Archive for the ‘International/Korean Red Cross’ Category

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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Expert says N.K. becoming more open, better at dealing with national disasters

Monday, September 24th, 2007

Yonhap
9/24/2007

North Korea is becoming more transparent and effective in dealing with disasters, spurred by both internal and external factors, an Asia-Pacific regional specialist said in his latest paper.

Dr. Alexandre Mansourov, a securities studies professor at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies (APCSS) in Hawaii, noted five trends in the North Korean government’s responses over the past decade to nationwide shocks, including floods, typhoons, drought and avian influenza outbreaks.

Increasing transparency is one of the trends, with Pyongyang more quickly admitting to disasters that have struck the nation, he said in a paper (download here) released last week through the Korea Economic Institute in Washington.

It took North Korea several years to admit the impact of natural disasters in the mid-1990s that led to massive starvation and chronic food shortages. But in August 2000, when it was hit by Typhoon Prapiroon, North Korea released the news three weeks after it occurred, and in the two following years, when other typhoons struck, North Korea reported it within three to six days, Mansourov said.

Pyongyang immediately acknowledged flooding in August 2007, he said.

“Observers agree that the timeliness, details, and amount of coverage of flood damage and rehabilitation work in August 2007 is unprecedented.”

North Korea is also showing institutional knowledge and a capacity for disaster management, with new organizations growing out of a decade of learning and experience, such as various provincial centers, the professor said.

The North Korean Red Cross Society has been exceptional, he said, working with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and has made itself the leading agency in disaster preparedness and response.

Inter-agency coordination has also increased, with deputy prime minister-level working groups working closely together in each disaster since the flood of 2001, as there are preventive programs through which basic relief supplies are stored in town and villages.

For example, the 10-year strategy against avian influenza, worked out by the emergency commission in 2005, would have been unthinkable a decade ago, Mansourov wrote.

Another notable trend is the increasing cooperation between the North Korean government and international humanitarian community, gradually allowing joint needs assessments and monitoring, he noted.

Mansourov argued that external factors helped bring about the changes.

“International factors did make a difference in what happened in (North Korea), especially through the introduction of innovative ideas and dissemination of best humanitarian practices,” in addition to foreign aid, he said.

The scholar also argued that while the country’s top leader, Kim Jong-il, does control any institutional changes, there is also adaptation driven by needs.

“There has been some degree of autonomous institutional learning and adaptation; it is incremental in nature and caused by both positive and negative feedback from the environment regarding institutional performance in crisis situations,” he said.

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Flood-stricken N. Korea likely to suffer from contagion of infectious diseases

Friday, September 21st, 2007

Yonhap
9/21/2007

North Korea is at serious risk from contagious diseases following damage from recent floods, an official from North Korea’s Red Cross told a newspaper in Japan on Friday.

In an interview with the Chosun Sinbo, a pro-North Korean newspaper in Japan, Kim Eun-chul, a vice secretary-general at the Red Cross Society of North Korea, said, “What we are most concerned with now is the spread of infectious diseases in the severely damaged areas.”

“The destruction of the water supply facilities could result in various diseases including skin diseases and diarrhea, as well as flue.”

Kim showed his anxiety, saying that the communist country would not be able to cope with the diseases when they broke out, as many of the North’s public health centers are also destroyed from floods.

“More than 560 hospitals were destroyed and 2,100 medical offices were damaged. The medical supplies were wet and useless. We can’t even read charts as they were soaked,” he said.

“New patients with diarrhea are reported one after another. We are now relying solely on the emergency medicines provided by the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC).”

The IFRC shipped US$1,69 million worth of medical aid to North Korea earlier this month, which can be used for three months, according to Kim.

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Int’l Red Cross to continue N.K. aid on containing measles

Thursday, July 19th, 2007

Korea Herald
7/19/2007

The international Red Cross will continue to help North Korea in treating measles-related illnesses, including medicine aid, the organization said Wednesday in its program update, Yonhan News Agency reported.

In the first phase of a joint immunization plan, the International Federation of Red Cross and North Korea campaigned to vaccinate 6 million children between 6 months and 15 years old.

