N. Korea death rate has risen 40 percent, WHO chief says


SEOUL, South Korea - The top executive of the World Health Organization said yesterday that North Koreans are dying at a rate more than 40 percent higher than in 1994 when the country was hit by the first of a series of devastating floods and famines.

The official, Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, arriving in Seoul after installing a permanent representative from the organization in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, said "we have reason to believe" that the annual number of deaths has risen to 9.3 per 100 people from 6.3 per 100 people seven years ago.

Brundtland did not offer a breakdown of who in the population was bearing the brunt of disease and starvation, other than to say that "women, children and people who are malnourished" were most vulnerable.

Other organizations, notably the World Food Program, have estimated that a combination of natural calamities and poor planning have resulted in the deaths of more than 2 million North Koreans since 1994 - this in a country with a population estimated to be about 22 million.

Brundtland said she had asked South Korean President Kim Dae Jung to provide additional medical aid.

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