By Cole Hill ( | First Posted: Jan 28, 2013 03:05 PM EST

Reports suggest hunger in the country may be widespread as a “litany of horrors [have been] documented by undercover reporters,” with one man even reportedly digging up his grandchild’s corpse for food. (Photo : Reuters)

North Korea isn't exactly renowned for its high standard of living, but have things gotten so dire in the country its people are resorting to cannibalism just to stay alive?

News from the insular nation can be notoriously unreliable at times, but numerous reports from the region are claiming food shortages in North Korea have gotten so bad, and the people so desperate, that some men are now murdering their own children for food. The reports come from independent reporters commissioned by Asia Press, a independent press agency focusing on Asia, and were published by U.K. newspaper the Sunday Times.

"A father in North Korea is reported to have been executed by firing squad after murdering his two children to eat them during a 'hidden famine' that may have killed more than 10,000 people last year," wrote the Sunday Times of one known incident of cannibalism in the country.

The newspaper suggests that hunger in the country may be widespread as a "litany of horrors [have been] documented by undercover reporters," with one man even reportedly digging up his grandchild's corpse for food, and another who boiled his own child and ate the flesh.

The reports were compiled from the Asia Press' network of "citizen journalists" inside North Korea, which are regarded as credible, according to the Sunday Times. Stories of famine in the country highlight the hopeless nature of these atrocities.

One such bone-chilling anecdote in the Sunday Times states:

"While his wife was away on business he killed his eldest daughter and, because his son saw what he had done, he killed his son as well. When the wife came home, he offered her food, saying: 'We have meat.'"

"But his wife, suspicious, notified the Ministry of Public Security, which led to the discovery of part of their children's bodies under the eaves."

The "dozens of interviews" the news agency conducted and numerous clandestine reports have led Asia Press to believe that "considerable numbers of people" - quite possibly much more than the reported 10,000 - have perished in the North and South Hwanghae provinces, south of Pyongyang, the nation's capital, The Atlantic Wire reported.

Of course, one big question looms: Is this truth or nothing more than urban legend? Considering North Korea's propensity for propaganda over accuracy, you'll likely never get a straight answer or hear the country confirm such information. The Asia Press is another story. The publication's use of citizen reporters in famine-stricken regions in the last year adds veracity to their claims, and The Sunday Times, and The Independent consider their reports "credible."

This also is sadly not the first time we've heard of reports of cannibalism within North Korea. During another food shortage in 2003, there were refugee accounts that citizens in the country began killing and eating their children and even selling their children's corpses, the Atlantic Wire reported.

"Aid agencies are alarmed by refugees' reports that children have been killed and corpses cut up by people desperate for food," the Telegraph's Mark Nicol reported at the time.

"Requests by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) to be allowed access to 'farmers' markets', where human meat is said to be traded, have been turned down by Pyongyang, citing 'security reasons.'"

Perhaps the best evidence for the legitimacy of these reports: when North Korea was devastated by hard storms and flooding in summer 2012, the country almost accepted aid from infamous rival South Korea. 

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