Kim Jong-il Plays Up Food Shortage in N.Korea

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has renewed a lament about the backward country's failure to live up to his father's hopes in overcoming chronic food shortages in an apparent bid to extract aid amid international sanctions.

The official Rodong Sinmun newspaper on Monday said Kim expressed "compassion" for the reliance of his people on broken rice, a cheaper, inferior product, in their staple diet. "What I should do now is feed the world's greatest people with rice and let them eat their fill of bread and noodles. Let us all honor the oath we made before the leader [Kim Il-sung] and help our people feed themselves without having to know broken rice."

The newspaper on Jan. 9 quoted Kim as recalling nation founder Kim Il-sung's promise of rice and meat soup for all, but adding, "We have not yet fulfilled his wishes."

Prof. Kim Yong-hyun of Dongguk University said, "The North is playing up its economic difficulties in an effort to wheedle aid out of the international community including South Korea."

Meanwhile, the regime recently sent a message to overseas missions stressing the establishment of a "unitary leadership" for Kim Jong-un, Kim Jong-il's third son and heir apparent, according to exile station Free North Korea Radio.

But a Unification Ministry official said this was improbable since there has been no public confirmation of Kim Jong-un's succession, and Kim Jong-il's own "unitary leadership" was not proclaimed until Kim Il-sung was dead.

englishnews@chosun.com / Feb. 02, 2010 12:04 KST