Postage stamps paper over a crumbling nation

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The Independent Online

The image of a smiling farmer surrounded by a harvest of plenty in North Korea hides the reality – many people in the country face starvation after a harsh winter.

The picture is one of four from recently issued stamps that reflected the isolationist state's aims to improve industry.

In the past eight months, Pyongyang has been accused of launching two unprovoked military attacks on South Korea. But the situation in the impoverished North is so bad that the United States is considering resuming food aid, despite considering the country a rogue state.

The US suspended food handouts to the impoverished North in 2009, after monitors were expelled. Resuming the assistance would be politically sensitive.