North Korea soldiers 'malnourished'
Sydney - North Korea is struggling to feed its army, according to new footage obtained from within the secretive state which shows a soldier complaining his unit is weak from a lack of nutrition.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) said the video was taken by an undercover North Korean journalist over several months earlier this year and smuggled out of the communist country to China.
It shows orphaned children begging for food in the streets and a party official ordering a vendor at a private market to give her a donation of rice for the army - once quarantined from food shortages.
"Everybody is weak," one young North Korean soldier is filmed saying to the reporter's hidden camera.
"Within my troop of 100 comrades, half of them are malnourished."
The ABC said the exclusive video also showed labourers building a private railway track near the capital Pyongyang for ruler Kim Jong-Il's son and apparent heir Kim Jong-Un.
Eating grass, bark
"This rail line is a present from Kim Jong-Il to comrade Kim Jong-Un," the undercover journalist is told when he asks the building site supervisor what they are doing.
Japanese publisher Jiro Ishimaru, who instructed the undercover reporter on how to use the camera, told the ABC the footage was important because it showed the weakening of Kim Jong-Il's regime.
"It used to put the military first, but now it can't even supply food to its soldiers," Ishimaru, who edits a magazine featuring insider accounts of life in North Korea, told the ABC.
"Rice is being sold in markets but they are starving. This is the most significant thing in this video," he said.
Impoverished North Korea has requested overseas food and relief groups have said that the state faces imminent shortages, saying people are again eating grass and tree bark.
The United Nations has pleaded with international donors to overlook political difficulties in the face of a humanitarian crisis, saying six million people are in danger of not getting enough to eat.
Hundreds of thousands of North Koreans died in a famine in the 1990s.