Archive for the ‘Love North Korean Children’ Category

Some stuff from Koryo Tours

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

Comrade Kim Goes Flying…a film by British entrepreneur and Koryo Tours founder  Nick Bonner (who also did The Game of their Lives, A State of Mind, and Crossing the Line) and a North Korean film production team.

See the film’s official web page here (includes screening dates and cast/crew).

See the film’s Facebook Page here.

See a film clip on YouTube here.

See CCTV coverage here (in English).

BBC coverage here.

See Nick Bonner talking about the film at the Toronto International Film Festival here.

More on the Pyongyang Film Festival here,  here and here.


Love North Korea Children Charity Event in Shanghai
On September 25th, the UK-based charity Love North Korea Children will hold an event in Shanghai. Hannah Barraclough from Koryo Tours will also attend this event and will be able to answer any questions you may have.

Location: The Public
Address: Sinan Mansions Block 2 4/F, 507 Fuxing Zhong Lu, near ChongQing Lu
Date: 25th September
Starting time: 7PM (19:00)
Entrance: 150 CNY

For more information, please contact: [email protected]

*Love the North Korean Children’s official web page is here. I have previously blogged about their bakery in Rason here. LNKC recently build a bakery in Sariwon.


Charity aims to feed DPRK children

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

Pictured Above: Love North Korean Children Bakery (Sonbong, DPRK)

According to the Korea Herald:

When Seoul votes on whether to provide free lunches for school kids here on Aug. 24, many of the 50,000 children living in the North Korean city of Sariwon will likely be skipping their midday meal.

That’s what they are obliged to do most days, says George Rhee, the South Korean minister trying to raise 500 million won ($466,500) to feed them. Rhee, whose father fled the North during the Korean War, already runs three bakeries in the impoverished country, feeding 10,000 children a day through his charity Love for North Korean Children (LINK).

“I have thought of my family in North Korea so many times,” said Rhee, who is now a minister for a South Korean church in London.

“When I got British citizenship in 2002, I visited North Korea for the first time. It was very shocking. There were many children around me begging uncle, uncle give me some food. I am so hungry. I was thinking ‘how can I help such poor children?’

“First of all I was thinking of building an orphanage in North Korea but they said that there are no orphans there because Kim Il-sung is the father of all the children. They disagreed with an orphanage but they suggested a bakery.”

The traditional steamed wheat flour rolls now made at Rhee’s three successful bread factories, located in Pyongyang, Ranjin and Hyangsan, are a perfect product to feed children in a country where even food aid is often suspected to be misappropriated.

“The bread has a very short shelf life compared to baked rolls so they have to be eaten straight away. They cannot be stored and sold on,” he said.

“I have been to North Korea many times and I know that the bread in my bakeries is going straight to the children’s mouths at lunchtimes. I am very proud of that fact.”

On his last trip to the North in June, Rhee visited Sariwon city, around 100 kilometers south of Pyongyang, to view a disused building he wants to turn into his next bread-making project.

The communist country’s Korea Education Fund, called a “non-profit non-governmental funding association” by officials there, has asked Rhee to open the bakery in the city of 200,000 people in Hwanghaebuk Province, requesting a facility big enough to feed all 50,000 children living there.

While he cannot foresee producing so much bread in the near future, he does think he could supply materials for a 250 million won project to transform the derelict site. His charity would then raise 250 million won a year to provide flour to make the 5,000 rolls a day, providing a school meal for all children aged four to seven there.

“We are trying to help them develop the food infrastructure in these small communities. They don’t have anything to feed their ordinary children. We are trying to help them,” said Rhee.

“We can use this 60-year-old building that was used to provide some sweets and milk for children until about 10 years ago, but that work has been stopped now. They are using old buildings for a lot of different purposes, for example they are trying to extract sugar from seaweed they are doing a lot of different things.

“They wanted our ministry to be able to establish a bakery providing their own people with work and help their economy.”

As with the other bakeries LINK has already established in the country, the facility would have flour delivered from China and employ around 15 local staff.

International sponsorship manager Dr. Shirley Vander Schaaf said: “In a lot of ways it is very good because they are trying to decentralize the distribution of food, bringing it down to a community level.

“This would be a change from having it administered from Pyongyang. They seem to be putting the ownership and responsibility back into the communities, which makes sense. They are utilizing the funding and their resources from the NGOS to help them do this.”

The charity which has been registered in the U.K. since 2003 and in Korea since 2006 already has many regular international donors, but is far short of its 500 million won fundraising target to get Rhee’s Sariwon project off the ground and running for one year.

