The Internet Campaign to Help North Korean Flood Victims


February 17, 1997


                     Goal: $100,000
                     Amount Collected: $40,000
                     Date of My Next Donation Trip: End of March 1997
                     Send dollar checks or money orders to: Internet Appeal
                     for North Korean Flood Victims, c/o Bernard Krisher,
                     4-1-7-605 Hiroo, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo (150) Japan
                     Wire funds to: North Korean Flood Relief, Sumitomo Bank, 
                     Hiroo Garden Hills branch, Account No.748849 (futsu)
                     How it works: Your contributions will purchase rice at 
                     app. $250 per ton, perhaps less.  We have received 
permission from the Japanese government to purchase surplus Thai rice that
is stored in Japanese warehouses. One ton feeds 75 persons a month (at 450 
grams a day).  The current below-subsistance ration is only 100 grams a day. 
We will load this rice on the Mangyonbong leaving Niigata on April 2 and 
arriving two days later at Wonson port in North Korea, and load it onto 
hired trucks.  I (and my daughter Debbie, my photographer) will personally 
lead the trucks to famine-struck areas and witness the delivery to civilian 
warehouses and personally pour rice into the bags of hungry civilians, as on 
previous donation trips (see videos & photos elsewhere on this Home Page). 
Your contribution, if you agree, will be noted on a Donor's list on this Page.  
Photos and reports will also appear on this Page during and following next 
month's trip.  Your donations are urgently awaited. 


                                 By Bernard Krisher /  February 17, 1997

                              No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a
                              piece of the continent, a part of the main... any
                              man's death diminishes me, because I am involved
                              in mankind; and therefore never send to know for
                              whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

-- John Donne (written in 1624)

     The food shortage in North Korea has now reached a critical stage.  

     A few years ago Koreans received 900 grams a day. After the flood 
18 months ago, which made 500,000 homeless and destroyed vast areas of 
farmlands and much of its stored rice, the rations were cut in half to 
450 grams. Today it is a minimal 100 grams, according to Mrs. Birgitta 
Kalgren, the World Food Program representative in Pyongyang, who I just 
spoke to on the phone.

Children are malnourished. Immunity is breaking down against TB, pneumonia and skin diseases. Drugs are lacking to counter the threat of epidemics. It's the worst scenario of what was predicted on my last visit.

No one in the world today, eating three meals a day with a roof over their head, should ignore anyone who does not have enough to eat.

There are food shortages and famines in many countries but North Korea is particularly vulnerable because it is isolated, partly of its own accord but also through isolation imposed by other countries which have erected trade sanctions.

South Korea, for example, does not allow its citizens, including humanitarian church groups, to contribute to any relief programs that would effectively relieve the suffering of the North Korean population. The Seoul government wants to control all aid going to North Korea, not just its own but also that of other countries. It has succeeded in stopping the Japanese government from facilitating humanitarian donations to the North. The U.S. which has a stronger humanitarian tradition, has parted company with the South on this issue. But its limited shipments of grain to the North, in part to placate South Korea, may still wind up as being too little and too late.

No one is speaking up forcefully on behalf of a whole country of 23 million which is on the verge of starvation. As someone lucky enough to possess everything I need, I feel compelled to speak up and try to help these helpless people, though my efforts may only be a drop in the ocean. But if only a fraction of the Internet population would help me, we can save thousands of lives from death. Isn't this worth living for? I hope you will help me, with your contributions--$5, $10, $100, it all adds up-- so I can bring a substantial amount of life-saving rice and other grains to the North at the end of March. The right people will surely get it because I have been assured by the North Korean officials that I can continue to provide direct distributions as I have in the past. Please don't miss this rare opportunity to help people in need with the assurance that your help is reaching the right people.

Many South Koreans have contacted me and supported this campaign in words but in the end were afraid to follow up with contributions. South Koreans are not allowed to contribute to the National Council of Churches, to the UNDP, to the World Food Program or to this Internet Appeal campaign, which distributes rice directly to those deprived of sufficient food.

Despite our transparency of distribution which brings the rice directly into the hands of the malnourished civilian population, South Koreans face jail if they support a campaign such as this one. Or even if they read this message on the Internet. South Koreans who helped me to set up a site for a speech in Seoul some months ago, which few attended out of fear, were threatened by the Agency for National Security Planning that they were breaking the law.

Ironically, two decades ago as a Newsweek correspondent, in the interest of keeping the flame of democracy alive, I was breaking a similar law by risking to visit and interview Kim Young Sam and Kim Dae Jung when they were under house arrest.

South Koreans may only donate funds to the South Korean Red Cross which uses food for political ends. The South Korean Red Cross does not ship rice, only flour or clothing, and only when it chooses, so it won't be accused of not being humanitarian. But North Korea does not require flour nor clothing as urgently as it requires grain, to stave off famine. South Korea's donations to the North are tantamount to giving chocolate to hungry children. Much more could be purchased in basic grains with the same money and it would also be closer to meeting the intention of the donors. Ten million Koreans have relatives on the other side of the border. Surely they don't want such relatives to die of hunger.

North Korea's system and politics may not please most of the world but it is no reason to punish its innocent population by not feeling starving people.

In an editorial on the subject the Washington Post commented on February 9:

The downfall of the North Korean government is fervently to be wished for, but using famine to bring that about is more than risky. Famines breed chaos, not democracy. The current regime could be replaced, difficult as it is to be imagined, by something worse. North Korea's million-man army could launch a suicide attack. A hungry population could press against the South Korean border.

Even setting those dangers aside, humanitarian motives should prevail. U.S. policy has long held that starving children should be fed, no matter how evil their rulers. U.S. grain went to Ethiopia when its regime was unswervingly anti-American (and in the process won the respect of many civilians who knew what was going on and today remember U.S. help). The United States helped feed Iraqis, Sudanese, Angolans.

Why is it not upholding its humanitarian tradition now? Mostly because South Korea objects to providing food aid... In fact the United States should set only one condition for providing food--that North Korea allow sufficient monitors into the country to ensure the food ends up where it should. All other issues should be negotiated separately.

Our appeal follows in this spirit. We put politics aside and look only on the issue of providing food to starving people. And we fully monitor our donations. I personally follow that every grain of rice is either deposited in a civilian warehouse in a famine-stricken area where enough people witness and gratefully acknowledge its delivery or it is poured by me directly into rice bags of the hungry. The North Koreans have fully cooperated in my requests to distribute rice in such a way because they acknowledge that the donors like to see the fruits of their generosity.

South Korea not only forbids its citizens from directly assisting any campaign to feed its brethren, but has also tried to stop Japan from providing humanitarian assistance to the North. It is puzzling why Japan follows such pressure from South Korea. In fairness the Food Agency has authorized me to purchase rice from the surplus stored in its warehouses for our humanitarian donations to the civilians in North Korea who are hungry. But the government itself is resisting its own shipments of rice that could avert a famine there.

The argument provided by the Japanese politicians and government officials falls back on their desire not to displease South Korea. But politics should not dictate a policy when innocent people are hungry and may die.

Do not ask for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.

Please click here to return to the beginning.