Archive for the ‘Christian Friends of Korea’ Category

DPRK requests flood assistance from US NGO

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

According to the Korea Times:

Christian Friends of Korea (CFK) said on its website last week that the North asked them to respond to a need for food, medicine and construction materials to the “fullest extent possible” to deal with “significant” flood damage.

The organization said it will follow through on a planned visit to North Korea later this month and assess flash flood destruction in the areas it works in.

This marks the first time a U.S.-based NGO has reported receiving an aid request directly from the North Korean government.

“We know from visits in years past of the damage and misery that (can) occur in the DPRK following heavy flooding,” it said.

The North’s official KNCA reported earlier this month that the flooding, brought on by torrential rain, had destroyed homes, roads and buildings. Almost 15,000 hectares of farmland were submerged, it said.

It reported casualties in Jagang and South Hamgyong provinces near its border with China but did not elaborate on how many, nor if people had died. China has also been coping with its worst flooding in decades.

The report did not indicate the level of need for outside help.

CFK is currently working to treat and control tuberculosis in the North, including refurbishing clinics and providing training. It said that in requesting aid, the government asked that it not divert from the medical work.

The original purpose of the planned trip was to confirm earlier aid shipments that included food, medical supplies, greenhouses and farming equipment.

The aid request came amid concerns regarding rivers near the border with China, which have swollen to dangerous levels. Xinhua News Agency reported earlier in the week that more heavy rain is expected in China.

Read the full story here:
N. Korea requests flood aid from U.S.-based NGO
Korea Times
Kim Young-jin
8/17/2010

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CanKor on DPRK-Canadian assistance

Sunday, June 6th, 2010

According to CanKor Report #323, 2 June 2010:

North Korea began opening up to nongovernmental organizations in the 1990s, when severe food shortages forced it to seek outside aid. While both the famine of the mid-90s and the efforts to alleviate it got a good deal of press at the time, attention to this aspect of North Korea has fallen off in recent years as most press coverage now deals with the nuclear issues or questions of leadership succession. But while NGO activities may have dropped off over the last decade, a select few groups continue in their efforts to better the lives of ordinary North Koreans, despite all the limitations and difficulties they face in doing so.

CanKor has collected a partial list of nongovernmental organizations from the non-six-party talk countries currently engaged in humanitarian activities in North Korea. While some have been left out at their own request due to the politically sensitive nature of their work, we will endeavour to present regular updates on current or new projects in the DPRK. Readers are encouraged to write in and inform us of any activities we may report.

Featured Project:  Mennonite Central Committee

MCC has been engaged in the DPRK since the mid 1990s, the earlier years through the Canadian Food Grains Bank (CFGB) in partnership with other organizations to support the Food Aid Liaison Unit (FALU), and also together with other non-resident NGOs such as Caritas International, American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), and Foods Resource Bank/Church of the Brethren Global Foods Crisis Fund to support sustainable agriculture and provide humanitarian assistance. Between 1995 and 2006, approximately $15 million in food and other material resources was sent to the DPRK by MCC.

Since 2006 and the dissolving of FALU, MCC has worked in the DPRK through its MCC NE Asia office. MCC has continued to send food and material resources to orphanages, initially via First Steps, and eventually in direct relationship. Soymilk production equipment was also provided to assist orphanages and soymilk production facilities to increase production of their own nutritional needs. MCC also sends food and material resources to tuberculosis hospitals and rest homes through its partnership with Christian Friends of Korea. Greenhouses have also been provided to enable these facilities to raise more of their own food needs.

Here   is a story on MCC’s partnership with First Steps in sending soybeans to orphanages in the DPRK and

Here   is a story on MCC’s cooperation with Christian Friends of Korea in sending food and other material resources to TB facilities.

Beginning in 2009, MCC is partnering with the Ministry of Agriculture in the DPRK on a three- year food security project. Given the success of conservation agriculture in other climatically-similar districts around the world, including Asia and Canada, this project aims to build longer-term food security at three cooperative farms and surrounding areas by increasing the scale of conservation agriculture practiced on each farm.

