Ecumenical Accompaniment for Building Justice and Peace in Korea by Erich Weingartner

[This article was written for a discussion on “The Korean Peninsula: Towards an Ecumenical Accompaniment for Building Justice and Peace” at the 10th General Assembly of the World Council of Churches, which took place in Busan, Republic of Korea, from 30 October to 8 November 2013.]

Site of the 10th WCC Assembly in Busan, ROK

Site of the 10th WCC Assembly in Busan, ROK (Photo by EW)

The Korean War claimed millions of lives between 1950 and 1953. Sixty years ago, that war paused with the signing of an armistice, marking the cessation of the hot war on the Korean Peninsula. But an armistice is not a peace, and the hostilities of the Cold War have not ceased to this very day. The world’s largest armies, with the most powerful weapons, still threaten each other across the so-called “demilitarized” zone that dissects this beautiful country. This seemingly endless confrontation continues to be used by those in power to prove that the price of security is readiness to resort to arms, and that justice is irrelevant to peace.

In the name of this false security, economic well-being continues to be sacrificed in favour of military prowess. But though the pain of this tragedy is borne primarily by Koreans, the illness that caused it is global. When the WCC thirty years ago embarked on a mission to forge lines of communication between North and South Korea, we could not help but challenge the sanity of the bi-polar world that was taken for granted as a necessity for the preservation of security in our World. We no longer have a bi-polar world, but we still have a bi-polar mentality. Bi-polar illness is what used to be called schizophrenia. The continued division of Korea is a clear symptom of our global schizophrenia. Read the rest of this entry »

What Works Best? by Erich Weingartner

There is a simple question I am often asked when speaking about humanitarian assistance: What works best with the DPRK?

Simple questions don’t always result in simple answers, and when it comes to the DPRK, simple answers don’t exist. Actually, even simple questions turn out to be more complex when applied to the DPRK: What do we mean by the words “works best”? Works best for whom? For what purpose? Under what circumstances? During what time period? And who or what determines what works best?

North Korean children consuming donated food (Picture by Erich Weingartner)

North Korean children consuming donated food (Picture by Erich Weingartner)

Works best for whom?

For the donors? For the implementing agencies? For the recipient country? For the intended beneficiaries?

What works best for international agencies may not work best for Korean organizations. What works best for resident NGOs may not work for non-resident NGOs. What works best for European NGOs under the umbrella of the EU or EC or ECHO may not work for American NGOs distributing the donations of US-AID. What works best for the Eugene Bell Foundation may not work at all for Doctors Without Borders (MSF). What works best for the elite in Pyongyang may not work well for the families of unemployed workers in Chongjin.

Works best for what purpose?

What may work best in the short term may not work best with a longer-term perspective in mind. When evaluating assistance programme models and strategies, we should consider what long-term objectives we are seeking to achieve:

  • When we intervene in the DPRK, is our only goal to feed the hungry?
  • Or are we also concerned about peace and security in the region? Read the rest of this entry »

How to send your child to summer camp in North Korea, by Justin Rohrlich

[We are pleased to present another article by New York-based Canadian journalist Justin Rohrlich. CanKor Brain Trust member Matthew Reichel is one of the people interviewed in this article, which was featured in the newly-launched NK News Pro on 6 June 2013, and is re-posted here with permission. We encourage you to view the original article on the NK News website, where you can see more pictures and embedded videos from and about Songdowon International Children’s Camp. For those wishing to read more content like this, click here to get a free trial of NK News Pro. –CanKor]

How to send your child to summer camp in North Korea

by Justin Rohrlich , NK News Pro, 6 June 2013

“Parents are responsible for about 300 Euros in fees and travel costs, with all other expenses being met by the Korean side.”

Songdowon International Children's Camp (Photo by Matthew Reichel)

Songdowon International Children’s Camp (Photo by Matthew Reichel)

While some kids are being sent away to summer camps in New England right now, others are on their way to the Songdowon International Children’s Camp in Wonsan, North Korea.

Songdowon is one of the last vestiges of a type of cultural exchange seen in similar countries from across the Communist bloc in decades past, not entirely unlike the Soviet Artek camps and East Germany’s Ernst Thälmann Pioneer Organisation.

Far from just a getaway for North Korean children, thousands of young people from countries including China, Russia, Nigeria, Mongolia, Mexico, Syria (where North Korean military officers have reportedly begun advising Assad’s forces), Tanzania, and Thailand have attended the Songdowon camp since it opened in 1960, which expanded to accommodate 1,200 guests in 1993 “under the special care of President Kim Il Sung and the leader Kim Jong Il.” Read the rest of this entry »

Why North Korea places so much emphasis on organic farming, by Justin Rohrlich

[CanKor Editor Erich Weingartner and Brain Trust members Randall Ireson and Kathi Zellweger were among interviewees featured in this article by journalist Justin Rohrlich about North Korean farming practices. The resulting article was published on 31 May 2013 in NK News Pro. –CanKor]

“Let us thoroughly implement the Juche farming methods created by the fatherly leader Comrade Kim Il Sung!”

