Archive for the ‘International/Korean Red Cross’ Category

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

Friday, April 6th, 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.


Koreas to Resume Family Reunions

Thursday, March 15th, 2007

Korea Times
Lee Jin-woo

South and North Korea on Thursday agreed to resume the reunions of families separated since the Korean War by the two sides’ heavily fortified border, this May, Seoul’s Red Cross said.

After ending a two-day working-level inter-Korean meeting in Kaesong, the Korean National Red Cross (KNRC) in Seoul announced each side will have 100 separated family members meet their long-lost relatives at Mt. Kumgang, a scenic resort, in North Korea between May 9 and 14.

The two sides confirmed the date and other details about the reunions over the telephone and through liaison officials at the truce village of Panmunjom, it said.

They will exchange the whereabouts of the people next month and will disclose the final list of participants on April 27, it said.

The agreement came about two weeks after the 20th inter-Korean ministerial talks in Pyongyang. During the four-day meeting, the two Koreas agreed to resume face-to-face family reunions in early May, but did not set a date.

Since the historic inter-Korean summit in June 2000, South and North Korea have held 14 rounds of face-to-face family reunions.

At the Kaesong meeting, both sides failed to narrow differences on a trial run of cross-border trains, said Yang Chang-seok, spokesman of the Ministry of Unification.

“There were differences on when to start the joint cooperation project with the light industry and natural underground resources. Both sides agreed to continue the dialogue in the near future,’’ he said.

During the Cabinet talks earlier this month, Seoul and Pyongyang also agreed to carry out the test-run in the first half of this year although no exact schedule was set.

Last May, Pyongyang unilaterally notified Seoul that it would postpone the test-run just a day before the scheduled date, May 25, under apparent pressure from its hard-line military.

The Stalinist state cited two reasons for canceling the run _ the lack of security guarantees on both sides and the “extremely confrontational” climate in the South.

The aborted test-runs also nullified an economic accord under which South Korea was supposed to provide raw materials in exchange for access to the North’s minerals deposits.


South will give money directly to North Korea

Sunday, March 11th, 2007

Update: the money went missing.

South Korea criticizes North Korea for failing to disclose how aid was used
Herald Tribune

South will give money directly to North Korea
Joong Ang Daily

Lee Young-jong and Ser Myo-ja

Although South Korea does not allow cash to be given directly to North Korea, it made a deal of its own.

The two countries announced Saturday that Seoul would give Pyongyang cash to buy video conference equipment. A South Korean official said yesterday the amount will be $400,000.

North Korea will use the money to set up video conference calls between families separated during the Korean War, according to a joint statement issued Saturday by the two countries.

The South Korean government has strictly banned humanitarian groups ― as well as all residents ― from giving cash to the North due to concerns the money could be spent for other purposes.

“We decided to assist the North to smoothly resolve the separated family issue,” the official said, adding that the government will thoroughly monitor the spending of the money and the use of the equipment.

The cash payment agreement was first made at a Red Cross meeting in June 2006, but never publicly announced. The money was not exchanged because North Korea conducted a missile test the next month, temporarily freezing inter-Korean relations.

After progress in the recent six-party talks designed to make North Korea nuclear-free, South Korean Red Cross officials pledged again on Saturday at a meeting at a Mount Kumgang resort to give Pyongyang the money, the official said on condition of anonymity.

According to the joint statement, the two Koreas agreed that video conference call reunions will be expanded. The two Koreas also agreed a video conference call reunion center will be built in Pyongyang, separately from the reunion center under construction at Mount Kumgang, and that Seoul will provide construction material and equipment. The material and money will be released at the end of March, the agreement said.

Neither the joint statement nor the press release specified the amount of money, but the Seoul official said it will be $400,000. The construction material to be provided to the North is worth another $3.5 million, he said.

The South Korean government was unable to give the video conference call equipment, such as liquid crystal display monitors and computers, directly to the North because of United States regulations banning the export of dual-use goods to North Korea. Under the United States export administration regulations, strategic goods that include more than 10 percent of United States-made components or technology, are banned for export to state sponsors of terrorism, which include North Korea.

