SEOUL, (AFP) - A long convoy of lorries believed to be carrying gifts for North Korea's elite was seen entering the communist state on the eve of a major holiday, according to a South Korean Internet newspaper.
The Daily NK, staffed by anti-Pyongyang activists, said Tuesday it had received video footage of more than 200 trucks crossing the Yalu River nose-to-tail from China on April 14.
The North celebrates the anniversary of the birth of its founder Kim Il-Sung on April 15.
It often marks the occasion by presenting party and military elites with gifts such as televisions, watches and home appliances to foster loyalty to current leader Kim Jong-Il, son of the founder.
Such a massive convoy of vehicles crossing the International Friendship Bridge is rarely seen on a normal day, said the Daily NK, which published photos of the trucks on its website (www.dailynk.com/english)
"It should be taken to be the entry of birthday gifts prepared in China for the birthday" on April 15, the newspaper quoted the source, who provided it with the four-minute footage of the trucks, as saying.
"Expensive electronic goods such as big-screen TVs were also seen being loaded at Hualian Warehouse in Dandong," the source said.
Almost all goods heading for North Korea are stored at the warehouse in the northeastern Chinese city before being transported to nearby Sinuiju city, it said.
Despite its chronic shortage of food, the impoverished North is believed to spend millions of dollars to buy such gifts which are usually distributed on the two Kims' birthdays.
Authorities also customarily present gifts to schoolchildren to mark the holidays, but on a much less lavish scale. The children customarily receive cookies, candy, jellies, rice crackers and five pieces of chewing gum.