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Thursday, 13 February, 2003, 13:19 GMT
North Korea's empty shelves
empty fridge in Pyongyang
Our correspondent found shop food was scarce
The North Korean nuclear crisis has been referred to the UN Security Council, which could impose sanctions.

BBC correspondent Clive Myrie, who has just returned from posing as a tourist in North Korea, says sanctions would devastate the country's people.

All foreign visitors are closely watched in North Korea, as there is a deep distrust of outsiders.

The itineraries of adventurous tour groups, with holidaymakers eager to take photographs, are carefully structured to reveal only what those in power want the world to see.

Needless to say, the famine areas of the economically depressed east are off limits, as is Yongbyon, about 100 km (60 miles) north of the capital, Pyongyang. A small town with a big reputation, Yongbyon is the home of North Korea's nuclear programme.

Posing as tourists on our visit, we were watched very closely. But one afternoon we managed to break away from our minders.

Little food

In Pyongyang, just off Kim Il-sung Square, we came across a row of shops.

Military commander in North Korea
There is already great anger here towards America

North Korean commander
Most of the shelves were empty, save for a few apples in one, a few loaves of bread in another.

When one of the shopkeepers saw us, she scuttled away.

The vast majority of North Koreans do not have enough to eat.

Six to eight million people rely on handouts from the World Food Programme.

About 45% of children under five are chronically malnourished.

Yet there is plenty of food if you have the money.

Part of our official tour was to a foreign currency supermarket - preferred banknote, the euro - full of food, electrical goods and liquor.

We saw jars of instant coffee on sale for the equivalent of 1,100 North Korean won - about US$7.

The average monthly salary ranges from $12 to $60.

The UN Security Council may now impose sanctions on Pyongyang for breaching nuclear non-proliferation agreements.

For a land where ordinary people find food hard to come by, that could be a terrible punishment.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Clive Myrie
"This is a country proud of its history"

Nuclear tensions

Inside North Korea

Divided peninsula

TALKING POINT
See also:

13 Feb 03 | Asia-Pacific
11 Dec 02 | Asia-Pacific
13 Feb 03 | Asia-Pacific
26 Jan 03 | Asia-Pacific
24 Jan 03 | Asia-Pacific
22 Jan 03 | Asia-Pacific
10 Jan 03 | Asia-Pacific
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