The charity is hoping to hold an 80 km bikeathon from Seoul to the DMZ in October and is asking anyone who is interested in taking part and raising sponsorship to get in touch.

“I think there are a lot of foreigners here who want to do something to help North Korea but don’t know what to do. If they come to us with ideas for fund raising we can work with them to get their ideas off the ground,” Vander Schaaf said.

She is looking to create a fundraising team to help the charity meet its goal to eventually open a bakery in every province in North Korea, making sure fewer children there will have to go without lunch each day.

Michael Rank wrote a story about the Love North Korean Children Bakery in Rason.  See it here.


British bakeries a lifeline in North Korea

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

Pictured Above: Love North Korean Children Bakery (Sonbong, DPRK)

Michael Rank writes in the Asia Times:

North Korea is a land of hunger and poverty but the children of Hahyeon primary school look reassuringly healthy, thanks to a small, British-based charity that runs three bakeries in this isolated and highly secretive country.

The children receive their midday meals courtesy of Love North Korean Children, [1] which bakes 2,500 mandu or steamed buns each day for pupils in 20 schools in and around the northeastern coastal city of Sonbong, near the Chinese border.

“If we did not provide these buns the children would go hungry,” said the charity’s founder and powerhouse, South Korean-born George Rhee.

Rhee works indefatigably to make sure that his bakeries have sufficient supplies of flour and other essential items, all of which have to be imported from China, something of a logistical and bureaucratic nightmare.

“All of our food gets to the children. None goes to the North Korean army or government,” said Rhee, and as he travels to North Korea from London up to 10 times a year, he is in a position to know.

Rhee, 52, told how he was inspired to found Love North Korean Children as a result of his own childhood experiences. He was one of eight children – he has six brothers and a sister – and when his father’s land reclamation business went bust, it left the family penniless. His parents were forced to put him and his twin brother in a children’s home.

The home was a cruel place and the children often went hungry, and it was this experience that made Rhee decide that he wanted to help the children of North Korea.

“At first I was thinking of opening an orphanage, but the government wouldn’t allow that. They say North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is our father, so there is no need for orphanages. So then I decided to open a bakery,” Rhee recalled.

Rhee first visited North Korea in 2002, and opened the charity’s first bakery the following year, in Rajin, close to Sonbong. I visited him there last month. He recently handed over responsibility for the Rajin bakery to a Korean-American group, but he also runs a bakery in Pyongyang, and this year opened a new bakery In Hyangsan, about 150 kilometers north of the capital.

He puts the cost of flour and equipment for the Sonbong and Pyongyang bakeries at about US$6,300 each per month, and for the Hyangsan bakery at almost double that, as it feeds twice as many children.

Rhee is a minister in the Assemblies of God Church and has its backing for his charity. Most of the costs are borne by three Dutch Christian foundations, the Barnabas Fund, Stichting Ora and Dorcas Aid International, but Rhee hopes to build more bakeries in North Korea and recently went on a fundraising trip to South Korea to talk to local companies and churches.

“There is a lot of interest in what we are doing. I am hopeful that we will be able to raise more money to open more bakeries,” he said.

Rhee said he hopes to open a fourth bakery in Haeju, the hometown of his late father, who escaped by boat to South Korea at the height of the Korean War in 1951.

“The North Korean government says we can. The only question is money,” he added.

Although the children at the Sonbong school looked healthy and well fed, they are among the lucky ones. Rhee said some of the children whom his bakeries feed are thin and pale, even with the extra food they receive from Love North Korean Children.

“I have even seen dead children in the streets. The situation for children in North Korea is terrible,” he stressed.

The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) bears this out. It says 33% of the population is undernourished and 23% of children under five are under-weight for their age.

“Public rations are reportedly far from sufficient and daily food consumption for most households is poor”, the WFP reports. Many people are forced to survive by cutting down on the number of meals per day, eating more wild foods – grass and bark in some cases – and less maize and rice, and reducing portion sizes for adults so that children can eat.

Although conditions have improved since the mid-1990s, when hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of people died in a terrible famine, North Korea remains one of the world’s poorest countries.

Aid workers and diplomats say the government bears much of the blame, with an inflexible, highly centralized food-distribution system that results in a large proportion of the population going permanently hungry.

The WFP tactfully avoids blaming the government, referring to “a lack of arable land, poor soil management, insufficient water reservoirs to combat drought, shortages of fuel and fertilizer, outdated economic, transport and information infrastructure, and a general vulnerability to natural disasters”.

It quotes the Food and Agriculture Organization as saying North Korea needs to import 25% of its grain requirements, “but economic constraints mean the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] will struggle to meet its food import needs.”

