Archive for the ‘International/Korean Red Cross’ Category

Red Cross to increase aid to DPRK in 2014

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

According to Yonhap:

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said Wednesday that it plans to give US$7.15 million worth of aid to North Korea in 2014, up 7.8 percent from this year.

The organization also said in its updated 2012-15 long-term report that it will allocate $7.96 million for 2015 to help the communist country.

The report showed that the IFRC set aside $6.63 million to help the impoverished country this year, up from $4.40 million spent in 2012.

It said money will be spent on improving public health, sanitation and infrastructure to help the North upgrade its ability to cope with natural disasters.

The report added that Red Cross aims to help around 350,000 North Koreans who are vulnerable to disasters and poverty.

The IFRC, meanwhile, speculated that there were over 3.13 million North Koreans who were displaced form their homes, with 147 having lost their lives due to various natural disasters last year.

The North was hard hit by torrential rains and Typhoon Bolaven in the summer of 2012.

Read the full story here:
Int’l Red Cross aid to N. Korea to rise 7.8 pct in 2014
Yonhap
2013-10-23

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2013 flooding compendium

Friday, August 16th, 2013

UPDATE 9 (2013-8-16): ROK Red Cross to provide $100,000 flood relief to DPRK. According to Yonhap:

The Korean Red Cross plans to provide North Korea with an emergency fund of US$100,000 to help flood victims in the communist country, an official from the organization said Friday.

“The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has asked for our participation in supporting the flood-hit North Korea,” the official said.

“In accordance, we’ve decided in humanitarian terms to send $100,000 to the IFRC to provide the victims there with relief goods.” he added.

The money, which comes from the Korean Red Cross’ own funds reserved for inter-Korean exchanges, is expected to be transferred to an IFRC bank account next week, according to the official.

The IFRC data showed that torrential rains since early July have caused extensive flooding and landslides across the impoverished communist country, killing 33 people and injuring 2 others with 18 still missing. An estimated 4,000 families have lost their homes and 50,000 have been displaced.

The international agency said earlier this month that it has allocated 299,744 Swiss franc to help the North Korean victims, with their relief operation to continue until the end of October.

Last year, the Korean Red Cross provided Pyongyang with $100,000 to help those who suffered from heavy precipitations.

UPDATE 8 (2013-8-6): The UN and South Koreans are contributing to flood relief. According to Yonhap:

The World Food Program (WFP) spokeswoman Nanna Skau said corn is being provided to households that have been hit hard by recent flooding caused by torrential rain, Radio Free Asia reported. She added that assistance is being offered because flooding has caused extensive damage to farmlands and irrigation systems.

The radio broadcast monitored in Seoul said distribution of the grain will continue for the next 30 days, with each recipient being allocated 400 grams per day.

The WFP also said support will be provided to 38,067 people in 10 cities and counties in Pyongan, Hwanghae and Hamgyong provinces.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said torrential rains that caused flooding and landslides left 33 North Koreans dead and displaced roughly 50,000 people from their homes. In places such as Anju in South Pyongan Province, some 80 percent of the city was flooded, resulting in extensive damage to homes and buildings.

Related to the international food effort underway, Korean Sharing Movement, a South Korean non-governmental organization, said it wanted to send emergency food aid to the North and requested permission from Seoul’s Ministry of Unification, which oversees inter-Korean affairs.

The civic groups pointed out that emergency aid shipments have always been permitted in the past regardless of the state of inter-Korean relations.

Cross-border ties have been strained following the North’s detonation of its third nuclear device in February and subsequent tightening of international sanctions. The shutting down of the joint factory park in Kaesong further strained relations.

Seoul has officially maintained that it will allow shipments of humanitarian aid to the North, but made clear it needs to first verify the extent of the flood damage. Officials have cited urgency and ability to make certain that relief will reach those in greatest need as conditions that must be met for aid to be provided. Last week, South Korea approved aid shipments by five local civic organizations.

Reflecting the country’s humanitarian aid policy, the South and North Exchange and Cooperation Promotion Council, which is chaired by the unification minister, approved sending more than US$6.03 million for relief programs organized by the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

The money will be used to provide medicine and vaccines as well as improve the level of nutrition provided to small children, pregnant women and the socially disadvantaged. An additional 15.92 million won (US$14,288) will be sent to UNICEF to help manage the aid programs in North Korea.

UPDATE 7 (2013-8-2): From the United Nations:

Exceptionally heavy seasonal rain in mid-July resulted in flooding in many parts of DPRK Korea. Particularly severely affected are the provinces of North and South Pyongan. Many places had over twice the average rainfall for July in three days. There are a reported 33 deaths with 18 people still missing.

The Government has reported that there has been extensive damage to buildings and infrastructure with a current total of 48,688 people made homeless across the country, mostly in the two provinces of North and South Pyonang. Farmland was inundated with 11,567 hectares affected with around 1,125 hectares of farmland washed away or otherwise destroyed.

UN agencies carried out assessment missions on 24 July to two counties in North Pyongang – Pakchon and Taechon and in those two areas confirmed the scale of the flood damage. Further assessment missions will take place this week.

Damage to water systems is widespread and there is already an increased incidence of diarrhoea in some areas. Anju city, which was 80% flooded will only have its pumping stations fully operational again in about two weeks. 30 other communities have had their drinking water systems damaged.

Damage to agricultural land is extensive though estimates of crop damage vary and further assessment missions in the next week should give a more accurate number once the flood waters have fully receded. Apart from the farmland that was physically swept away or buried, damage to the standing crops may not be as extensive as first reports suggested as many fields were flooded by heavy rain rather than by flash flooding and, unless there is further heavy rain, seem likely to largely recover.