This is being done through the provision of technical support, training, specialized equipment and inputs. The program will benefit 12,287 residents on the three project farms. The total budget for the 3-year project is U.S.$1 million, with approximately 75% of the funding provided through CFGB and the remainder through individual donations to MCC. Click here   for a news release about the conservation agriculture project. In the interest of further engagement, MCC has also hosted delegations from the DPRK in both the U.S. and Canada, most recently an agricultural delegation to Canada in the fall of 2008. MCC also looks for ways to advocate DPRK engagement with Canadian and American governments. MCC seeks to share its resources in the name of Christ with those in need, placing emphasis on people-to-people relationships.

CanKor has more on NGOs here.

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DPRK scales back humanitarian work

Monday, March 16th, 2009

Below are excerpts from the Financial Times:

Pyongyang has told Washington that United Nations World Food Programme [WFP] staff will be barred from distributing food aid after March. The Stalinist regime has also told US non-governmental organisations to leave this month, and rescinded permission for other humanitarian groups to visit, the Financial Times has learned.

In an agreement last year, the US agreed to provide North Korea with 500,000 tonnes of food. The WFP was responsible for distributing 400,000 tonnes, with a consortium of NGOs led by MercyCorps in charge of the remainder.

In recent months, however, after North Korea refused to allow sufficient numbers of Korean speakers to join the WFP team, Washington halted food supplies.

Pyongyang has responded by barring food aid workers from operating in the country. So far, the US has supplied 100,000 tonnes to the WFP, and another 70,000 tonnes to the NGOs, which has not been completely distributed.

A US State Department official said that while the US was satisfied with the number of Korean speakers who were allowed to join the NGOs, it was unhappy that the same situation was not true for the WFP, which is responsible for distributing 80 per cent of the food. In addition to MercyCorps, the other NGOs are World Vision, Global Resource Services, Christian Friends of Korea and Samaritan’s Purse.

The official said the US was also responding to North Korea blocking aid workers from conducting a nutritional survey, which was included in the agreement.

“US aid workers have enjoyed tremendous co-operation in the countryside from North Koreans and we hope the DPRK government in Pyongyang will allow them to continue to feed the hungry,” said a Senate aide involved in North Korean issues. “Food aid should be separated from politics.”

Even before the North Korean threat, WFP had been forced to scale back operations because of the break in US funding. The WFP has only received 4.5 per cent of its $504m budget for North Korean operations. A WFP spokesperson said 4.5m of the 6.2m North Koreans targeted under the programme were not receiving assistance as of December.

“WFP hopes that the US will review the humanitarian situation and that food shipments will resume soon,” the spokesperson added.

North Korea recently informed the US that Eugene Bell, World Care and Kirk Humanitarian – three other US NGOs operating in North Korea – would not be allowed to make visits that were already approved. Pyongyang told the US that the planned visits were being cancelled because of “recent developments”.

Nancy Lindborg, president of MercyCorps, said North Korea sometimes temporarily blocked NGOs from visiting. However, she added that she was “hopeful and confident” that the visits would resume. She said her consortium had a “good working relationship” with its North Korean partners.

Read the full article here:
N Korea-US distrust halts food aid
Financial Times
Demetri Sevastopulo
3/17/2009

Below: State Department Briefing, Mercy Corps Press Release
US State Dept press briefing
Robert Wood, Acting Department Spokesman
March 17, 2009

