From the Worldwide Faith News archives

PC(USA) Seeks North Korea License

Date 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 
and Iraq. 
     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   Web page: 


Browse month . . . Browse month (sort by Source) . . . Advanced Search & Browse . . . WFN Home