From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
PC(USA) Seeks North Korea License
04 May 1996 20:49:38
95449 PC(USA) Seeks North Korea License
by Alexa Smith
LOUISVILLE, Ky.--Officials of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) have decided
to channel flood relief work in North Korea through the National Council of
Churches (NCC) for the time being, while applying to the U.S. government
for a license to ship goods there directly.
Since the U.S. government prohibits trade with North Korea, all
transactions with that country must be licensed by the U.S. Treasury
Department. The NCC's relief arm, Church World Service (CWS), was licensed
Oct. 30 to send rice and medicine from China into North Korea because of
devastating floods there last summer displaced more than 100,000 families
and ruined the country's rice crop.
Application for the PC(U.S.A.)'s individual license will take time,
denominational staff say, but flood relief aid is needed immediately.
"We have long-term interests and needs in North Korea," said the
PC(U.S.A.)'s chief financial officer, G. A. Pat Goff. "So we'll find some
way to utilize [the NCC's] license and continue our own pursuits."
Goff said the denomination has already applied for licenses to ship
goods to church partners in Cuba and Iran, other countries where U.S.
government sanctions restrict trade -- including humanitarian aid and other
kinds of transactions between churches and nongovernmental agencies.
Applications are being completed now to seek licensing for North Korea
Victor Hsu, director of the NCC's East Asia/Pacific Office, said the
bulk of the CWS money is buying rehydration tablets and antibiotics to
combat a widespread cholera outbreak in North Korea in the aftermath of
flooding. "At the moment, we're sending medication because it is most
urgently needed," Hsu told the Presbyterian News Service. "But if
additional funds come in, we'd like to send rice, as we have a license to
Hsu said goods will be shipped to the Korean Christian Federation
(KCF), an alliance of Protestant churches. The KCF will move that
assistance into government channels for distribution. "The [North Korea]
church is not equipped to have operational-type relief. It has no such
mandate," he said. But churches are beginning to talk about developing a
church-related agency modeled after China'a Amity Foundation to fund and
monitor projects in North Korea, he added.
Presbyterian Church officials expect licensing to allow only a very
specific transfer of goods -- not money.
The Rev. Dan Rift, new associate director for global service and
witness in the Worldwide Ministries Division, says the PC(U.S.A.) wants its
own license so it may be involved in "longer-term rebuilding of the life
and witness of the church" in North Korea.
He said requests have already been received from North Korean
Christians for Bibles, hymnals and theological training materials.
In October the General Assembly Council budgeted $450,000 for pastoral
training and development of Christian education materials in North Korea.
The church will use money that has been accumulating in a Korean Program
Funds account ever since the Korean War broke out in 1950 and the country
was closed to U.S. mission workers.
Goff described State and Treasury Department officials as helpful and
"gracious" about interpreting rules and regulations for permissable
transactions to churches in countries cutoff by the U.S. government's
Trading with the Enemy Act. "Within some limits, they were encouraging
about the possibilities," he said. The denomination will probably still
hope to do more than licensing will allow, he added.
Violations of the act carry criminal penalties, with corporate fines
up to $1 million.
The NCC's license allows for the purchase and reexportation of $75,000
in rice and medicine (teracycline, dioxicline, chloramphenicol and
bactrimseptra) from China to North Korea. It specifically prohibits any
transfer of funds and mandates full recording of all transactions. The
license expires Aug. 31, 1996.
The PC(U.S.A.)'s $50,000 contribution to this effort comes from the
One Great Hour of Sharing Offering.
For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
phone 502-569-5504 fax 502-569-8073
E-mail PCUSA.NEWS@pcusa.org Web page: http://www.pcusa.org
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