“The DPRK Red Cross and the federation are contributing 10.2 million doses of vitamin A. The federation is also contributing 262,000 doses of ampicillin to health facilities in four provinces for the treatment of measels-related complications,” the update said.

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

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Unification Ministry Lax in North Korean Aid Monitoring

Wednesday, July 11th, 2007

Donga
7/11/2007

When natural hazards like floods occur in North Korea, the South Korean government sends “humanitarian assistance.” But it has turned out that the government failed to monitor whether the emergency relief aid was being used appropriately.

The government spent 221 billion won (229 million dollars) from August last year to June this year to help North Korea repair damage from last July’s flood. But the Ministry of Unification said on July 10 that the after-monitoring of its use has not yet started.

After a massive flood hit North Korea last year, the ministry announced a plan to send relief aid to the North. At that time, the ministry pledged to visit the affected areas from time to time and see whether the sent items are used for the right purposes. The pledge has not yet been delivered.

The items that the government sent to Pyongyang via the Korean Red Cross include: 100,000 tons of rice, 100,000 tons of cement, 5,000 tons of iron reinforcing rods, 210 relief machines, 80,000 blankets, 10,000 emergency kits, and medicines.

“While sending the relief aid, Pyongyang conducted the nuclear test, so we had to stop; assistance was resumed this year. Due to this change in schedule, it was difficult for us to monitor the use of the aid. We will continue to negotiate with the North regarding field monitoring and access to their rationing lists,” said one official at the unification ministry.

However, many think that the monitoring, in effect, will be of no use, since the rationing of the relief aid might have already been finished.

After a railway station explosion had occurred in Ryongchon in North Pyongan Province in April 2004, the ministry also sent relief aid such as rice and cement. But the monitoring was done one year after the delivery, drawing criticism from the public.

Some point out that we should strengthen the monitoring of our rice aid, which is provided in return for Pyongyang’s scrapping of its nuclear program.

Seoul and Pyongyang made an agreement to visit three places on the east coast and two places on the west coast to oversee the allocation of aid whenever Seoul sends 100,000 tons of rice. The World Food Program, however, has an office in Pyongyang and monitors whether North Korean officials are making disproportionate allocations to the military.

In the meantime, the government sent 10 billion won (10.87 million dollars) worth of road paving materials to help proceed with the Mt. Baekdu tour project planned by Hyundai Asan and the Korea Tourism Organization. However, its usage has not yet been confirmed.

A total of 16,000 tons of materials were sent to the North in August 2005 and March 2006, but Pyongyang has not responded since July last year. Currently, the project is on hold.

“To push the project forward, we are contacting the North via several channels. But because there has not been any response from the North, we are having difficulties,” said one unification ministry official.

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Australia to provide $4m aid to N Korea

Friday, April 27th, 2007

Austrailian Associated Press
4/27/2007

Australia will provide almost $4 million in humanitarian aid to a hungry and malnourished North Korea.

Millions of the 23 million people in the communist country are living in poverty.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said Australia’s $4 million commitment will focus on improving the health, hygiene and nutrition of North Koreans.

“Thirty-seven per cent of North Koreans suffer from chronic malnutrition, and two-thirds of North Korean children do not receive enough food because of a one million tonne food shortfall,” Mr Downer said in a statement.

“Many North Koreans also lack access to clean water and sanitation.”

Mr Downer said Australia’s assistance will be provided through a number of United Nations agencies and the International Red Cross.

About $1.5 million will go towards UNICEF’s water and sanitation program.

A further $1.5 million will provide food for 1.9 million people through the World Food Program.

The rest of the money will be spent on emergency health and essential medicines, disaster management, water supply and sanitation.

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About 16 million immunized against measles in N. Korea

Friday, April 20th, 2007

Kyodo News
4/20/2007

About 16 million children and adults have been immunized against measles in North Korea in one of the fastest responses to a major outbreak of the disease, it was revealed Friday.

The mass vaccination was organized by the U.N. Children’s Fund, the World Health Organization, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and North Korea after the government asked for help in February.

