Dr. Astrid Heiberg, president of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies toured North Korea and, in a press conference in Seoul, South Korea, stressed the dire situation facing North Korean children, "Unless the country receives help soon, it is in danger of losing its young population," she said.
At the same time, US Congressman Tony Hall, widely regarded as a famine expert, spent five days touring Pyongyang, Sariwon, Chongjin, Sinuiju, Hamhung and other cities across the northern part of the Korean peninsula. Representative Hall reported that when he visited a food distribution center, which also had some factory facilities, he didn't find any real food, but only "substitute foods". "What they do is grind these weeds and corn stalks into powder and make noodles out of it," he said, adding that grass and corn stalks are indigestible. Hall showed photos he took in North Korea in which a 10-year old boy was 12 inches shorter than what he should be. Villagers in rural areas who are desperate for food have also been reported to boil tree bark and make a bitter-tasting soup out of it.
A local aid agency conducted a survey, the most thorough of its kind, of over 1000 "food refugees" who risked their lives to cross the China/North Korea border in search of food for their families. The interviews revealed a consistent and tragic picture of desperate conditions in which a typical North Korean family loses from 20-30% of its members to famine-related conditions.