QUESTION: Do you have anything to say or to confirm about North Korea cutting off or saying it does not want U.S. food aid –
MR. WOOD: Yeah.
QUESTION: — and kicking out U.S. NGOs over an accelerated timeline?
MR. WOOD: Yeah, yeah. North Korea has informed the United States that it does not wish to receive additional U.S. food assistance at this time. And we will work with U.S. NGOs and their North Korean counterparts to ensure that food that’s already been delivered – excuse me, food that’s already in North Korea is distributed to the intended recipients. And one of the things I also want to mention is that we have aimed to implement the U.S.-DPRK food aid program according to the terms agreed to by the United States and the North Korean Government in May 2008.
And I will give you just a breakdown in terms of the amount of food aid that we have provided. The U.S. has delivered 169,000 metric tons of U.S. food to North Korea in 2008 and 2009. The last shipment of U.S. food aid, which was nearly 5,000 metric tons of vegetable oil and soy blend, arrived in North Korea in late January and is being distributed by U.S. NGOs.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) of that?
MR. WOOD: Of which one, the 5,000 metric tons? Yeah, I am sorry. I don’t have any – any value here. We can try and get that to you in the Press Office.
QUESTION: Could you say when you were notified of this and how you were notified?
MR. WOOD: I don’t know, but it was obviously communicated to us by the North Koreans. I don’t know how that was done, whether it was done through the New York channel or some –
QUESTION: (Inaudible)?
MR. WOOD: Yeah, I just – I don’t know.
QUESTION: Last week maybe?
QUESTION: Just a clarification?
MR. WOOD: Yeah.
QUESTION: You said it’s being distributed by U.S. NGOs or UN NGOs?
MR. WOOD: U.S.
QUESTION: U.S.
QUESTION: Of the (inaudible) metric tons, what is it of? Is it grain? Is it – what is it?
MR. WOOD: Well, I’ll have to get the specifics on it, but I refer to our last shipment of U.S. food, which was, you know –
QUESTION: Oil and soy blend.
MR. WOOD: That’s right. I don’t have that breakdown. We can certainly try and get that for you, Sue.
QUESTION: Okay. .
QUESTION: (Inaudible), are you disappointed in this?
MR. WOOD: Of course. Absolutely. I mean, this was a program intended to try to help get food to needy North Koreans, and we’re obviously disappointed in that. This, you know, does not help us implement this agreement that we reached with the North back in 2008, so –
QUESTION: Well, not only does it not help you implement it, it kind of – I mean, are they abrogating the agreement?
MR. WOOD: Well, I don’t have the actual text of the agreement, so I can’t say with absolute specificity that they’re in violation of it. But we have an agreement to try to deliver, you know, this food assistance, and now the North is saying they do not want to receive any more assistance. So you know, we’re concerned about it.
But the food that is there right now in North Korea, we’re going to work with U.S. NGOs, with their North Korean counterparts, to make sure that this assistance gets to the people who –
QUESTION: Can you be a little bit more explicit about why you’re concerned about it, why you’re disappointed?
MR. WOOD: Well, I mean, clearly this is food assistance that the North Korean people need. That’s why we’re concerned. You know, this humanitarian assistance that we provide to the North has nothing to do with the Six-Party Talks. This is about our true humanitarian concern for these people. And as you know, the food situation in North Korea is not a good one, and so we’re very concerned about it.
QUESTION: Did they give you any explanation why they won’t – they didn’t want any more?
MR. WOOD: They have just said that they do not want to receive any additional food assistance at this time. That’s about as far as they went.
QUESTION: But no reason was provided at all? Just a one-sentence note you got?
MR. WOOD: I mean, it’s – I don’t know if it was one sentence that was given to us, but you know, that was the bottom line. And that’s the most important part of this.
QUESTION: And when did they inform you?
MR. WOOD: It was, I think, over the last couple of days, I believe.
QUESTION: Robert, do you know what the accelerated timeline for the withdrawal of the NGOs will be?
MR. WOOD: I don’t know.
QUESTION: It was supposed to be the end of May.
MR. WOOD: Yeah, I don’t know. Again, probably the best folks to address that are the North Koreans.

Press Release by relief organizations:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 19, 2008                                                                     

STATEMENT OF NGO PARTNERS ON CESSATION OF FOOD AID PROGRAM IN THE DEMOCRATIC PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF KOREA (DPRK)

Contacts:  Joy Portella, +1.206.437.7885, jportella@sea.mercycorps.org

March 19, 2009—The following is a statement issued by the NGO Partners that have been distributing food aid in the DPRK through a program supported by the U.S. Agency fro International Development (USAID). The NGO Partnership is led by Mercy Corps, co-led by World Vision, and includes Christian Friends of Korea, Global Resource Services and Samaritan’s Purse:

This week, North Korean authorities have asked us to close the USAID-supported food assistance program that we have been operating since June 2008. Our joint team, dedicated to this program, will leave the DPRK by the end of March.
 
We are saddened by this decision, but are very proud of what the program has accomplished.  Working closely with our North Korean partner, we have ensured that food reached almost one million vulnerable children, pregnant and nursing mothers and the elderly.
 