Picture panel at Sambong Farm, Pyongwon County, DPRK (Photo by Erich Weingartner)

Picture panel at Sambong Farm, Pyongwon County, DPRK (Photo by Erich Weingartner)

As reported recently by North Korean state news agency KCNA – and picked up by NK News Pro Media Monitoring – a “short course” in organic farming methods was held at the Pyongyang Centre for Cultural Exchange with Foreign Countries from 14-16 May 2013.

A delegation of experts led by Andre Leu, President of the Bonn, Germany-based International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (also the current Chair of the Organic Federation of Australia and former Chair of the Far North Queensland Lychee Growers Association), was in town to direct the two-day program, which included, among other seminars, “Multi-Functional Benefits of Organic Agriculture, Soil Health and Nutrition,” “Green Manure,” and “Humus Soil and its Making.” Read the rest of this entry »

DPRK Business Monthly Volume IV, No.4

The DPRK Business Monthly, an international business report edited in Beijing, has been made available to CanKor readers by its editor, Paul White. Please check the current May 2013 edition here: DPRK Business Monthly Volume IV, No.4

Manpho Yonha Power Station (Photo by KCNA)

Manpho Yonha Power Station (Photo by KCNA)

Titles of articles found in this issue include:

  • Sanctions on NK’s Foreign Trade Bank Could Affect Millions
  • UNFPA Provides Medical Aid to NK mothers
  • Sanctions Hit Humanitarian Funding
  • Inter-Korean Business at a Standstill
  • Manpho Yonha Power Station Opened
  • June 28th New Management Methods in Force
  • Rason Could Be NK’s Shenzhen
  • Sinuiju Open to Western Tourists

…plus a number of other items, including a selection of North Korean tours by various tour operators. Read the rest of this entry »

DPRK Business Monthly Volume IV, No.3

The DPRK Business Monthly, an international business report edited in Beijing, has been made available to CanKor readers by its editor, Paul White. Please check the  current April 2013 edition here: DPRK Business Monthly Volume IV, No.3

Josh Thomas and Ms Yu, one of the North Korean guides, enjoy draft beers at the bar of the Yanggakdo Hotel Microbrewery. (Photo by Joseph A Ferris III)

Josh Thomas and Ms Yu, one of the North Korean guides, enjoy draft beers at the bar of the Yanggakdo Hotel Microbrewery. (Photo by Joseph A Ferris III)

Titles of articles found in this issue include:

  • The Travails of a Beer Joint Venture
  • North Korea’s Surprising Microbrewery Culture Explored
  • NK Ups Chinese Fertilizer Imports
  • North Korea Accepts ShelterBox Disaster Relief Equipment
  • Medical Aid from ROK Enters North
  • Pyongyang Gets First Artisan Coffee Shop
  • 3G Now Covers Two Million in NK
  • Science Reporter Probes NK Fight against Multidrug-resistant TB
  • Tanchon to Become New Industry-Export Center
  • Kaesong Sets Up Light Industry College
  • Koryo Tours guide to mobile & Internet services in the DPRK

…plus a number of other items, including a selection of North Korean tours by various tour operators.

Comment by the Business Monthly Editor:

It’s been a bad month for business in the DPRK, but the ROK might be the biggest sufferer from all the saber-rattling on and around the peninsula. Read the rest of this entry »

Canadians not about to leave or stay away from South Korea

[Canadians don’t seem too worried about war on the Korean Peninsula, judging from interviews with Canadians living in the Republic of Korea, and a group of Canadian Korean War veterans who are leaving on a tour to South Korea. We feature three articles that have appeared in the Canadian media recently. The first, distributed by The Canadian Press is taken from CTV News, 18 April 2013. The second appeared in numerous Canadian newspapers, such as The Chronicle Herald of Halifax, on 11 April 2013, with files from The Associated Press. The third is from QMI Agency and was published by various newspapers in the Sun News Network on 13 April 2013. –CanKor]

Canadian vets to tour South Korea despite threats from North

The Canadian Press, Ottawa, 18 April 2013
Minister of National Defence Peter MacKay looks on as Minister of Veterans Affairs Steven Blaney speaks with Korean War veteran Douglas Barber during an event on Parliament Hill, Tuesday, 16 April 2013. (Photo by Adrian Wyld, The Canadian Press)

Minister of National Defence Peter MacKay looks on as Minister of Veterans Affairs Steven Blaney speaks with Korean War veteran Douglas Barber during an event on Parliament Hill, Tuesday, 16 April 2013. (Photo by Adrian Wyld, The Canadian Press)

Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney is preparing to lead a delegation to South Korea next week, despite bloodcurdling threats by North Korea against its neighbour. Blaney and a group of 36 veterans of the Korean War are to leave this weekend for a commemorative tour of battlefields and cemeteries.

He says Foreign Affairs is keeping a close eye on the Korean peninsula, where North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un has been threatening nuclear war against South Korea and the United States. Blaney adds that the South Korean government hasn’t raised any red flags over the trip.

The five-day visit commemorates Canada’s contribution to the 1950-53 Korean War. About 26,000 Canadians took part in the conflict and 516 were killed. Read the rest of this entry »

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