Transport infrastructure has suffered with at least 20 bridges and 11km of embankments and 143 areas where roads have been eroded, washed away or blocked by landslides. Government surveys show that 27 schools were completely destroyed in four provinces, with a further 10 being badly damaged. Many others have suffered more minor damage, though currently it is the summer break, so at present schooling is not being disrupted. Medical facilities such as hospitals, clinics and nursing homes also were affected with 3 being destroyed and 14 badly damaged.

UPDATE 6 (2013-8-4): The North Koreans have cut short military exercises to focus on flood relief. According to the AFP:

The communist state has staged summer military drills that partially coincided with the annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise conducted by its rival South Korea and the United States, that usually takes place in August.

“But this year’s summer drill in the North will be scaled back considerably because it needs to focus on repairing floods damages,” the source was quoted as saying.

Floods caused by heavy rains that pummelled the North since early July have destroyed some 6,000 houses, displaced more than 23,000 people and washed away a large swathes of farmlands, the North’s state media said late last month.

The death toll has reached 33 across the nation and some 13,300 hectares of farmlands have been damaged, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said last week, warning of “longer-term impact” on the country’s food security.

Decades of deforestation and decrepit infrastructure have left the impoverished North vulnerable to floods, which led to some 170 deaths last summer.

UPDATE 5 (2013-8-2): The international Red Cross has said it will provide North Korea with an emergency fund of US$320,000 to help flood victims. According to Yonhap:

The international Red Cross has said it will provide North Korea with an emergency fund of US$320,000 to help flood victims in the communist country.

In a report posted on its website Thursday, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said it has allocated 299,744 Swiss franc from its disaster relief emergency fund “to help the DPRK Red Cross Society in delivering immediate assistance to 5,000 families or 20,000 beneficiaries.”

DPRK stands for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the North’s official name.

Torrential rains since early July have caused extensive flooding and landslides across the impoverished communist country, killing 33 people and injuring 2 others with 18 still missing, according to the IFRC data. An estimated 4,000 families have lost their homes and 50,000 have been displaced.

In response, the agency plans to spend $120,000 to set up a shelter for 5,000 families in the most affected areas of North and South Pyongan and North Hwanghae Provinces, another $100,000 for utensils, and $40,700 for water, sanitation and hygiene works.

“The operation targets to support affected families with essential items … It also supports the operational cost of the two water treatment units and hygiene promotion activities,” the IFRC said in the report.

The relief operation will continue over the next three months until the end of October, it added.

In the wake of the tragedy in the North, the IFRC dispatched an eight-member group of experts to the affected areas and has conducted damage assessment and led relief work.

The fund is a source of un-earmarked money created by the Federation in 1985 to ensure that immediate financial support is available for its emergency response, according to the agency’s website.

UPDATE 4 (2013-7-31): ROK NGOs start shipping humanitarian aid to DPRK. According to Yonhap:

South Korean non-governmental organizations (NGOs) started shipping out humanitarian aid to North Korea on Wednesday to help alleviate the plight of children and sick people in the impoverished country.

The move comes after Seoul’s unification ministry approved the shipment of goods earlier in the week as a sign that South Korea is open to offering urgent humanitarian assistance to the North in spite of sanctions on the North for its nuclear device detonation in February.

The Korea Association of People Sharing Love, one of five NGOs to gain permission to ship goods, said it has ordered the shipment of bread in China for delivery to child-care centers and orphanages in Sinuiju, a North Korean border city with China.

It said other shipments of food will be made in the coming weeks. The organization was allowed to send US$46,000 worth of bread, baby formulas and nutritional supplements.

Medical Aid for Children, another charity group, said it has held a ceremony in Incheon, west of Seoul, to mark the start of its deliveries of antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs.

The group said medical supplies worth 223 million won ($199,700) will be made to a children’s hospital in the North.

Other groups like Green Tree Korea, Okedongmu Children and Stop Hunger said the first of their aid shipments will reach the North next month.

These organization plan to send more than 1.2 billion won worth of warm clothing, blankets, flour, powdered milk to the North in the coming weeks.

The shipments mark the first time in four months that Seoul has approved humanitarian aid to the communist country. The last shipment included tuberculosis medicine sent by the Eugene Bell foundation.

Seoul has imposed a blanket ban on shipments of goods after accusing the North of sinking one of its naval vessels near the South-North sea demarcation line in March 2010.

UPDATE 3 (2013-7-28): South Korea offers flood assistance. According to the New York Times:

South Korea announced $7.3 million worth of humanitarian aid for North Korea on Sunday, a conciliatory gesture that coincided with a call by the South for “one last round” of talks on restarting a jointly operated industrial complex.

The majority of the aid — $6 million — will be provided by the South Korean government and shipped through Unicef, the United Nations children’s agency, which provides vaccines, medicine and nutritional supplements for malnourished children and pregnant women in the impoverished North. Five private humanitarian aid groups from South Korea will provide the remainder; they will also send medicine and food for young children.

The South Korean minister in charge of policy toward the North, Ryoo Kihl-jae, said the aid shipments were not linked to political issues. But the announcement was contained in a statement in which Mr. Ryoo also called for a final round of talks with the North to settle disputes over the Kaesong industrial complex, which has been closed since early April.

There was no immediate response from the North Korean government.

UPDATE 2 (2013-7-25): Christian Friends of Korea (CFK) to provide flood relief. According to Yonhap:

Christian Friends of Korea (CFK), which is already engaged in providing humanitarian assistance to people living in the Hwanghae region, will offer clean drinking water, food and medicine to flood victims, Radio Free Asia reported.

The United Nations said that as of Monday, 24 people have been killed because of flooding while many others have been injured. It said a fact-finding mission has been sent to the isolationist country to assess the full extent of the damage so assistance can be provided.