All this means that small organizations like Rhee’s do a valuable job in feeding people who would otherwise go hungry, although the paranoid, xenophobic nature of the regime makes their work extremely challenging.

Until recently, a number of South Korean charities were active in North Korea, but the Seoul government ordered them out after the sinking of the naval ship the Cheonan in March in which 46 South Korean sailors died.

The South Korean government blamed North Korea for the sinking, and relations between the two countries, cool at best, went into the deep freeze.

Surprisingly perhaps, Rhee strongly supports the Seoul administration’s tough line, as he believes most of the South Korean charities were naive and were unable, or unwilling, to prevent the North Korean government from diverting much of the food they provided to the million-strong army.

“I support President Lee Myung-bak in this,” Rhee said. “These South Korean organizations were foolish” in not monitoring where food and other supplies were going.

Love North Korean Children was not affected by the ban, however, as it is a British-registered charity and Rhee, who has lived in the UK for 20 years, is a British citizen.

“The North Koreans cooperate well with us. It isn’t easy but we help to make sure that people get fed,” he said.

I had unexpected proof that the North Koreans appreciate Rhee’s efforts. During my visit to North Korea, officials constantly complained to me about photographs I was taking and at one point deleted some pictures on my camera.

I was concerned that they would delete more photographs when I left the country, as frequently happens.

I need not have worried, however. The customs officer who checked my camera at the North Korean-Chinese border was well disposed towards us, as his children were fed by Love North Korean Children. He took just a quick look at my photographs and waved us through.

You can see the author’s photos from Rason here.

Read the full story here:
British bakeries a lifeline in North Korea
Asia Times
Michael Rank


Rason: beyond Pyongyang lies a different world

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

Michael Rank writes in the Guardian:

If Pyongyang is North Korea’s showpiece city – albeit an empty and forbidding place – then the country’s interior is something else altogether.

In this desolate city [Rason] 800 kilometres from the capital, the main square turns to a sea of mud in the rain, and there are no street lights so it’s impossible to avoid the puddles at night.

Rason is 50km from the border with China, over a twisting dirt track through the mountains, but it could be another planet.

The cities on the Chinese side are frenetic with activity, skyscrapers sprouting like mushrooms in the rain and traffic jams unavoidable. Rason couldn’t be more different, stuck in a Stalinist time warp. Traffic chiefly consists of ox carts and Chinese lorries. Roads are repaired by teams of workers armed with shovels and picks.

Tourists are a rarity, just 20 so far this year and none at all in 2009, according to Simon Cockerell of Beijing-based Koryo Tours, which specialises in travel to North Korea.

Officially this is a “free economic and trade zone”. In practice that special designation doesn’t appear to make much difference.

The overwhelming majority of those who do venture in are Chinese, many of them lured by the area’s only apparent growth industry – a glittering casino and hotel built by a Hong-Kong multimillionaire.

The Emperor casino was supposed to have shut its doors in 2005 after a senior Chinese transport official gambled away more than 3.5 million yuan (£340,000), much of it public money.

But a few dozen Chinese were observed gambling in the smoky windowless rooms on the top floor of the venue on a recent evening.

Near the casino there is a small island that is linked to the mainland by a short causeway where tourists can relax over a seafood lunch consisting of raw sea urchins, chargrilled octopus and squid washed down with Chinese beer.

Not that Rason is awash with produce. In the 1990s, an acute famine killed many thousands. Although the worst is over, millions continue to go hungry and in Rason a British- charity, Love North Korean Children, makes enormous efforts to ensure that children in the area get enough to eat.

The charity feeds 2,500 children a day, and the youngsters in the Hahyeon nursery school looked well nourished when this reporter visited. But George Rhee, the charity’s founder and powerhouse, stressed that without the steamed buns his bakery provides “all these children would go hungry”.

Rason’s remoteness means it is easier to evade the central government’s relentless grip and benefit from trade, legal and illicit, with nearby China.

North Korea officially maintains the fiction that all economic activity is state-run. It therefore bans foreigners from visiting private markets which help to relieve dire shortages of even staple foods.

Yet during our visit, the Guardian was encouraged to shop in the market for crab for supper, which was cooked in a local restaurant. Apart from seafood, the market also sells cigarettes and alcohol imported from China.

For travellers who like to learn about their surroundings from the locals, North Korea is probably not the best destination.

The Guardian was closely manmarked by minders and ignored by locals. Local officials have been hoping to attract more tourists to Rason by building a golf course and racetrack, but it is hard to imagine these ever materialising in such an isolated and impoverished location.

Read the full story here:
North Korea: beyond the capital lies a different world
The Guardian
Michael Rank