According to the official, South Korea advised the North to purchase the items from China with the cash. Washington could make an exception to the export ban, presumably at Seoul’s request, but it would take time to do so.

In addition to the cash, the $3.5 million worth of goods, such as trucks, construction materials, air conditioners, heaters and cables, will be provided to build a video conference call center in Pyongyang.

At the Red Cross talks, the North also agreed to resume the construction of the reunion center on Mount Kumgang on March 21. The two Koreas began the construction in August 2005, but the work stalled last July. The buildings are about 30 percent complete.

Last week’s Red Cross meeting was scheduled for only one day, for about two hours. Due to the North’s persistent demands for cash and materials, the talks went on for a second day, the government official said.


Koreas to hold Red Cross talks to resume construction of family reunion center

Thursday, March 8th, 2007


Red cross officials from South and North Korea are to meet this week on resuming the construction of a family reunion center on the North’s scenic mountain bordering the South along the east coast, South Korean officials said.

The one-day meeting, slated to be held at the North’s Mount Geumgang resort on Friday, will also address the next family reunions via video link to be held on March 27-29.

Last week, the two Koreas agreed to resume reunion events for families separated by the border since the end of the Korean War. The next face-to-face family reunions will be resumed in early May.

Shortly after the North conducted its missile tests in July, the South suspended food and fertilizer aid. In retaliation, the communist nation immediately suspended inter-Korean talks, family reunions and the construction of the family reunion center.

“The construction has been put on hold for about eight months, so we will have to resume construction after checking whether there are technical problems. The construction will likely be completed next year, far later than the originally scheduled April of this year,” a South Korean Red Cross official said on condition of anonymity.

High on the agenda will be discussions on when to resume construction, how to check the facilities needed for construction, and how to provide supplies and dispatch engineers, the official said. The South Korean delegation will be headed by Hwang Jeong-ju, while Pak Yong-il will lead the North Korean team.

The two sides started the construction at a village near the scenic mountain resort in August 2005. The envisioned 12-story building will house two reunion halls and serve as the venue for family reunion events.

The two Koreas have held 14 rounds of family reunions. More than 90,000 people from South Korea alone have remained separated from their loved ones since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.


Rapport grows with fertilizer aid

Wednesday, March 7th, 2007

Joong Ang Daily

North Korea yesterday asked for 300,000 tons of fertilizer in aid, the Unification Ministry said, days after the two Koreas agreed to resume humanitarian projects.

“Chang Chae-on, president of the North’s Red Cross, sent a fax message to his South Korean counterpart Han Wan-sang, requesting 300,000 tons of fertilizer and wanting to know how much and what type,” said Yang Chang-seok, a ministry spokesman.

Mr. Yang said the shipment will be sent to the North in late March or early April, after the details have been worked out.

Mr. Yang estimated the aid will cost 100 billion won. “The government earmarked 108 billion won for that purpose this year.”

The North has also asked for rice and Red Cross officials will discuss the resumption of rice aid during a new round of economic talks to be held in Pyongyang on April 18 to 21.


South Helps North Fight Scarlet Fever

Tuesday, March 6th, 2007

Korea times
Lee Jin-woo

The Ministry of Unification said Tuesday it has provided some 400 million won ($400,000) to help North Korea stem the spread of scarlet fever, an infectious disease, a ministry official said.

Yang Chang-seok, spokesman for the ministry, said the money has been provided to an association of some 51 local private relief organizations.

As the money was financed by the inter-Korean cooperation fund under a matching fund system, the association promised to provide some 200 million won for the aid program.

Yang said the decision was made at a government meeting on Feb. 12.

The spokesman, however, said the decision was not in opposition to Unification Minister Lee Jae-joung’s earlier remarks not to provide any government-level assistance over the infectious disease in the impoverished North.

During a press briefing in January, the minister stated that the government would not provide medical aid to the North as scarlet fever is not a fatal infectious disease.

“Given the nature of the disease, we believe that North Korea itself will be able to solve the problem,” Lee told reporters on Jan. 11.

The spokesman said Minister Lee was referring to government-level aid through the Korean National Red Cross (KNRC), not financial assistance from private relief organizations.