According to the international organizations, the immunization campaign was done in two phases, with 6 million children aged 6 months to 15 years vaccinated last month and 10 million people aged 16 to 45 years immunized earlier this month.

The campaign was arranged following the appearance of several cases of measles in North Korea last November. By February this year two adults and two children had died and more than 3,600 had been infected.

Measles had not been reported in North Korea before this outbreak since 1992, according to a joint press release from the international organizations involved, and many health workers in the country were unfamiliar with the disease.

“This was a remarkable example of good cooperation between different organizations,” said Jaap Timmer, the International Federation’s head of delegation in North Korea.

“The Red Cross mobilized more than 15,000 of its volunteers to visit families and explain the importance and benefits of the vaccination campaign.”

Measles is spread by contact with fluid from an infected person’s nose or mouth and is highly contagious. Symptoms include fever and a rash.

Sending vaccines and syringes to North Korea cost about $6 million, the press release said.

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Cash delivered to North for video reunions

Sunday, April 8th, 2007

Joong Ang Daily
Lee Young-jong and Ser Myo-ja
4/7/2007

South Korea hand-delivered $400,000 in cash to North Korea yesterday for Pyongyang’s purchase of video communication equipment. The North will spend the money to buy computers and display screens to reunite families separated for more than a half century by the demilitarized zones through video conference calls.

Two South Korean Red Cross officials boarded a cargo ship in Incheon for Nampo of North Korea Thursday morning. They carried a suitcase containing 40 bundles of one hundred, $100-dollar bills. The ship arrived in North Korea yesterday morning.

According to Red Cross officials, the cash was handed over to their North Korean counterparts at the port. “We told the North Koreans to inform us of the specific spending of the money,” an official was quoted as saying, adding that he received a receipt from the North Koreans for the cash.

The two Koreas’ Red Cross societies agreed last year that the South will fund the equipment for high-tech reunions and the promise was reaffirmed in March. South Korea was unable to provide equipment directly to the North because of U.S. regulations banning the export of dual-use goods to the North. Under the U.S. export administration regulations, strategic goods that include more than 10 percent of U.S.-made components or technology are banned for export to state sponsors of terrorism.

The money was from the inter-Korean cooperation fund. The Unification Ministry wired it to the South Korean Red Cross bank account and informed the Bank of Korea about taking the large sum of foreign currency out of the country. The money had to be hand-delivered because North Korea has had trouble accessing the international financial system since its funds were frozen at the Banco Delta Asia.

“It is sad that the North Koreans do not have a proper bank account that we can wire money to,” a Roh administration official said. “It shows the unfortunate reality of North Korea as an outsider of the international community.”

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Seoul sends US$400,000 to Pyongyang in rare cash aid

Friday, April 6th, 2007

Yonhap
4/6/2007

South Korea sent $400,000 in cash to North Korea Friday via the country’s Red Cross officials to help the North purchase computers and other supplies for video-link reunions of families between the two Koreas, officials said.

This is the first time for the Seoul government to send cash aid to the communist North, though bilateral trade exceeded $1 billion for the second consecutive year last year.

“Officials from the National Red Cross left for North Korea Thursday on a boat, carrying funds for the North’s video reunion center,” an official from the Ministry of Unification told reporters on condition of anonymity.

The boat carrying the South Korean officials, as well as 50 construction trucks promised to the impoverished North as aid for its flood damages last year, left Incheon on Friday.

The boat arrived at the North’s Nampo Port earlier Friday, according to ministry officials.

The money is to be used to purchase computers and TV monitors needed for the special kind of reunions between separated families via video conferencing.

North and South Korea have held more than a dozen rounds of face-to-face reunions since the historic inter-Korean summit in 2000, involving over 10,000 people from both sides.

However, over 90,000 South Koreans remain separated from their loved ones in the North since the end of the Korean War in 1953.

“We had no choice (but to give cash) because we could not provide actual goods,” most of which are prohibited from entering the communist nation under the U.S. law on the control of strategic goods, an official said.

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An affiliate of 38 North