LATEST UPDATE-- JUNE 4, 2002: RETURNING TO PYONGYANG
BRINGING URGENT MEDICAL AID TO NORTH KOREA
I am returning to North Korea this week after an absence of several years,
This Home Page was set up in 1994 following the first of a series of serious
floods that brought about famine and a rupture of the supply to the nation-wide
medical system. This caused great suffering, particularly among children
and the elderly. At the time we began a series of visits to North Korea,
distributing rice, corn, clothing and medical supplies.
Major governments paid scant attention to the suffering there.The United
States blocked our bank account in Washington which was receiving donations
from generous Americans; South Korea threatened its citizens with jail if
they contributed directly to North Korean humanitarian efforts and Japan
sat and keeps sitting on its surplus rice which could save countless lives
but instead is rotting in its warehouses.
I was gratified to see the U.S. subsequently reverting to its historic humanitarian
custom of helping those in need, regardless of politics, while Kim Dae Jung
also dramatically reversed previous policies by instituting his Sunshine
Policy, donating emergency food supplies to its northern neighbor. Japan,
however, stubbornly refused to budge by placing the starving population as
pawns to achieve its political agenda. Japan has forgotten its own atrocities
against Koreans during its cruel occupation of the peninsula and failing
to make amends to the comfort women.
With the Bush administration's sudden "axis of evil" designation to North
Korea and then moving to punish its innocent citizens in the same breath,
I felt it was time for us to come back in and appeal for public support again
to help those faced with starvation and inadequate medical care due to unnecessary
shortages of drugs and equipment.
North Korean doctors have the training, skill and dedication to do their
job if they have the proper equipment. I know this first-hand because I was
a patient for ten days in a Pyongyang hospital recovering from a minor stoke.
Despite shortages of drugs, the expert treatment I received resulted in an
unexpected quick full recovery. My doctors in Tokyo and Boston were greatly
impressed how the North Korean doctors handled my treatment and the substitute
drugs (drip) used to cure the problem because they did not have the moderrn
drugs at hand.
Much of these failings have been the fault of other countries which have
placed obstacles in imposing sanctions and hampering communications, transportation
and retaining outdated laws aimed at discouraging those who seek to provide
North Korea with what it needs to help its population.
In this spirit I am returning to North Korea this week to work with the nation's
leading medical institution, the Kim Man Yu Hospital, to investigate whether
a telemedicine system, such as the one we established in Cambodia (www.villageleap.com)
could be effective in North Korea, headquartered at the Kim Man Yu hospital,
providing the expert medical diagnoses and suggesting treatment to patients
far away, in remote areas, where expertise and supplies may be lacking. I
also hope to assess the country's overall medical needs and talk to officials
responsible for the nation's health.
My observations and activities will be reported on a regular basis directly
from Pyongyang to this Home Page.
I hope, as a result of this trip, we will be able to post a wish list of
equipment and drugs (or cash with which to purchase these) and once donations
are received, to account for them in a transparent way on this page. I also
plan to come up with some specific proposal that will gain support from foundations
and international organizations in solving chronic problems in the spirit
of "teaching them how to fish" instead of endlessly "giving them fish."
We hope to work with the Huichon Hospital (92 kilometers north of Pyongyang)
which we visited twice before and helped after the 1994 floods. Hopefully
we can establish this as a pilot project to fulfill its needs.
We will also meet with the representatives of the World Food program, UNICEF,
UNDP and others to gain an insight into their programs and how the public
can assist them to meet their goals.