A North Korean man has been executed after murdering his two children for food, reports from inside the secretive state claim.
A “hidden famine” in the farming provinces of North and South Hwanghae is believed to have killed up to 10,000 people and there are fears that incidents of cannibalism have risen.
The grim story is just one to emerge as residents battle starvation after a drought hit farms and shortages were compounded by party officials confiscating food.
Undercover reporters from Asia Press told the Sunday Times that one man dug up his grandchild’s corpse and ate it. Another, boiled his own child for food.
Despite reports of the widespread famine, Kim Jong-un, 30, has spent vast sums of money on two rocket launches in recent months.
There are fears the North Korean leader is planning a nuclear test in protest at a UN Security Council punishment for the recent rocket launches and to counter what it sees as US hostility.
One informant was quoted as saying: “In my village in May a man who killed his own two children and tried to eat them was executed by a firing squad.”
The informant said the father killed his eldest daughter while his wife was away on business and then killed his son because he had witnessed the murder.
When his wife returned the man told her they had “meat” but she became suspicious and contacted officials who discovered part of the children’s bodies.
Jiro Ishimaru, from Asia Press, which compiled a 12 page report, said: “Particularly shocking were the numerous testimonies that hit us about cannibalism.”
Undercover reporters said food was confiscated from the two provinces and given to the residents of the capital Pyongyang.
A drought then left food supplies desperately short.
The Sunday Times also quoted an official of the ruling Korean Worker’s party as saying: “In a village in Chongdan county, a man who went mad with hunger boiled his own child, ate his flesh and was arrested.”
United Nations officials visited the area during a state-sponsored trip but local reporters said it is unlikely they were shown the famine-hit areas.
It has not the first time that reports of cannibalism have come out of the country.
In May last year, the South Korean state-run Korean Institute for National Unification said that one man was executed after eating part of a colleague and then trying to sell the remains as mutton.
One man killed and ate a girl and a third report of cannibalism was recorded from 2011.
Another man was executed in May after murdering 11 people and selling the bodies as pork.
There were also reports of cannibalism in the country’s network of prison camps.
North Korea was hit by a terrible famine in the 1990s – known as the Arduous March – which killed between 240,000 and 3.5 million people.