South Korean humanitarian aid groups have shipped various types of medicine including penicillin and other antibiotics to Pyongyang since last December. Scarlet fever broke out in northern Ryanggang province last October.

Scarlet fever is intrinsically not a serious communicable disease, but if not treated properly it can become serious like cholera or typhoid. The impoverished North lacks medicine.

South Korea suspended its government-level humanitarian aid to North Korea after the North’s missile tests last July. A possible resumption of the aid was blocked due to the North’s nuclear bomb test in October.

During ministerial talks in Pyongyang last week, the two Koreas agreed to hold a series of meetings to restart the aid project. 


N Korea ‘hit by measles epidemic’

Tuesday, February 20th, 2007


North Korea has been hit by a measles epidemic that has killed four people and infected some 3,000, the Red Cross has said.

Measles has been found in 30 counties since the outbreak began in November, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said.

Pyongyang has requested five million doses of vaccine to fight the epidemic.

Correspondents say medicine is in short supply and years of malnutrition has weakened resistance to disease.

In a statement, the IFRC said North Korea had confirmed two children and two adults had died from measles and its complications such as pneumonia.

More than 1,000 people are still receiving treatment for the disease.

The authorities in Pyongyang only confirmed the measles outbreak last week because the disease was believed to have been eradicated from the country in 1992, the federation statement added.

The Red Cross, the World Health Organization and other international bodies are now helping to tackle the outbreak.

There have been recent reports of outbreaks of scarlet fever and typhoid in the reclusive Communist state, where most people are faced with daily food shortages and a dilapidated health service.

4 Dies From Measles Epidemic in North Korea
Korea Times

A measles epidemic has claimed at least four lives and infected about 3,000 people in North Korea, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said Monday.

The federation said in a statement that measles has been found in 30 North Korean counties since the outbreak started in November last year.

It added that four deaths were reported on Jan. 4 when two children and two adults died from measles and its complications such as pneumonia. Around 3,000 North Koreans were confirmed to have infected with the disease.

Pyongyang has asked international organizations for massive doses of vaccine to prevent further spread of the epidemic.

The North has requested 5 million doses of measles vaccine to immunize its citizens aged from seven to 45.

The requested doses cost $1.5 million, and North Korea will pay the costs for transportation, distribution and staff training.

UNICEF is expected to lead the immunization campaign and keep the related organizations informed of developments.

North Korea’s Ministry of Public Health confirmed the measles epidemic last Thursday, and the information was immediately discussed in a joint meeting the following day by the North Korean Red Cross, the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF.

The federation said the disease was initially believed to be rubella. The first identification of measles came on Nov. 6 in the northern region of the country.

It added that the communist country has failed to bring the epidemic under control and the disease spread throughout the country.

The WHO supplied Pyongyang with testing kits in January, but there were constraints because North Korea was thought to have eradicated the disease in 1992.

The country’s health care workers were thus not familiar with the disease, the federation pointed out.


Red Cross signs ‘historic’ pact with North

Friday, November 24th, 2006

Washington Times

The international Red Cross signed a “historic” agreement with North Korea this week to help the impoverished country tackle the impact of famine and natural disaster.

The three-year agreement was signed by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies on the sidelines of a regional conference in Singapore that ended yesterday.

It is aimed at improving preparedness in the isolated communist nation and bolstering the North Korean Red Cross’s ability to help people vulnerable to disease, hunger and natural calamities.

The federation said it currently assists about 8.7 million people in five North Korean provinces. Under the agreement, projects such as water, sanitation and first aid will be given additional support in places such as Ryonpori, an hour’s drive north of the capital Pyongyang.

Simon Missiri, head of the federation’s Asia and Pacific department, said the agreement harmonized assistance being given by mostly European Red Cross societies to their North Korean counterpart.

The Swedish Red Cross, for example, supports water-sanitation projects, the British assist community disaster-preparedness programs, and the Dutch focus on distribution of drugs to hospitals and clinics.

“So what we did is that in order to harmonize our cooperation we negotiated an agreement where each member commits to support certain programs of the [North Korean] Red Cross,” Mr. Missiri said.

