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N. Korea allows aid group to reach flood victims directly: RFA

All Headlines 11:16 October 31, 2007

By Sam Kim

SEOUL, Oct. 31 (Yonhap) -- North Korea has allowed an international relief group to bring supplies directly to the North's southeastern region hit hard by recent floods, Radio Free Asia (RFA) has reported.

The U.S.-funded broadcasting station cited Tom Henderson of England-based civic group, Shelter Box, Tuesday as saying that North Korean authorities made the rare decision, allowing aid officials to deliver food and other supplies to flood victims in the region southeast of capital Pyongyang.

Critics have often complained about lack of transparency in distribution of aid supplies to the impoverished North, alleging the bulk of aid supplies are being funneled to the North's military or elite without reaching the most needy.

"We were asked to go into Wonsan and into the village ... because that was identified as the area most in need," the head of the relief organization said.

North Korea had previously kept international relief workers from directly reaching the region, Henderson said.

Record-breaking rainfall in early August killed more than 450 people and left approximately 150 others missing in North Korea, while ruining at least 10 percent of agricultural land.

Typhoon Wipha, which swept the North in mid-September, left 1,600 more people homeless and 109,000 hectares of farmland damaged.

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