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Severe Drought Korean*

05/24/2001 - Updated 09:02 AM ET

Severe drought hits the Korean peninsula

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea said Thursday that it would spend an additional $7.7 million to fight a prolonged drought threatening the rice harvest.

The money, for building irrigation channels and drilling wells, is in addition to $15.3 million spent earlier this year. The dry spell began in March and is also affecting impoverished North Korea.

Weather officials say the rainfall total so far this year in South Korea is 8.4 inches — one third below average. The drought is expected to continue in some areas until June, past the rice-planting season which begins in May.

The northern part of South Korea has been most severely hit, and authorities have cut back drinking water supplies to some towns north of the capital Seoul.

In North Korea, about 150,000 acres of crops had been damaged by drought as of last week, state news agency KCNA reported.

North Korea's farm industry has been devastated by flood, drought and mismanagement, forcing the impoverished, communist country to rely on outside aid since 1995 to feed its 22 million people.

More than 200,000 people died of starvation and hunger-related diseases in the late 1990s. Last month, a U.N. official said North Korea has just two-thirds of the food it needs to get through the year.

(Original Len: 1613 Condensed Len: 1928)

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