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N. Korean children to get peanut candies on leader's birthday

All Headlines 15:30 February 03, 2009

SEOUL, Feb. 3 (Yonhap) -- Children in Pyongyang will receive peanut candies as a gift on leader Kim Jong-il's birthday, following the recent completion of a production line in the North Korean capital, a report said Tuesday.

North Korea customarily hands out liquor, fruit or daily necessities for citizens and confectionery for children on the occasion of Kim's birthday, Feb. 16, and the birthday of his late father and the nation's founder Kim Il-sung, April 15.

The communist tradition has reportedly waned since the country fell into deep economic woes in the mid-1990s.

Choson Sinbo, a Korean language newspaper in Japan that usually echoes Pyongyang's policy, said peanut candies will be added to the gift list for children this year, following the completion of a production line in Pyongyang Vegetable-Processing Factory.

The foodstuff factory that produces noodle, bread and sweets was newly equipped with a peanut candy production facility at the end of last year as "a governmental measure to enhance the people's diet," the report said.

It said all of the ingredients are provided by the government.

Lee Seung-yong, a coordinator of Good Friends, a Seoul-based aid group for North Korea, said the cash-strapped North often has to collect ingredients from its citizens to make the gifts for them.

Only 20 percent of North Korean factories are currently operating due to the lack of electricity and raw materials, according to the Korea Institute for National Unification, a state-run think tank in Seoul.

"The government distributes what it has collected, but even that can help the poorer people," Lee said.

hkim@yna.co.kr
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