UPDATE 1 (2013-7-23): According to KCNA (2013-7-23):

Flood Damage Grows in DPRK

Pyongyang, July 23 (KCNA) — Flood damage by consecutive downpour and heavy rainfalls is growing in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

According to a survey made between 18:00 July 20 and 18:00 July 22, the flooding left eight people dead throughout the country.

More than 4,500 houses were destroyed or submerged, leaving 17,700 people homeless.

At least 1,000 houses were damaged totally or partially in North Phyongan Province, with 2,300 houses submerged in Unsan County alone.

6,550 hectares of cropland were damaged in North and South Phyongan provinces.

Meanwhile, the torrential rain has brought damage to some 30 school and 15 hospital buildings throughout the country as of July 23, after the start of the rainy season.

ORIGINAL POST (2013-7-23): According to the Daily NK:

The city of Anju in South Pyongan Province, which suffered substantive flood damage in the summer of 2012, has again been hit hard by the rainy season. Francis Markus of the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) released the news via Twitter on the 22nd, asserting that 80% of the city is now under water.

Markus tweeted, “10,000+ ppl displaced, need shelter & clean water in Anju city, w. #DPRK as river bursts banks #RedCross deploys water units,” later adding, “80% of Anju City, #DPRK reported under 2 m of water. #RedCross sending tarps, jerry cans, water purif tabs, hygiene kits etc 4 survivors.”

The city, which lies northwest of Pyongsung, has a population of more than 200,000.

Meanwhile, according to a North Korean meteorological statistics released by Chosun Central News Agency (KCNA) yesterday, close to double the average amount of July rainfall has fallen during the 20 days since the start of the rainy season.

“On July 20, the highest precipitation was recorded in Tongsin, Songwon, Ryongrim and Thaechon counties,” the article noted, going on, “From 21:00 July 19th to 15:00 July 21st, 413mm rainfall was recorded in Tongsin County, 383mm in Songwon County, 380mm in Thaechon County, 322mm in Huichon City, 312mm in Hyangsan County, 304mm in Tongchang County and over 200mm in Kusong City, Sonchon and Nyongbyon counties and Tokchon City.”

On the 19th, IFRC announced that it has dispatched an on-site inspection team to assess conditions on the ground in North Korea. An international relief effort in August 2012 saw the Red Cross deliver water and other essential goods to the people of the flood-damaged city.

Read the full story here:
Pyongan Suffering in Heavy Rains
Daily NK
Kim Tae Hong
2013-7-23

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2011 flooding reports, studies

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

UPDATE 9 (2011-9-6): South Korea is slated to deliver flood relief assistance next week.  According to Yonhap:

South Korea’s Red Cross said Tuesday it will send baby food to North Korea across their heavily fortified border next week as its first batch of its emergency aid to North Korea’s flood victims.

The move came a month after Seoul offered to send 5 billion won (US$4.7 million) worth of emergency relief aid, including baby food, biscuits and instant noodles, to North Korea.

South Korea’s Red Cross said in a message to its North Korean counterpart on Tuesday that it will truck 200,000 packs of baby food in the eastern and western sections of the border next Thursday.

The Red Cross said it will send other relief items by the middle of October and it proposed holding consultations with North Korea to ensure Seoul’s aid to North Korea reaches the intended beneficiaries.

Last year, Seoul sent 5,000 tons of rice, 3 million packs of instant noodles and 3,000 tons of cement to North Korea to help it recover from devastating floods.

UPDATE 8 (2011-9-4): The US Government has send flood relief supplies to the DPRK. According to CBS News:

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland says the plane is carrying blankets, soap and hygiene kits. It will arrive in Pyongyang this weekend.

The U.S. has said it will provide North Korea $900,000 in emergency aid through U.S. charities.

On September 4th, KCNA posted video of the plane arriving.  See it here (if you are allowed).

Samaritan’s Purse also posted two videos of their departure to and arrival in Pyongyang.

According to the Associated Press:

Samaritan’s Purse said it has pledged $1.2 million in addition to the $900,000 that the U.S. government has allocated for aid to North Korea through U.S.-based charities.

Ken Isaacs, a Samaritan’s Purse vice president, said the group has worked with the U.S. government and several other Christian organizations to send the aid as they try to “continue gaining humanitarian access into North Korea.”

Here is a list of US-DPRK engagement in 2011.

At least one report from Rason seems to indicate that the DPRK’s impending food shortage is not so severe of a problem.

UPDATE 7 (2011-8-23): United Grain Sends First Wheat Shipment to North Korea as Aid. According to the San Francisco Gate:

United Grain Co., Russia’s state grain trader, sent its first shipment of 3,560 metric tons of milling wheat to North Korea as humanitarian aid, the company said in an e-mailed statement today.

The ship arrived at the North Korean port of Hynnam, from Russia’s Vladivostok port on Aug. 20, the company said. It was the first of several shipments.

United Grain will send 50,000 tons of wheat from ports in Vladivostok and Novorossiysk to North Korea, the statement said.

UPDATE 6 (2011-8-22): According to this article in The Telegraph, the North Korean Red Cross has launched a £2.7m emergency appeal to help the victims of a series of floods and storms.  More information can be found here and here.

UPDATE 5 (2011-8-19): The IFRC has posted a map of the counties in which they are involved in flood relief.  See it here. The IFRC has also posted an emergency appeal for assistance.  You can see it here.

UPDATE 4 (2011-8-18): US to provide $900,000 in emergency relief supplies to North Korea after devastating floods. Read more at the AP (Via Washington Post) and Reuters.  Here is a collection of stories related to the DPRK’s alleged food shortage this year.  Here is a list of DPRK-US engagement events this year.

