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N Korea at crossroads

North Korean trash offers window into its economy

South Korean scholar studies litter from the North for signs of change

Left, Kang Dong-wan collects trash from North Korea. (Photo courtesy of Kang Dong-wan) Right, a North Korean soldier stands in front of a pile of garbage near Sinuiju in 2009.    © Reuters

SEOUL -- North Korean media recently described 2022 as the worst year for the country, as it battled international economic sanctions and waves of COVID-19 infections.

It is difficult to assess the severity of the hardship the isolated nation is experiencing, but one South Korean scholar is trying to get a better grasp of the situation by studying litter that drifts from the North, including discarded candy wrappers and snack packaging.

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