World Vision to Continue Relations with N. Korea Despite Ultimatum

One of the largest Christian relief and development organizations in the world plans to continue relations with North Korea despite its declaration that the United Nation World Food Program and all foreign NGOs must stop food aid and leave the country by the end of the year.

World Vision (WV) said Monday that it is planning to continue assisting the poor and needy in North Korea, believing that its long-term relationship and the results of its cooperation can lead to change.

“We have been encouraged in our partnerships with our North Korean co-workers and have seen results,” said Lynn Arnold, the Vice-President of World Vision’s Asia/Pacific Regional, in an e-mail to the Christian Post. “Long-term relationships and results build trust and confidence and can create further openings to bring about change.”

The faith-based humanitarian agency has a long history in North Korea, working to assist and develop the lives of its citizens for ten years. During that time-span, World Vision has undertaken a number of projects including the construction of noodle factories, which are supplied with generators, machinery and flour provided by the organization but run by the people in keeping with WV’s key principle – helping the people develop their own country.

“A key principle of World Vision, wherever we work, is to partner with communities as equals and to build skills and capacity so that nationals themselves take responsibility for helping their country to develop and meet development challenges. In many countries this can be a challenge, but these must be met intelligently with patience, diligence and with the faith that things can improve,” explained Arnold.

There are currently 12 foreign NGOs in North Korea, and although World Vision is not one of the resident organizations in the country, it does make regular trips to North Korea every three to four months to “engage with the authorities” and to visit the programs it is helping to fund.

Presently, NGOs are still trying to understand the exact implications of the North Korean announcement and believe “it is critically important to continue negotiation for programming work to continue in the North and to explore how that can happen and in what way,” according to Arnold.

The Democratic Republic of Korea has been receiving relief from different aid agency for as long as 10 years due to a food and health crisis from a drought in 1995 and 1997. International organizations estimate that more than two million people died of starvation as a result.

World Vision began working in North Korea in 1995 providing humanitarian aid such as rice, oil and hospital equipment. WV also partnered with North Korea to produce 60,000 meals a day from the six noodle factories it built in four provinces. The food was offered to the ones that would benefit the most: children in orphanages and nurseries, pregnant and nursing women and the elderly. Concurrently, WV was also shipping foodstuff and winter clothing to North Korea. Moreover, WV worked with different universities and organizations to develop agriculture output.

Although North Korea's severe food shortage has eased with the help of a good harvest this year, according to the U.N. World Food Program, international aid is still needed because the country does not produce enough to feed itself.

Despite this, North Korea demanded in September for all humanitarian food assistance from international agencies to be terminated by the end of this year.

In line with the North's request, the U.N. World Food Program, which provides food assistance to about 6.5 million North Koreans, said earlier it would end a decade of emergency food shipments by January and focus on development projects.