UPDATE 3 (2011-8-10): ROK lists food items it will donate to the DPRK in the wake of flooding. According to the Daily NK:

The South Korean government today transmitted to the North a list of the aid items it will deliver in response to recent flooding.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Unification reported the news this afternoon, saying, “We transmitted a communication containing a concrete list of aid items to the North this afternoon in the name of the president of the Korea National Red Cross.”

The aid includes; 1.4 million units of high protein food, 300,000 units of snacks, 1.92 million Choco Pies and 1.6 million units of instant noodles, but, as previously reported, does not include rice, wheat flour or building materials.

The aid is expected to be conveyed overland along the west and east coasts to areas of Hwanghae and Gangwon Provinces.

“We excluded North Korea’s requested food and cement, but with the exception of medicines the emergency aid was modified mostly as per the North’s request,” the spokesperson explained.

UPDATE 2 (2011-8-10): ROK offers to send relief items to flood-hit DPRK.  According to Yonhap:

South Korea sent North Korea a list of relief items it is willing to deliver to flood victims in the impoverished nation, an official said Wednesday.

The South’s Red Cross delivered the message to the North earlier Wednesday, offering 5 billion won (US$4.6 million) worth of emergency staples including nutritional foods for infants, biscuits and instant noodles, according to the official from the Unification Ministry.

UPDATE 1 (2011-8-9): EU provides resources for flood victims. According to the Korea Herald:

The EU, which shipped food aid to the impoverished state to feed its starving people last month, has donated 200,000 euros ($280,000) to the International Federation of Red Cross in flood aid, Voice of America reported, quoting an EU official.

ORIGINAL POST (2011-8-9): Relief Web has put together a compendium of stories and reports (DPRK, ROK, IFRC, and UN) related to recent flood damage in the DPRK (July and August). Below are links and descriptions:

Briefing kit 1: Situation reports (PDF) on the flooding:

1. DPRK affected by serious floods following torrential rains in July
2. GIEWS Country Brief: Democratic People’s Republic of Korea 08-August-2011
3. Democratic People’s Republic of Korea: Floods DREF operation n° MDRKP003
4. Heavy Rain Damage: Situation Report #2
5. Floods: Situation Report #1

Briefing kit 2: This report (PDF) is an update of the August 7 collection and features media clippings and situation reports:

1. Democratic People’s Republic of Korea – Flood Update
2. Russia to Send 50,000 Tons of Food Aid to N.Korea
3. DPRK affected by serious floods following torrential rains in July
4. GIEWS Country Brief: Democratic People’s Republic of Korea 08-August-2011
5. Flood Damage Gets Serious
6. Seoul Greenlights Food Aid for N.Korea, But Not Rice, Cement
7. Nationwide Relief Effort Launched for S. Hwanghae Province
8. Downpour Batters DPRK Again
9. Damage from Heavy Rains
10. Red Cross Relief Activities Launched in DPRK
11. S. Korea offers N. Korea flood aid
12. Floods (as of 29 Jul 2011)
13. Democratic People’s Republic of Korea: Floods DREF operation n° MDRKP003
14. N. Korea PM inspects flooded region: state media
15. N. Korea storm, rains ‘kill dozens’: state media16. N. Korea state media says China to send flood aid
17. Rain leaves trail of destruction in North Korea
18. Floods wash N. Korean landmines into S. Korea
19. DPRK Hit by Heavy Rain Again
20. S.Koreans on landmine alert after deadly mudslides
21. Floods – July 2011
22. Heavy Rain Damage: Situation Report #2
23. Floods: Situation Report #1
24. Coal Mines Damaged by Heavy Rain
25. Floods Hammer Homes And Fields
26. Heavy Rains Hit DPRK
27. DPRK Hit by Heavy Rainfalls Again
28. Some Areas of DPRK Hit by Heavy Rain

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Are the DPRK’s universities closed?

Monday, July 11th, 2011

UPDATE 2 (2011-9-2): According to KBS:

The Voice of America (VOA) reported Friday that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has confirmed that North Korean universities were ordered to suspend studies.

In a report on North Korea covering the first half of 2011, the International Red Cross said that all universities in the Communist nation had been on leave since June to work on construction sites in regions including Pyongyang. The report said the enforced leave of absence will likely continue into April next year during the centennial celebration of the birth of late North Korean founder Kim Il-sung.

VOA said the report appears to have been confirmed by a North Korean authority, as it contained the contact number of a North Korean Red Cross official.

UPDATE 1 (2011-7-11): According to the Daily NK:

Large numbers of additional soldiers and students have been mobilized to try and address the slipping schedule for the construction of 100,000 homes in Pyongyang by 2012, with universities in the capital and some bigger local universities having received a ‘socialist construction mobilization order’ in mid-June.

A Pyongyang source, explaining the situation today, said, “I know that students from universities in Pyongyang like Kim Il Sung University and Kim Chaek University of Technology have been sent to the construction of 100,000 houses. I hear that they will be at the construction site for at least two months or more.”

The mobilization could easily be extended depending on the status of the construction project, he further added.

Another source from North Hamkyung Province reported similar news on the 7th, saying, “Since July, juniors and seniors from No. 1 and 2 Colleges of Education in Chongjin have been mobilized for construction projects under the ‘socialist construction mobilization order,’” and confirming that the students have been sent to Pyongyang.

He went on, “I hear that the center (meaning Party central authorities) notified each university of the number of people required for the Pyongyang construction work. Accordingly, each university selected a certain number of students and sent them to Pyongyang.”

However, the order does not appear to amount to a full, nationwide shutdown of universities. For example, certainly some universities in Yangkang Province have evaded the mobilization order. One college student living in Hyesan, the provincial capital said, “There has been no ‘socialist construction mobilization order’ handed down. We are going on summer vacation in late July.”

