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Wednesday, 3 January, 2001, 15:48 GMT
Karaoke in North Korean aid shipment
The cargo ship with aid leaves Inchon, South Korea
South Koreans wave off the aid-laden cargo ship, Mingri
Karaoke equipment, goats and underwear were among the privately-donated goods carried by a ship that left on Wednesday from South Korea to the poverty-hit communist North.

Aid package
120 goats and 60 tonnes fodder
17,000 sets of underwear
120 tonnes of flour
45,500 bottles of cooking oil
325 boxes of winter garments
2,562 boxes of stationery
The 10 karaoke machines - part of the $900,000 worth of aid on the ship - are programmed with 4,000 Western and South Korean pop songs.

It is said to be the first appearance of karaoke in North Korea, which strictly controls any sign of Western influence.

Aid organisers have said the machines - to be installed at a youth recreational and cultural centre in Pyongyang - would contribute to inter-Korean reconciliation.

The aid shipment is part of an international effort to ease the plight of North Koreans facing severe food shortages and harsh winter conditions.

More underwear

The Chinese-registered freighter, "Mingri", was also carrying flour, winter garments, disposable medical syringes and grass seed.

Food aid shipment
South Korea has sent nearly $100m worth of aid to the North
It was due to arrive in the North's port of Nampo on Thursday.

Aid organisers plan to send a second load of underwear early next week.

"With this aid donation, we are sending our brotherly love to North Koreans," Reverend Kim Joon-Kon of the Korean Sharing Movement (KSM) said at Inchon port, from where the ship departed.

The KSM, which includes Buddhist, Christian and other groups, has highlighted the "bitter winter" conditions in the North, where officials have admitted that a new food crisis is growing.

Freezing buildings

North Korea is also said to be suffering crippling power shortages.

Hospitals lack basic antibiotics and vaccines
Foreign visitors have said nearly all buildings, including hospitals and orphanages, are freezing due to a lack of heating.

North Korea has been depending on foreign aid to help feed its people since 1995 when its agricultural industry collapsed after years of natural disasters and the loss of an economic partner, the former Soviet Union.

The Rome-based World Food Program has called for more than 800,000 tons of food to help feed North Korean people through the winter.

Critics say providing too much aid will merely prolong the totalitarian regime and some reports have said aid has been siphoned off by the military and government.

Nearly $100m worth of aid has been donated by South Korean religious and civic groups since 1995.

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See also:

30 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
UN warns of North Korea food crisis
30 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
Where famine stalks the land
29 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
N Koreans eating twigs
28 Oct 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
Life in Pyongyang
06 Oct 00 | Asia-Pacific
Japan boosts N Korea food aid
28 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
Koreas agree 500,000 ton food loan
22 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
N Korea storms leave many dead
20 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
North Korea aid plea
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