A Monk’s Earthly Mission: Easing North Koreans’ Pain, by Choe Sang-Hun

[I have known the Ven. Pomnyun for more than a dozen years. We meet infrequently on my trips to Seoul. He is one of the rare people who has made the transition from human rights struggles in South Korea to human rights struggles for the North Korean people. He is also one of the rare examples of a human rights-minded activist who sees human rights as much more than civil and political rights. For Pomnyun and the “Good Friends” organization that he founded, the current price of rice in North Korea’s markets is as important as the current number of prisoners in North Korea’s labour camps. Economic, social and cultural rights occupy a large part of his agenda, which also means that Pomnyun has tirelessly promoted humanitarian assistance to North Korea, despite concerns about monitoring its distribution. Although the information collected by his organization is not always the most reliable, it does provide informal and localized indicators of change, for example in the food supply of villages and counties outside urban areas. We were pleased to see this article about Pomnyun, authored by Choe Sang-Hun, in the New York Times on 27 April 2012, and offer it here for our readers. –EW, CanKor]

South Korean Buddhist monk Venerable Pomnyun in his office at Peace Foundation in Seoul. (Photo by Woohae Cho, The International Herald Tribune)

In August 1996, the Venerable Pomnyun, a Buddhist monk from South Korea, was cruising down the Yalu River between China and North Korea when he saw a boy squatting alone at the North Korean edge of the water. The boy was in rags, his gaunt face covered in dirt.

Pomnyun shouted to him, but the boy did not respond. Pomnyun’s Chinese companion explained that North Korean children were instructed never to beg from foreigners. And when Pomnyun asked if the boat could be steered closer to the child to bring help, he was reminded that they could not enter North Korean territory.

“Never before had I realized the meaning of a border so painfully until that day,” said Pomnyun, 59. “Never before had I felt so acutely that Korea is a divided nation.” Read the rest of this entry »

DPRK Business Monthly Volume II, No. 4

The May 2011 edition of this monthly international business report, edited in Beijing, has been made available to CanKor by its editor, Paul White. Please check it out here.

Titles of articles found in this issue include:

    • Evangelist Franklin Graham visits DPRK
    • Golfers invited back to Pyongyang
    • Delegation from China’s Exim Bank tours NK
    • ROK Buddhist delegation visits NK
    • Penguin character joint NK-ROK production
    • DPRK, ROK invited to field joint table tennis team
    • NK mineral exports surging
    • Dot KP domain assigned to Star
    • 3G subscribers in NK pass half-million
    • Start due on DPRK-China Yalu River Free Trade Zone
    • Rason Zone copies China opening blueprint
    • Kaesong workforce up 11%

… and a number of other items. There is also a commentary on DPRK leader Kim Jong Il’s recent trip to China, plus a selection of tours to the DPRK that are open to the public.

The editor sends a correction to the information contained in an announcement of a seminar that will be held in Beijing on 26 July 2011, entitled “Linking the economic power of China, Mongolia, North and South Korea, and Russia”. Only after the newsletter was sent out, organizers indicated that the Russians will not be attending, and the media will not be invited.

Please feel free to consult the full issue by clicking on this link: DPRK Business Monthly Volume II, No. 4.

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