Mobilized personnel are reportedly working primarily on construction in neighborhoods where major public works idolizing the Kim family are to be found.

The Pyongyang source reported, “Construction of houses in Changjeon Street, where the Suryeong’s statue is, started in early May. Soldiers have been mobilized to this construction site in large numbers; even some previously involved in construction in the Hyeongjesan district have been in that region for about a week.”

He added, “Equally, the Mansudae region (Kim Il Sung’s birth place) is another place where ‘construction must be completed even if it is not completed elsewhere’, so they have mobilized people from construction sites in other regions.”

According to sources, the pace of construction in those places where soldiers have been mobilized is markedly quicker than elsewhere, although interior construction remains problematic because it calls for special materials.

One source reported, “In Seopo and Hadang 2-dong, where there are soldiers, buildings have already been erected, so people can move in there in August. However, the interiors have not been completed, so people don’t actually want to move in.”

However, on those sites staffed by people from enterprises, events are characterized by a lack of basic materials and the siphoning off of what is available.

The source said, “They are short of materials, while individuals are selling off existing materials and cement to buy rice because the authorities are not providing them with any support. Of the construction overseen by enterprise work units, almost none have been erected. In Hyeongjesan district, with the exception of those sites for which soldiers are responsible, they have only erected the bottom floor.”

According to one source, on April 1st the National Defense Commission ordered, “Complete the construction of 100,000 homes by April 15th, 2012 and get people to move into the new homes without condition.”

However, reports suggest widespread skepticism of this, with one source saying, “According to rumors, there was even a threat, ‘Those in charge of construction who cannot complete it must prepare to leave their posts.’ However, there are many people saying that the 100,000 houses won’t even be done by 2017.”

See more on the priority construction projects here.

ORIGINAL POST (2011-6-30): According to the University World News (thanks to a reader):

Close watchers of North Korean affairs were caught on the hop this week by reports that universities in the hermit kingdom would be closed from 27 June for up to 10 months while students are sent to work on farms, in factories and in construction.

Diplomats in Pyongyang confirmed that students were being drafted into manual labour on the outskirts of the city until April next year to prepare for major celebrations to commemorate the centenary of the late leader Kim Il Sung’s birthday. But they said this did not mean the closure of universities.

Reports originating in South Korea and Japan suggested that the Pyongyang government had ordered universities to cancel classes until April next year, exempting only students graduating in the next few months and foreign students.

The reports said the students would be put to work on construction projects in major cities and on other works in a bid to rebuild the economy. This could indicate that the country’s food crisis and economic problems are worse than previously thought.

Experts on North Korea said full-scale university closures would be unprecedented. However, it was not unusual for students to be engaged in manual labour, with the academic year sometimes shortened in order to send students onto farms and construction sites.

Peter Hughes, British Ambassador to North Korea, told University World News by email from Pyongyang: “There has been no official announcement in DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] about university students being sent to carry out manual labour for the next 10 months, but I can confirm that students from all the universities in Pyongyang have been mobilised to work at construction sites in the outskirts of the city until April 2012.

“Some two years ago the DPRK announced that it would build 200,000 units of accommodation in the city to ease the chronic housing shortage. To date only some 10,000 units have been built, so the students have been taken out of universities in order to speed up the construction of the balance before major celebrations take place in April 2012 to commemorate the 100th birthday of the founder of the DPRK, Kim Il Sung.”

Universities are not closed as lecturers and postgraduate and foreign students remain on campuses, Hughes said on Thursday.

“The UK has an English language teacher training programme at three universities in Pyongyang. The mobilisation of the students should not affect this programme as the majority of activity is focused upon teacher development and not teaching students.”

Charles Armstrong, Director of the Centre for Korea Research at Columbia University who returned from Pyongyang earlier last week, said he had visited two state-run universities, Kim Il Sung University and Kim Chaek University of Technology in Pyongyang, as well as the private Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST) in the last few weeks.

At the two public universities the vast majority of students were not present, Armstrong told University World News. “It is also a very busy time for rice transplanting and you see a lot of young people in the fields.”

However, students were studying as normal at PUST, a postgraduate institution funded by Korean-American and South Korean philanthropists that teaches mainly engineering.

“It is very hard to get information in and out of the country and there may be some confusion because every summer students have to go down to the fields to help with the rice planting. It is not the first time that I have heard reports that universities have shut down for a period,” Armstrong said.

“My impression is that there is not a lot going on in terms of teaching and studying in public universities and student time is taken up with ‘extra curricular’ activities including political education. This is a regular part of university life but I have not heard of the universities being shut down completely except for a short while during the 1990s [famine],” he added.

A major famine and economic crisis in the late 1990s meant that much farm equipment went unused and simply rusted in the fields, so the need for manual labour has grown. Students and army recruits are mobilised to help, often having to travel far from where they live.

“My understanding of the university system is that it is largely dysfunctional. Resources are lacking, many professors spend their time earning from private tuition – so my impression is that it would not make a great deal of difference if they are shut down,” said Armstrong.

Aidan Foster-Carter, a writer and researcher on North Korea, formerly at Leeds University in England, said: “North Korea sets great store by these anniversaries. They decreed a few years ago that 2012 would be their date for becoming a great and prosperous nation defined in economic terms. It would make sense having extra persons out there to help with construction, though normally it is the army that does it.”

But any mass use of student labour for longer than the summer vacation months would mean a trade-off against achieving economic goals that required educated workers, he said.

“North Korea’s is a strange and broken economy but they also need educated people to pull them out and it would be a major precedent to close the universities. It could be a sign that they are in a worse mess than we thought.”

