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SEOUL (Reuters Life!) - Not everyone in reclusive North Korea is finding life tough. Take the mud snail and eel farmers -- they are doing a brisk trade.
The country, which for decades has turned its back on the outside world and relied on its "juche" policy of self-reliance, has just had another bad year, battered by typhoons and squeezed by economic sanctions for its nuclear aspirations.
But for those in the business of raising mud snails, employed to remove weed in rice paddies, business is booming.
Paddy fields where mud snails are used for rice cultivation swelled more than eight times last year compared to the previous year, state news agency KCNA reported on Monday.
More than 150 facilities for mud snail raising were built in South Hwanghae Province, the nation's leading granary, it reported.
On the same day, KCNA reported eel production is also on the increase at the Taedonggang Eel Breeding Farm. Its Manager Sin Kwang Ho, 54, said that his farm produced dozens of tons of more eel per hectare last year than the previous year.
"The farm introduced cutting-edge technique as breeding fish in ponds after mixing cold water with warm water and taking measures for preventing diseases," KCNA said.
Tensions rose sharply on the Korean peninsula last year following two deadly attacks on the South, but Pyongyang has this year reached out to Seoul pleading for talks to resolve their standoff.
Reporting by Jeremy Laurence; editing by Elaine Lies