Each of our organizations has worked in the DPRK for more than a decade. We remain committed to assistance in that country, and our individual, on-going programs focused on health, water, sanitation and agriculture will continue as before.
 
The NGO Food Assistance program is part of a larger 500,000 metric ton initiative supported by USAID in which the World Food Program was to distribute 400,000 metric tons of food and the NGO Partners were to distribute 100,000 metric tons.  In the ten months of this program, 169,000 metric tons of food has been delivered to the DPRK, of which the U.S. NGOs have brought in 71,000 metric tons of food.  This food from NGOs has benefitted more than 900,000 people in the two north west provinces of Chagang and North Pyongan.
 
This has been a model program with unparalleled monitoring cooperation to ensure that food gets to those most in need. Our in-country staff of 16 people has worked closely with our North Korean partners.
 
The NGO food assistance program was scheduled to run until the end of May 2009. Until the end of the month, we will work with our North Korean partners to ensure a proper close-out.
 
We remain committed to helping the people of the DPRK to overcome hunger and improve their lives. The food program resulted from the tremendous humanitarian need in the DPRK. We will continue to work—as individual agencies and in cooperative partnerships—to address these needs. We hope the success of this program will serve as a model for the future.

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A Dangerous Opportunity in North Korea

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

United Methodist Church: Kentucky Annual Conference
Dr. Bill Moore
7/31/2008

Dr. Bill Moore, the pastor of Southern Hills United Methodist Church in Lexington, was in North Korea May 14-29.  The son of United Methodist missionaries, he is a member of a humanitarian aid group called Christian Friends of Korea.  He offers a perspective on a deepening crisis.

I traveled to North Korea during the last two weeks of May as a member of a six-person delegation from a non-government organization (NGO) called Christian Friends of Korea. We flew into the capital city of Pyong Yang to confirm the arrival and proper distribution of donated goods, to deliver donors lists and greetings, and to build relationships and trust. The Board of Directors for this group, of which I am a member, is composed of former missionaries to Korea, the children of missionaries, and others with a concern to relieve the suffering and hardships of the people of this grim Communist dictatorship called the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  It is often hard to see the suffering faces of the 23 million North Koreans hidden behind the headlines of international diplomatic struggle and nuclear intrigue.  Famine, floods (two devastating events in 2007), and mismanagement have left the nation in economic ruin. Christian Friends of Korea (CFK) has been quietly working in the DPRK for 13 years, meeting some of the most basic needs of thousands of people struggling with the life-threatening, but curable disease of tuberculosis. CFK’s efforts to show love and compassion to people who continue to endure food shortages, poverty, disease, and oppression are building trust and chipping away at long-standing hostility.   
 
North Korea is a beautiful place in May.  Everything had greened up nicely.  The cottonwood trees had deposited wind-blown piles of downy fluff in the roadways, blanketing the bushes and spider webs.  The guest house on the banks of the Taedong River near Pyong Yang where our Christian Friends of Korea Team stayed for most of the visit had a dense backdrop of vegetation, populated by ring neck pheasant, which appeared unfazed by the foreigners nearby and sounded off regularly.  The acacia trees were in full bloom.

As we moved through the countryside, the workers on the collective farms were transplanting rice plants into the paddy fields.  This is a critical phase of life in the north, and everyone is expected to take part.  Backs bent, barefooted workers move slowly across the fields.  On the mud dikes of the water-filled paddies there are often patriotic slogans on placards, revolutionary red flags flying, and even sound trucks playing inspirational songs.  This idyllic picture of a worker’s paradise belies a truth that is not readily apparent.  The coming fall harvest, which is vital to a nation where one-third of the people suffer from malnutrition, is already in jeopardy.  Previous large shipments of fertilizer from South Korea have been withheld this year for political reasons.  China has pledged to fill the gap, but nothing has arrived yet.  Aid workers from other countries told us that the potato crop is already stunted, and predicted that the rice crop will be twenty-five percent less this year.  Even in years of good harvests, North Korea still falls about 1 million metric tons short of food, out of an estimated 5 million tons needed.    This year the shortfall is expected to exceed 1.6 million metric tons.  For those receiving rations, the daily government ration of grain per person was reduced from 250 grams to 150 grams in June.  Uncertain food aid, coupled with poor food security (effective agricultural production) means an increase among the populace in susceptibility to disease, particularly tuberculosis, which afflicts an estimated five percent of the North Korean people.  In fact, since last year, the registered cases of TB have risen from 52,000 to 100,000 cases.