Hazel Smith, professor of security and resilience at Cranfield University who also lectures at Pyongyang’s Kim Il Sung University, said North Korean universities were operating as usual in and outside the capital when she was there in May.

She said it would be counterproductive for the regime to close universities. Despite huge labour shortages throughout the country, the regime is “fully aware that people need to be taught IT and technology and of course nuclear [engineering].

“They are dependent to fulfill their economic goals on people who are computer literate and engaged in advanced science. I don’t think [closures] will last very long. There are too many other priorities to deal with.”

Analysts in Japan and South Korea suggested there could be other reasons behind the decision to disperse the students across the country, including the possibility of demonstrations at campuses inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings, which began at universities.

They noted that North Korea had purchased anti-riot equipment from China in recent months, including tear gas and batons, while there has been an increased police presence at key points in Pyongyang in recent weeks.

Foster-Carter said North Korea watchers have been closely monitoring for signs of unrest since the spring, but there had not been any.

“The amount of information from the Middle East reaching the ordinary citizen is very, very limited and there has been nothing at all in the official media,” Armstrong said. “There has been no student unrest that we know of for the last 50 years.”

According to North Korea analysts, party controls are in place to prevent student uprisings, including political indoctrination and strong surveillance. Some analysts said surveillance on campuses had relaxed in recent years because many party officials had not been paid.

However, experts agreed that the possibility of universities being shut would be an ominous sign of tension. “The most likely reason [to shut universities down completely] would be for military mobilisation if they thought they were going to be attacked,” Smith said.

Read the full story here:
North Korea: Learning stops as students sent to work
University World News
Yojana Sharma
2011-6-30

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DPRK donates to Chongryon in wake of Japanese tsunami

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

UPDATE 1 (2011-4-10): According to Yonhap:

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il donated more than 165 million yen (US$1.94 million) in educational funds to pro-North Korea residents in Japan on the occasion of his late father’s 99th birthday, the North’s state media said Sunday.

The educational aid was sent to the pro-Pyongyang General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, also known as “Chongryon,” to mark the 99th anniversary on April 15 of North Korea founder Kim Il-sung’s birth, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

Here is the Original KCNA story:

General Secretary Kim Jong Il sent education aid fund and stipends amounting to 165,200,000 yen to the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan. It was sent for the democratic national education of children of compatriots in Japan on the occasion of the 99th birth anniversary of President Kim Il Sung.

The aid fund and stipends sent by Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il so far total 46 759 450 390 yen on 157 installments.

ORIGINAL POST (2011-3-24): According to Yonhap:

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il donated US$500,000 to pro-North Korean residents in Japan to help them recover from a killer quake and tsunami that left thousands dead and missing.

The aid from the cash-strapped country was announced Thursday in a brief dispatch from North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

Separately, North Korea’s Red Cross sent relief funds of $100,000 to its Japanese counterpart and expressed deep sympathy to the victims of the catastrophe, the KCNA said in a separate dispatch.

The KCNA did not give any further details on whether there were any casualties among pro-North Korean residents.

An official of the pro-North Korean association in Tokyo told Yonhap News Agency by phone that some of the residents could have been killed during the disaster. He did not elaborate and asked not to be identified as he was not authorized to speak to media.

Currently, hundreds of thousands of Koreans live in Japan, many of them descendants of Koreans forcibly brought to Japan as laborers during Tokyo’s 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.

The ethnic Korean community, however, was later divided into two separate groups, with each supporting South and North Korea, respectively. The two Koreas remain technically at war since their 1950-53 Korean War that ended in a cease-fire.

North Korea and Japan have no diplomatic relations.

Despite Pyongyang’s vitriolic language towards the “Japanese colonialists,” the DPRK and Japan have historically enjoyed a uniquely close relationship.

Up until recent economic sanctions were imposed, Japan was the DPRK’s largest non-socialist trading partner.  This relationship was driven in large part by the Japan-based ethnic Korean association: Chongryon (Chosen Soren).  According to the Daily NK, at its peak, the Chongryon’s patriotic projects enabled the remittance of six to eight hundred million dollars every year.  With dividends like that, $500, 000 does not seem like much of a sacrifice.

Chongryon members are responsible for a number of investments in the country such as the Chosun Bank, Moranbong Company,   and Kim Man-yu Hospital in Pyongyang (39.031294°, 125.784566°).

Also worth noting, Ko Yong-hui,  Kim Jong-un’s mother, was from Osaka, Japan.  In fact here are the coordinates of her birthplace:  34.663147°, 135.531080°

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Red Cross updates 2011 DPRK aid plan

Monday, November 1st, 2010

Read the full report here (PDF)

Executive Summary
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is the largest humanitarian organization in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) for many years, thanks to its close collaboration with the DPRK Red Cross to assist to the most vulnerable in the country. In the coming years, the DPRK Red Cross, with support from IFRC, plans to strengthen its programmes based on existing needs and available funding, with a strong emphasis on long-term development.

Despite the DPRK government’s focus on improving people’s livelihoods through investments both in industry and agriculture, the humanitarian situation is fragile, while the political situation surrounding the Korean Peninsula remain tense. Key challenges include:

• ongoing economic difficulties(food, energy, drug supply, water, etc)

• disasters (flood damage in most areas)

• initial problems following monetary Reform

• worsening north-south relations

The challenging humanitarian situation demands the full support from the DPRK Red Cross and IFRC. The DPRK Red Cross, with,support of the IFRC, will continue to support the most vulnerable groups, ensuring access to essential drugs and basic health care, to prevent malnutrition and a further deterioration in the overall health situation. The disaster management and health programmes aim to help prevent further loss of life during disasters and health emergencies, promote community resilience and understanding of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement.

