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    South Korean Christians warn of famine in North, urge lifting of blockade

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    Representatives of South Korean Christian churches and communities issued a joint address to the government to lift its blockade of the North, citing the possibility of another devastating famine in the isolated Communist state.

    Representatives of South Korean Christian churches and communities issued a joint address to the government to lift its blockade of the North, citing the possibility of another devastating famine in the isolated Communist state.

    South Korea recently froze economic relations and maritime communications with its northern neighbor, further crippling the North's economy, which is already damaged by UN sanctions intended to force it to quit its nuclear program.

    The request says that "food aid programs to help the population amid food shortage should be developed," Radio Vatican said on Sunday.

    "The aid would contribute to reconciliation between the two states," the Organization said.

    According to the Vatican-led Agenzia Fides, the Catholic Church in Korea fears "a humanitarian crisis like the one which struck North Korea in the 1990s."

    A murderous famine gripped North Korea in mid 90s after unprecedented floods. The official death toll released by the North Korean Food Damage Rehabilitation Committee in 1999 stands at 220,000, while various sources, estimate that from two to three million people died between 1995 and 1998.

    Fides cites a statement, signed by 527 members of religious communities united in the Forum Religious Solidarity for Reconciliation and Peace of Korea, as saying that the committee denounces "the alarming situation of poverty and dramatic shortage of food affecting millions of North Korean brothers and sisters."

    Tensions between the two Koreas grew after South Korea's 1,200-ton Cheonan corvette sunk near the disputed Northern Limit Line in the Yellow Sea on March 26, with the loss of 46 lives. An international investigation concluded that North Korea fired a torpedo at the vessel from a submarine, although Pyongyang has denied the allegations.

    Pyongyang claims the incident was "orchestrated" by the United States in order to "hype the threat from North Korea" ahead of "Congress midterm elections slated for the coming November."

     

    MOSCOW, June 21 (RIA Novosti)

     

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