This was the backdrop for our journey to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea as an NGO working to provide medicine (specifically tuberculosis treatment drugs), medical equipment, farm machinery, vehicles, construction materials and food for the people of the DPRK.  The needs are real, and the urgency is intensifying. The Chinese character for “crisis” is composed of two other characters: “danger” and “opportunity.” As we traveled to fourteen different medical facilities, we could see that there is a “dangerous opportunity’ to make a difference in this land, and bring hope to many lives.

Our team was a diverse, ecumenical mix of six people.  Our Executive Director, Heidi Linton, grew up in Alaska, married into a famous Presbyterian missionary family, and has effectively immersed herself in the work of Christian Friends of Korea for the last 13 years.  By her indomitable spirit, genuine integrity, and meticulous attention to detail for providing aid and assistance, she has endeared herself to the North Korean leaders assigned to us through the Ministry of Public Health and forged a working relationship which is highly effective.  Dr. John Somerville, retired Presbyterian missionary, was our official Korean speaker on the trip.  A Harvard graduate in Asian studies, Dr. Somerville spent many years teaching in South Korea, and has visited the north on 10 previous visits.  Paul Moffett, a pastor at Lighthouse Christian Center in Puyallup, WA, is the great-grandson of pioneer Presbyterian missionary Samuel Moffett, who came to Pyong Yang in 1905.  Lee Wheeler is an agricultural engineer from Hesston, KS, representing the Mennonite Central Committee, a CFK partner.  He is a greenhouse expert who has also made 10 trips to the DPRK.   Terry Smith, Heidi’s able assistant, came from Memphis, TN and now lives in Black Mountain (headquarters of CFK).  I rounded out the team.  I’m the son of United Methodist missionaries, James and Margaret Moore.  My grandfather, Dr. Stanley Martin, was a Canadian Presbyterian medical missionary in China and Korea.  I grew up in Seoul, South Korea.

Our purpose in traveling to North Korea for Christian Friends of Korea was to make a “confirming” visit, checking to make sure that the supplies and equipment (more than three million dollars worth sent since January) had been properly received, inventoried and distributed; to present lists of donors to the facility directors; and to build relationships and trust with everyone with whom we had contact.  We were accompanied at all times by young government officials who were both personable and efficient, and escorted us to every location.  They shared with us a passion and concern for the welfare of their people.  Part of this work was to visit two warehouse locations to make sure supplies were moving out to the facilities.  This is important also to make way for incoming shipping containers.  It is noteworthy that our North Korean counterparts in the Ministry of Public Health value the aid assistance of CFK and a similar NGO so much that they actually built a spacious warehouse just for receiving shipments to be distributed to CFK ministry sites.  A forklift sent by CFK donors was in use there. The other main task of confirming was to visit the actual facilities, interview directors, staff, and patients, and assess the priorities and needs of each place.  These visits were the heart of our schedule.

A typical trip to one of the hospitals or TB rest homes began with a convoy of vehicles traveling to the locations scheduled for the day.  The road surface usually began with paved roads of varying quality that soon gave way to a washboard gravel road, a muddy track snaking up into the hills, or even a rocky stream bed that had to be forded.  Once we arrived, we were greeted by the director, doctors, nurses, and various local officials.  We would be seated around a table with refreshments provided for the visitors (strawberries, peanuts, tea), introductions would be made, the donor list presented in Korean with an explanation, and Heidi Linton would begin the process of inquiry.  What is the current situation in this place?  How many TB patients are there?   How did the devastating floods of 2007 affect the facility and patients?  What are your priorities here?  Is there enough food for the patients?  Local Communist party officials who attended the meetings were visibly uncomfortable about discussions of flood damage or food shortages.  Furtive glances were sometimes exchanged before hospital staff would answer such questions.  The stock answer: “The government provides us with food.” 