Read the full report here (PDF)

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ROK Red Cross seeks hotline with DPRK

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

Accordign to Yonhap:

South Korea’s Red Cross is pushing to set up its own communications channel with its North Korean counterpart so that it can carry out humanitarian missions independent of cross-border political tensions, the organization’s chief said Thursday.

“We’re talking with the government on the need to work with the North Korean Red Cross through an independent means of communication,” Yoo Chong-ha, president of the Korean National Red Cross, said in an interview with Yonhap News Agency.

“Government-level dialogue is between governments. The role of the Red Cross has to be separate,” Yoo said.

The Red Cross, although tasked with non-political projects such as relief aid and family reunions, has at times served as an alternative track for contact and talks between the two Koreas, who are technically still at war after the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce.

“The Red Cross is not a subsidiary agency to the Unification Ministry. It is not appropriate for all concerned that the Red Cross should work on behalf of the government,” Yoo said in the interview. The chief will be heading to the North to oversee a round of family reunions that begin on Friday.

Currently, there is no channel linking the Red Cross chapters of the two Koreas. Their sole hotline at the truce village of Panmunjom was severed as part of Seoul’s package of punitive measures announced in May after holding the North responsible for the deadly sinking of a warship that killed 46 sailors.

Yoo said he would tell his North Korean counterpart, Jang Jae-on, of the importance of resuming humanitarian exchanges, regardless of political tensions, when he visits North Korea.

In Red Cross talks this week that reopened for the first time in a year, the North asked Seoul to provide tens of thousands of tons in rice and fertilizer aid in exchange for expanding family reunions.

“This is not an issue for the Red Cross” to deal with, said Yoo, with skepticism on whether such aid draws results.

Read the full story here:
S. Korean Red Cross seeks independent communications channel with Northern counterpart
Yonhap
10/28/2010

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Miscellaneous foreign assistance documents

Monday, July 12th, 2010

Several reports on various foreign assistance programs in the DPRK have been piling up on my desktop so I thought I would go ahead and post them for you.  They are not particularly timely, but they are full of interesting information.

U.S. Bilateral Food Assistance to North Korea Had Mixed Results (PDF)
US GAO
June 2000

DPRK: Water and sanitation in three counties of Kangwonin three counties of Kangwon Province (Thongchon, Chonnae, Popdong)
Reliefweb Mission Report
March 2002

Rehabilitation of Thongchon, Popdong and Chonnae Water Supply systems (Kangwon Province, DPR of Korea)
Reliefweb Mission Report
June 2002

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea: Operations Report
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
Appeal no. MDRKP001
November 15, 2007

The IFRC contains the below photo of a flooded clinic:

nyongwon-clinic-flooded-ground.JPG

This clinic is in Nyongwon at 39°50’3.51″N, 126°32’18.64″E.  Here is a satellite image:

nyongwon-clinic-flooded-satellite.JPG

The sad part is that the damage caused by flooding is in large part an unintended consequence of agriculture, deforestation, and hydro-power policies.  This clinic lies behind the Taedonggang Dam in Tokchon (satellite image here).

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Humanitarian aid on the way

Sunday, October 25th, 2009

Yonhap anounces two new aid projects aimed at the DPRK.

First,  the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has earmarked US$17 million for humanitarian aid to the DPRK over the next two years. This is to cover medical services for 8.5 million vulnerable people and improve water supply services in North Korea from 2010-2011.

Second, South Korea on Monday offered the North 10,000 tons of corn and other small-scale humanitarian aid, responding to a rare official request for assistance from Pyongyang.

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IFES DPRK monthly recap: January 2008

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
NK Brief No. 08-2-5-1
2/5/2008

Kim Jong Il’s first visit of the year was reported on January 6 to have been to the Ryesonggnang hydro-electric power plant. Generally, the leader’s visits in the first months of the year, along with the New Year’s Joint Editorial, which focused on economic recovery, set the tone for the coming year’s policies. His second inspection of the year was to a military unit.

Defectors claim that prostitution is on the rise in North Korea, and on January 9, the aid group ‘Good Friends’ reported that the DPRK has begun to close massage parlors as part of a crackdown on prostitution. The agency reported that in the DPRK there was a “steady campaign to weed out decadent foreign culture,” and that in September, DPRK soldiers were ordered to avoid alcohol, sex, and money.

On January 16, it was reported that Kim Jong Il had instructed all DPRK institutions to reduce their bureaucracies, including senior staff, by thirty percent.

Figures released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency indicate that the DPRK’s population had increased to 23.6 million in 2004, the latest available figures. According to DPRK figures, the population has grown from 22.1 million in 1996.

North Korea announced the closure of its Australian embassy on January 22. While the DPRK will continue to maintain diplomatic relations with Australia, it apparently can no longer afford to maintain an embassy in Canberra.

According to a report released by the International Red Cross, North Korea has the largest number of people in the world killed by natural disasters over the past decade. The report states that 458 thousand North Koreans have died from natural disaster, 38 percent of the disaster-caused deaths in 220 countries from 1997-2006.

A U.S. Senate investigation reported that the DPRK funneled as much as 2.7 million USD through a bank account set up from UN development projects. The report stated that North Korea used the UN account due to fears that the United States would block its ability to transfer money internationally.

DPRK Nuclear Negotiations

2008 opened with the United States and Japan releasing statements expressing their disappointment at North Korea’s failure to meet its December 31 deadline to fully disclose the extent of its nuclear programs, while North Korea’s New Year’s Joint Editorial called for “stability on the Korean Peninsula and peace in the world” as well as an end to hostile U.S. policies. A U.S. White House spokesman stressed that there was still opportunity to move forward with negotiations, stating, “the important thing is that we get a declaration that…needs to be full and complete,” not whether the declaration is made by the deadline.

