two civilians. Sixteen others were injured, along with three civilians. The South retaliated and warned of further strikes. The North later accused South Korea of attacking first.
"As soon as the message about rising tensions between both countries appeared, North Koreans took it as an unspoken call to stand up and protect their dictator Kim Jong-il," Moskovsky Komsomolets cited Russian news agency VladNews as saying.
North Koreans, suffering from severe food shortages at home, often put their lives at risk to cross the short Russian-North Korean border in order to earn some money in outdoor markets and construction sites and buy food for malnourished relatives.
Their disappearance has already affected the Russian Far East labor market, since the North Koreans are the lowest paid employees there, Moskovsky Komsomolets said.
In the 1990s, North Korea suffered from one of the gravest famines in the 20th century. At least one million people died of hunger.
"Hordes of malnourished children wander across the country. If policemen detain them, they are sent to overcrowded asylums where they die," the daily quoted a spokesman for the Open Doors human rights organization as saying.
Until recently, North Korea was almost totally dependent on humanitarian aid from South Korea, China and the World Food Program, the main food aid supplier to North Korea.
Recently, donors have been reluctant to render aid to North Korea because of restrictions on aid workers and the international condemnation of its nuclear program.
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