Civil organizations working on North Korea are 'frustrated' by waiting with no promises Civil organizations working on North Korea are 'frustrated' by waiting with no promises

Civil organizations working on North Korea are 'frustrated' by waiting with no promises

Civil organizations working on North Korea are 'frustrated' by waiting with no promises

North Korea has recently allowed Russian tourists and some diplomatic officials to visit North Korea, but it is still restricting the activities of international organizations and humanitarian aid organizations to North Korea.

In particular, private organizations expressed their frustration, saying that although the humanitarian situation of North Korean residents is serious, they are not properly implementing support projects for North Korea. These groups plan to resume their activities as soon as North Korea opens its borders, but the timing and scale are still unclear.

Private groups targeting North Korea have suspended their activities “ Still on standby ”

Deutsche Welthungerhilfe, a German relief organization that has been providing support to North Korea since 1997.

This organization had permanent staff in North Korea and carried out various humanitarian aid projects before the coronavirus pandemic, but had to leave Pyongyang in 2020 as its activities were greatly reduced due to North Korea's coronavirus quarantine measures.

Bettina Botner, external media manager for World Hunger Aid, recently told Radio Free Asia (RFA), “World Hunger Aid is still in ‘standby mode.’” “Currently, aid projects to North Korea have been suspended, and North Korea “The staff who were residing there still haven’t been able to return,” he said.

Although it is still registered as a private organization (NGO) in North Korea, there are no ongoing activities.  

He added, “Nevertheless, we are ready to resume work in close contact with the United Nations when circumstances allow.” 

Another North Korea support group, who requested anonymity, also said that all past projects have been halted and that they are communicating with North Korea, but North Korea's position remains unchanged. 

He explained that this organization is also preparing to resume activities as soon as circumstances allow, but it is unclear when that will be.

The UN Sanctions Committee on North Korea (1718 Committee), which oversees sanctions against North Korea, has continued to exempt UN organizations and private organizations from sanctions on humanitarian aid projects against North Korea even during the COVID-19 period.

However, as North Korea has blocked its borders since 2020, sanctions-exempt items such as agricultural products, medicines, and medical devices supported by private organizations are unable to enter North Korea.

It is not only private organizations that are complaining of this frustration.

Switzerland, which has been conducting humanitarian aid projects for North Korea with its Office for Development and Cooperation in Pyongyang since 1995, is the only country this year to announce plans to use aid funds for North Korea through the United Nations.

However, Swiss Foreign Ministry spokesman Pierre-Alain Eltinger recently told RFA, “Due to North Korea’s border blockade in 2020, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, a Swiss humanitarian aid agency, has temporarily suspended humanitarian activities against North Korea.” He said.

However, the Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs also maintains that “if conditions allow, we will resume humanitarian aid activities for North Korea.”

“ Even if activities resume, it will be difficult to proceed with business as before. ”

Private organizations and countries that have carried out humanitarian aid projects for North Korea agree that the resumption of activities depends on whether North Korea opens its borders. 

In June 2020, Finn Church Aid⋅FCA, a Finnish non-profit organization that has been providing food support to vulnerable children in North Korea, requested the entry of goods related to food support for elementary school students located in two counties in North Hwanghae Province. The sanctions exemption period has been extended.

In addition, sanctions exemption was granted for conducting disaster risk and emergency education activities for vulnerable children and families, but the validity period expired on the 13th without being able to visit North Korea. 

Eric Nystrom, head of external media at Fin Church Aid, told RFA, “Access is restricted for our organizations, including the UN,” and pointed out, “This is because North Korea’s borders are closed.”

In addition, Nistrom, head of external media, assessed that the current humanitarian situation in North Korea is still serious and said, “If a visit to North Korea is possible in the future, permission to update the humanitarian assessment of North Korea will be required before implementing support projects.”

This can be interpreted to mean that since aid activities for North Korea have been suspended for a long time, even if humanitarian aid becomes possible, it will be difficult to proceed with business as before the coronavirus pandemic.

Previously, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) also told RFA on the 23rd that international staff have still not been able to return to North Korea following the North Korean authorities' border blockade in 2020.

He also added that the delay in their return to North Korea has resulted in a sharp decline in donations from the international community, and that projects toward North Korea will have to be scaled back this year.

Meanwhile, Cho Chung-hee, director of the Good Farmers Research Institute and a former North Korean defector who is an expert on North Korean agriculture, predicted to RFA in December last year that the food situation for North Korean residents will not improve this year.

The weather will not improve in the new year , and the current winter is particularly cold, so the condition of wheat barley sown in the fall is expected to deteriorate . I think that if there are no new changes, there will continue to be a ( food ) shortage .

Kim Hyeok, a senior researcher at the Rural Research Institute of the Korea Rural Community Corporation, also said, “There has been a movement to secure as much state-owned food as possible rather than supply for North Korean residents.” He also said, “If the price of rice rises as the North Korean authorities control grains flowing into the North Korean market, the general There were concerns that residents may face significant difficulties in living.

As food shortages in North Korea are expected again this year, concerns are growing about the humanitarian situation of North Korean residents as the North Korean authorities still do not accept humanitarian aid from the international community.

In particular, North Korea is easing the border blockade for some personnel, such as allowing Russian tourist groups to enter the country for the first time in four years and approving German diplomatic officials to visit North Korea. However, when will North Korea support groups' visits to North Korea and activities resume? It is unclear whether this will happen.

This is Seo Hye-jun from RFA Free Asia Broadcasting.

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