Update on First Steps activities, by Susan Ritchie

[First Steps is a Vancouver-based Christian development organization whose primary purpose is preventing child malnutrition in North Korea through programs that provide essential nutrients to young children. Its founding director Susan Ritchie recently returned from a visit to the DPRK and sent us this report. For more on First Steps and Ms Ritchie, see the Chosun Ilbo article “Canadian Who Became ‘Mother’ to N.Korean Orphans”. –CanKor]

First Steps founding director Susan Ritchie explains her charity's activities in North Korea while showing a picture taken in a factory she visited there. (Photo by Chosun Ilbo)

First Steps founding director Susan Ritchie explains her charity’s activities in North Korea while showing a picture taken in a factory she visited there. (Photo by Chosun Ilbo)

First Steps currently has two programs. First Steps’ soymilk program is currently reaching more than 90,000 children with a daily cup of soymilk. The micro -nutrient Sprinkles program is reaching approx. 70,000 pregnant women and babies from 6 – 24 months. Sprinkles prevent anemia and reduce morbidity (for example, deaths from diarrhea and pneumonia as well as rickets, etc.). As in-kind donations are becoming more available we are increasingly able to engage in relief work when there is a need.

We are shipping 3 larger food processing units to Wonsan in the coming weeks and expect that the total number of FS soymilk beneficiaries will soon exceed 100,000 children. The FS soymilk plants are working exceptionally well in the cities, counties and farms where we work. The food processing equipment that we send is a good fit for NK. Last year we shipped 280 metric tonnes of soybeans to supplement the local supply. We currently have 75 tonnes of soys en route.

I mentioned Deokchon in our last newsletter. It’s a city of 250,000 people, almost all of whom are engaged in mining coal (400 metres underground) or relevant activities to feed the coal plant in Pyongyang. We first visited the area after they had suffered a landside that took 46 lives and left more than 8,000 people homeless last summer. We partnered with ShelterBox to send in tents and then we sent in a 20′ container of relief foods for the children. Last week we visited the city again to confirm the arrival of the food, etc. Read the rest of this entry »

The Canada-DPRK Knowledge Partnership Programme, by Park Kyung-Ae

[CanKor Brain Trust member Park Kyung-Ae has for the second year in a row hosted six DPRK economics professors for further study in Western-style economics at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. This article about the Canada-DPRK Knowledge Partnership Programme (KPP) was first published on our partner-site 38North. –CanKor]

Canada-DPRK-Cooperation-300x136Knowledge sharing is a powerful tool to promote economic growth and improve quality of life in developing countries. It gives participants access not only to practical information, but the worldview, motivations, and experiences of their partners. Sharing of this nature facilitates mutual understanding between individuals that, in turn, builds empathy, compassion, and patience—the foundation for all relationships, whether between individuals or states. Knowledge partnerships that focus on human resource development through various academic and practical programs can be one of the most successful areas of cooperation between North Korea and the outside world. Such programs are particularly important in this context because they create alternative, non-governmental avenues for dialogue that can remain active when the political environment limits official lines of communication. Read the rest of this entry »

10 North Korean scholars present papers at UBC

The Department of Asian Studies and the Centre for Korean Research at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, are hosting the 10th international conference organized by the International Society for Korean Studies (ISKS) on 24-25 August 2011. The ISKS, whose headquarters are in Osaka, has held such conferences every other year, including meetings in the UK, Beijing and Shanghai. The Society has branches in both Seoul and Pyongyang.

“We bring together scholars of Korea from all over the world,” says CanKor Brain Trust member Prof. Donald Baker, who is in charge of the UBC conference. “But the primary purpose of the conference is to bring scholars from the ROK and the DPRK together.”

Some 80 Korea scholars were expected to present papers at the conference, including participants from the DPRK, ROK, PRC, Japan, North America, Cuba, Europe, and elsewhere. Among these are 10 North Koreans from the DPRK National Academy of Social Science, as well as 22 South Koreans.

There is no specific theme for the conference. Scholars have a wide-open opportunity to share any ideas and the latest achievements on Korean Studies. The conference proceedings, including some 800 pages of learned papers, will be published on the dedicated website currently titled “ISKS conference at the University of British Columbia”.

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