Questions would be asked about the arrival of vitamins, health kits, bedding, laundry soap, Pedialyte, doctor’s kits, hospital beds, and TB medicine.  Food shipments of canned meat, soy beans and dry vegetable soup mix were checked on.  A list of donors was presented to the directors at each location.  New equipment was sometimes delivered, including new electronic microscopes and a “Lab in a Suitcase,” a sophisticated package of diagnostic equipment to identify infected TB patients.  Some sites had cargo tri-motorcycles to transport supplies slated for delivery.  A new kind of greenhouse, which does not require an additional heat source even in frigid temperatures, was offered at each place.  A tour of the facilities meant a chance to meet the patients, to inquire about their health, and to offer best wishes and prayers for swift recovery.  Outside, the greenhouses, which are so important for supplementing meager government rations, would be inspected. Walking tractors and bicycles provided by CFK were noted.

One of the highlights of the journey was to see the wonderful progress that has been made in the construction of modern surgical facilities at both the North Hwangae TB Hospital in Sariwon and the South Hwangae TB Hospital in Haeju.  The surgical suites, built with the expertise and direction of CFK Technical Teams, feature new anti-microbial tile on the walls, non-skid floor tiles, power conditioners and new electrical wiring, heating/AC, lighting, and new surgical equipment and supplies enabling more complicated procedures and greatly improved surgical outcomes.  One patient, who had been brought to Sariwon for an operation from a TB rest home, remarked when he saw the gleaming facility, “I feel like I am cured already!”  The result of the renovations is stronger confidence among patients that healing will occur, and the number of patients willing to undergo surgery has tripled.  Because of the sterile conditions, post-operative infection has been greatly reduced.  Eighty percent of the patients used to have post-op infections.  Now it is down to 1 in 5 patients.  We also saw the preparations for a similar renovation at the Kaesong Provincial Pediatric Hospital (serving 144,000 children) where the surgery area has been stripped to the bare stones in preparation for the $200,000 make-over made possible by a CFK donor.  In earlier days this was a Methodist mission hospital, visited by my grandfather who installed x-ray equipment there in the early 1920’s.  At Hwangju TB Rest Home construction is under way to build new facilities that will house150 or more patients.  The buildings will replace two others that were destroyed in last year’s floods.  They need a roof right away, followed by windows and doors.  This is a critical need, and participation from United Methodist Churches would be most welcome in raising funds for this vital construction need.

While there are very encouraging signs of progress at CFK projects, there are specific needs that must be immediately addressed.  There is an expected shortfall in TB medicine, especially in terms of DOTS (Directly Observed Treatment Short Course) drugs which, when given under supervision, are very effective.  Because of a loss of funding by the World Health Organization, CFK is being asked to provide 12,000 treatments in our regions (North and South Hwanghae and Kaesong) which will cost in excess of $245,000.  In response to the deepening food crisis, two 40-foot containers of canned meat will be shipped before the end of the year in a joint effort with the Mennonite Central Committee, who generously provides $500,000 worth of this commodity to CFK projects annually.

Everywhere the CFK Team went on this confirming visit there were expressions of gratitude.  When one director was asked what further assistance he needed for his facility, he exclaimed, “You have already sent a lot!”  Heidi Linton responded that God in His love had provided these things.  The director’s response: “Please send thanks to our Christian friends in America.”

You might be asking: what does the work of Christian Friends of Korea have to do with The United Methodist Church?  It is difficult to do any kind of Christian ministry in North Korea since traditional denominational mission work is not allowed, but an effort through a non-government organization makes it possible.  When needs are critical, we must find mission partners wherever we can.  The mission of CFK also addresses two of the priorities coming out of General Conference: engaging ministry with the poor (preventing starvation) and making the world malaria free, AIDS-free, and tuberculosis free.  Here’s a piece of good news—the US government is in the process of shipping a total of 500,000 tons of food to North Korea as a result of some movement in the nuclear negotiations.  The United Nations World Food Program will distribute 400,000 tons throughout the DPRK.  As a part of this initiative, on June 30 it was announced that the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) office of Food for Peace will work with 5 aid agencies to distribute 100,000 metric tons of food to 550,000 people at risk, mostly children, elderly and nursing mothers, in two North Korean provinces.  The agencies involved in this effort are World Vision, Mercy Corps, Global Resource Services, Samaritan’s Purse, and Christian Friends of Korea.

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