On January 4, North Korea claimed it had met its obligations to come clean on its nuclear programs, and that it had provided Washington with a list of its nuclear programs in November. Pyongyang also threatened to bolster its “war deterrent” because Washington had failed to provide promised aid following the declaration. Washington denied that any complete declaration had been made.

A senior Russian diplomat was quoted on January 11 as saying that while Russia regrets the slowed state of progress in talks on DPRK nuclear issues, Russia will fulfill its promise to provide the North with fuel oil. 50,000 tons of fuel oil were delivered on January 20~21.

According to a book of figures recently published by the National Statistical Office, ”Comparison of North and South Korean Socio-economic Circumstances”, the DPRK”s crude imports over the past several years bottomed out at 2,325,000 barrels in 1999, then rose to 4,244,000 barrels by 2001. Since 2001, imports have steadily fallen until only 3,841,000 barrels were imported in 2006, recording the least imports in the last five years.

North Korea opened its first online shopping mall in January. The site offers items from fourteen categories ranging from machinery and building materials to stamps and artworks. The site, www.dprk-economy.com/en/shop/index.php, is based in China.

Orascom Telecom, a Cairo-based phone operator, has been granted the first commercial license for provision of mobile phone services in North Korea. The license was granted to CHEO Technology, a subsidiary that is 25 percent-owned by the state-run Korea Post and Telecommunications Corporation.

DPRK Abduction Issue

The Cambodian Foreign Minister announced on January 16 that his country had been working behind the scenes to find a resolution to the DPRK-Japan abduction issue. The minister stated, “Cambodia is in a position where it can hold high-level meetings with North Korea, and it has the ability to persuade North Korea.”

Inter-Korean Affairs

The incoming Lee Myung-bak administration announced on January 4 a plan to develop an international cooperative fund to support North Korea’s economy. The plan is said to call for World Bank and the Asia Development Bank to help, and for South Korea to provide 40 billion USD.

On January 7, it was reported that Lee Myung-bak’s presidential transition team had asked the ROK Unification Ministry to slow the pace of inter-Korean economic projects and to link them to progress in the six-party talks. The incoming administration has promised not to link humanitarian projects such as rice and fertilizer aid to nuclear negotiations.

The Lee Myung-bak administration announced plans for downsizing the South Korean government, including disbanding of the Ministry of Unification. Opposition to the plan points out the role played by the ministry in improving inter-Korean relations, while proponents to the plan of relegating the ministry’s duties to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade applaud the move to align North Korea policy with standing foreign policy directives.

On January 14, it was reported that Lee Myung-bak had asked the United States to further engage in talks with DPRK military leaders, while presenting a balanced approach, stating that “our people don’t support the idea of giving lavish aid to the North nor do they want to irritate it too much, I believe.” He went on to add that the United States holds the key to easing DPRK fears of opening up.

The net worth of inter-Korean exchanges totaled 1,797,890,000 USD in 2007, up 33% from the 1.35 billion USD in the previous year. The almost 1.8 billion dollars in trade recorded in 2007 is the highest to date, and is equal to 65 percent of the DPRK”s non-Korean trade volume of 2.996 billion USD in 2006.

The Seoul-based International Vaccine Institute announced on January 14 that it will soon begin inoculating approximately six thousand North Korean children against bacterial meningitis and Japanese encephalitis.

The two Koreas began working-level military talks on January 25, marking the first talks of the year. During talks, the North proposed reducing the frequency of the inter-Korean rail services, citing a lack of cargo. The Southern delegation felt that the frequency was an important indication of inter-Korean cooperation. The two sides agreed to continue daily runs, but to reduce the number of empty carriages in the future.

North Korea is still not as attractive to businesses as other Asian neighbors. A survey released by the (South) Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry on January 28 indicated that China and Vietnam are more attractive to ROK businesses. According to the survey, 80 percent of businesses have difficulties starting or operating businesses in North Korea.

An ROK special envoy returned on January 23 from Moscow after proposing a joint ROK-DPRK-Russian cooperative project in eastern Siberia. President-elect Lee Myung-bak sent a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin pushing for cooperation of “North Korea’s workforce, Russia’s resources and capital, and [South] Korean technology.”

U.S.-DPRK Relations

On January 9, amidst reports concerning possible DPRK-Syria nuclear connections, it was reported that in 1991 Israel was posed to strike a ship suspected of delivering missiles from the DPRK to Syria, but was dissuaded by Washington.

A U.S. State Department official stated on January 22 that North Korea had met the legal criteria to be removed from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism. This came just after reports of conflicting opinions within the Bush administration, with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sharply rebuking Special Envoy on North Korean Human Rights Lefkowitz, who stated that North Korea is not serious about nuclear disarmament. Rice went so far as to say that Lefkowitz “certainly has no say on what American policy will be in the six-party talks,” dismissing his negative position on the failure of North Korea to meet its obligations. The White House later stated that North Korea must make a full declaration of its nuclear activities before being removed from the list.

Five officials from the DPRK recently visited the United States in order to learn how to treat and prevent tuberculosis, a serious concern for the North that is “practically non-existent in most developed countries.” The officials were invited by The Korea Society, which is based in New York.

DPRK-PRC Relations

According to the PRC General Administration of Customs, China’s oil exports to North Korea were the same in 2007 as they were in 2006. China sent 523,160 tons of oil to North Korea in 2007.

A senior PRC Communist Party official traveled to Pyongyang for a meeting with Kim Jong Il on January 30. Wang Jiarui, director of the International Liaison Department of the Chinese communist party, was to convey a message to Kim, inviting him to the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics. While Kim reportedly told Wang that there would be no change in the DPRK stance on nuclear negotiations, he also assured the Chinese envoy that North Korea had no intention of harming DPRK-PRC relations.

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