He said the main objective of the accord is to “support the vulnerable people” in the North and build up the capacity of the North’s own Red Cross.

While the situation there was not discussed during the four-day conference here, aid agencies have in the past said many North Koreans are reduced to eating roots because there is little else to live on.

A decade ago, famine killed at least one million people in North Korea, and the country is still reliant on massive international food aid.

After Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons test on Oct. 9, aid and rights groups said they feared the international community would cut back on donations.

At the Singapore meeting, North and South Korean delegates sang together, witnesses said.

It is thought to be one of the rare international meetings in which citizens from the two Koreas, which are still technically at war, let their hair down and allowed music to unify them if only for a fleeting occasion.

During the conference’s final dinner on Wednesday evening delegates from the two Koreas took to the stage and sang a “song of hope,” recalled Winston Choo, Singapore Red Cross chairman and host of the meeting.

“The two delegations stood up and stood side by side as Koreans … They went to the stage. (There) was a big applause,” he said. “In humanitarian work, we have one common aim, that is to help humanity.”


South Korea suspends its rice aid to Pyongyang

Thursday, October 12th, 2006

Joong Ang Daily:
Ser Myo-ja

Besides cement, South Korea’s humanitarian aid of rice to North Korea has been temporarily suspended due to the country’s nuclear brinksmanship, the chief of the Red Cross said yesterday.

In an interview with Yonhap News Agency, Han Wang-sang said South Korea, which sends its aid through the Red Cross, had promised to send rice and cement as a part of its flood relief aid.

International rights groups and relief organizations yesterday worried that North Koreans will suffer a worsened food crisis. They said the perennial springtime famine in the North would become more serious next year.

The World Food Program feared that it may have to halt distribution in the North. “If we don’t get more contributions, we won’t have any more food and food aid in January,” Christiane Berthiaume, spokeswoman for the UN agency, said Tuesday in Geneva.

The U.S.-based Human Rights Watch also urged the world not to suspend food aid to the North. The international community “must distinguish between the North Korean government and ordinary citizens,” said Sophie Richardson, deputy Asia director of the nongovernmental agency. “Further restraints on food aid will only make ordinary North Koreans suffer more.”

According to the Unification Ministry, the North each year consumes 6.5 million tons of food including rice, corn and potatoes. Last year, the country’s production was only 4.5 million tons, although the country proudly publicized a bumper crop.


Red Cross to supervise aid delivery

Wednesday, August 30th, 2006

From the Joong Ang Daily:

Four South Korean Red Cross officials are expected to visit North Korea’s Nampo port this week to supervise the delivery of the first government aid package to help the North recover from recent flooding, an official at the Unification Ministry said yesterday.

The Red Cross officials will depart from the port of Incheon at 11 a.m. Wednesday aboard the 3,000-ton ship Trade Fortune, which sails regularly between the Koreas, according to the official.

The shipment includes 300 tons of rice, 20,000 blankets and 10,000 first aid kits, according to the official.

Seoul suspended shipments of its regular humanitarian assistance to the North shortly after Pyongyang launched seven ballistic missiles in early July, including a long-range Taepodong-2, which is believed capable of reaching the U.S. west coast.

The South Korean government says it will not make additional commitments of any economic assistance to the communist state until the North returns to stalled international negotiations with the South, Japan, China, Russia and the United States over its nuclear program.

The government, however, pledged to give 241 billion won ($251 million) worth of aid through the country’s Red Cross as one-time humanitarian assistance to the North after heavy rains there last month reportedly left hundreds of people killed or missing and thousands of others injured.

Pyongyang rejected an initial aid offer from the South Korean Red Cross last month, but its inter-Korean pro-unification organization later asked Seoul’s civic organizations and other “related offices” for rice and construction equipment, while expressing gratitude for the civic groups’ efforts to help the country recover from devastating torrential rains and flooding.

The Unification Ministry has also agreed to provide funds matching amounts raised by each civic organization, expected to total some 10 billion won.

The government’s aid through the Red Cross will include 100,000 tons of rice, 100,000 tons of iron rods, 80,000 blankets and over 200 construction vehicles.