Charity flight to North

Korea Herald
9/5/2007

A Boeing 747 carrying 75 tons of emergency relief goods worth $8 million arrived in Pyongyang last week by a direct flight from the United States, while denuclearization talks between the two countries were making progress in Geneva.

Officials here say it was the first time that a full planeload of U.S. emergency relief materials were delivered to North Korea since Pyongyang began accepting private U.S. donations in the mid-1990s after severe floods hit the country. The airlift, provided by Samaritan’s Purse, a North Carolina-based Christian charity organization, consisted of medicine, medical supplies, antibiotics, temporary shelter materials and other items needed for the relief of flood victims.

U.S. transport authorities gave their permission for what was known as “the first direct flight from continental U.S. to North Korea since the Korean War.” Airlifted supplies included goods purchased with a $50,000 grant from the U.S. government, according to a press release from Samaritan’s Purse, currently represented by Franklin Graham, son of the late evangelist Billy Graham. A dispatch from the (North) Korean Central News Agency said Pyongyang’s Foreign Minister Pak Ui-chun met the American visitors who delivered the relief materials.

The American charity group’s swift, large-scale delivery of emergency aid was a noteworthy gesture of friendship, shown in response to the disastrous floods last month. After years of extreme antagonism over the North’s nuclear armament, such a people-to-people exchange of goodwill is inspiring.

The Graham family has special relations with North Korea: Billy Graham’s wife, Ruth Bell, attended Pyongyang Foreign School in the 1930s, Billy Graham visited North Korea twice in the 1990s and other family members traveled to the country in recent years. At a time when diplomatic relations are being explored between the two countries, such personal ties can prove valuable in promoting mutual understanding. Many hope “swords into ploughshares” will not remain a biblical prophecy.

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An affiliate of 38 North