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NKorea searches for fugitives after floods: aid group

Why would anyone want to escape the worker's paradise?
by Staff Writers
Seoul (AFP) Aug 29, 2007
North Korea has stepped up searches in border towns for people trying to flee the country after devastating floods, a South Korean aid group said Wednesday.

Security officials in the communist state have been rounding up illegal travellers in a door-to-door search twice a day in border towns, Good Friends said in a report.

Authorities are worried about an exodus across the China border following the floods, said the group which focuses on assistance to the North.

"North Korea is taking such measures to stop people, who are fleeing the country from the latest floods, from gathering in border towns," it said.

The flooding worsened living conditions for hundreds of thousands in the already impoverished state.

State media said at least 600 people are dead or missing, the homes of some 240,000 families were totally or partially destroyed and huge damage was caused to all sectors of the economy.

The nation faced a food shortfall this year of one million tonnes, or 20 percent of its needs, even before the downpours wiped out a sizeable proportion of the annual harvest.

Tens of thousands of North Koreans, fleeing hunger or repression, have crossed the border into China in recent years. Some travel on through China to Southeast Asian nations, using what refugee aid groups call the "underground railway," and then seek resettlement in South Korea.

Activists say the North has toughened punishments for people caught trying to flee.

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