From the Worldwide Faith News archives


Date 04 May 1996 20:51:51


                      RELIEF TO NORTH KOREA 
                          by Alexa Smith 
LOUISVILLE, Ky.--Though $50,000 from the One Great Hour of Sharing offering 
has been committed for flood and cholera relief in North Korea, getting it 
there is another matter entirely. 
     Trade is prohibited and gifts into the Democratic People's Republic of 
Korea (DPRK)  are restricted by the U.S. government while the few 
permissible transactions with North Korea have been monitored by the Office 
of Foreign Assets Control since 1950, when economic sanctions were first 
put into place against that country. 
     Violations of the Trading with the Enemy Act carry criminal penalties, 
with corporate fines up to $1 million. 
     This means that religious organizations must apply for a license with 
the Treasury Department to send humanitarian relief to the DPRK.  The 
National Council of Churches' (NCC's) application for sending humanitarian 
aid is currently under review -- and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is 
debating whether to seek its own license or to piggyback its relief efforts 
on those of another licensed nongovernmental agency. 
     "We've committed the funds," said the Rev. Dan Rift, coordinator for 
international relief for Presbyterian World Service. "And we will abide by 
U.S. policy.  "But we also want to affirm our friendship with the Christian 
community in North Korea." 
     More than 100,000 families are homeless as a result of heavy summer 
flooding in at least three North Korean provinces, ruining the rice crop 
that feeds that country's 21.2 million people.  Estimates of damage are 
running at about $15 billion, according to Church World Service (CWS), the 
NCC's relief arm, and government officials are now saying a cholera 
outbreak is threatening at least a quarter of the nation's population. 
     The disaster has evoked the first appeal for emergency help ever from 
the North Korean government to the outside world.  And according to 
Ecumenical News International in Geneva, it is also the first time the 
Korean Christian Federation (KCF), an alliance of North Korea's Protestant 
churches, has been involved in an international relief program, requesting 
aid for food, medical supplies, clothing and building materials. 
     The Rev. Syngman Rhee of the Worldwide Ministries Division sees 
attempts to send aid as a "tangible expression" of the PC(USA)'s commitment 
to peaceful reconciliation between North and South Korea -- a commitment 
evidenced when leaders of both North and South Korean Christian groups 
gathered with Presbyterians at the General Assembly in Cincinnati.  "This 
is much more than simply relief for suffering people," Rhee told the 
Presbyterian News Service.  "This is a stepping-stone in a greater 
reconciliation process." 
     CWS has issued a $100,000 appeal and plans to give $50,000 to the KCF 
in Pyongyang.  The funds will be used to purchase and ship rice and cholera 
medication from China -- if its license is approved. 
     "We've been assured by the State Department this is an emergency 
situation," said Victor Hsu, the NCC's director of its East Asia/Pacific 
Office, adding that the appeal came to CWS from the North Korean 
government.  "The floods are documented.  The needs are great." 
     Hsu said the appeal is an indication of an evolution in the thinking 
in North Korea, which has historically not wanted to rely on external 
assistance.  But the economy there, he said, suffered deeply with the 
collapse of Eastern Europe's socialist market in the late 1980s. 
     PC(USA) officials will meet with representatives of both the 
Department of the Treasury and the State Department about securing a 
license within the next few weeks. 
     Calling North Korea a "critical mission frontier," Worldwide 
Ministries Division director the Rev. Cliff Kirkpatrick said the PC(USA) is 
"working to find an avenue. ... 
     "We've not had the invitation or the opportunity before," he said, 
referring to both the flood relief efforts and a newly approved GAC 
initiative to work with the KCF supporting training of pastors and lay 
leaders and development of Christian education materials. 
     Action by Churches Together (ACT), a Geneva-based network of church 
and related agencies associated with the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) 
and the World Council of Churches (WCC), issued an appeal Sept. 29 for $1 
million U.S. for emergency relief supplies. 
     "Do we do mission only where our government approves us to do it? Is 
that the nature of Christian mission?" questioned the Rev. Insik Kim, 
Worldwide Minstries Division coordinator for East Asia/Pacific when asked 
about obstacles to mission in North Korea.  "We have a record, a history. 
 ...  [Even in] Nazi Germany we aided those confessing churches in Germany 
in the midst of that terrible regime. 
     "We were not," he said, "helping Hitler.  But we were in solidarity 
with the confessing churches in Nazi Germany." 
     Presbyterians wishing to contribute to the relief efforts in North 
Korea may send a check marked for "Korean Flood Relief, # 9-2000122" to 
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Central Receiving Service, 100 Witherspoon 
St., Louisville, KY 40202-1396.  

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: 


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