The Internet Campaign to Help North Korean Flood Victims


         This page has been dormant for more than a month because I
was unable to actively bring it up to date. The reason is this:

         I recently had a brush with mortality.

        Returning to Tokyo from an overseas trip, I felt short of breath.
The doctor here said I had damaged my heart by lifting heavy objects and
needed an operation to replace my aortic valve. I went to Boston's Beth
Israel hospital, where I have my regular check-ups, for a second opinion
and the doctors there agreed. I decided to have the operation in Boston and
it was a valuable experience in more ways than one. They split me open like
a lobster to insert the new mechanical valve but because I was under
anesthesia I remember nothing and have recovered miraculously quickly.

        During my stay first at Beth Israel and then at the Spaulding
Rehabilitation Hospital, where the care is superb, I was able to reflect on
my work in helping Cambodia in its reconstruction and rehabilitation, and
on my rice donation project in North Korea. My recovery has been
spectacular and the doctors also marveled at how quickly I was up again
and active. Probably because I had little time to think about myself. I
worried about the starving people in North Korea and my hospital project in
Cambodia. In a month I will be able to resume all my activities again,
including another trip to North Korea in late August or early September
with more shipments of rice if I can raise $100,000 by then. All the rice,
as in previous trips, will be personally distributed by me to the hungry
flood victims in the countryside.

        My appeal for contributions to total $100,000 begins now.

        In the 10 months that I have carried on this campaign, I have met
with much "moral support" but many more potential supporters have hesitated
to actually make a donation for fear they might get into trouble with the
law of their country. Specifically, South Korea.

        Many Koreans even from overseas have sent in donations requesting
that their names not be listed because of laws in South Korea prohibiting
direct donations to their starving brethren in the North. Donations from
South Korea must go through the Korean Red Cross but the Red Cross does not
provide the most essential foods -- rice. Instead they are sending costly
packaged noodles, blankets or socks, like giving a starving child chocolate
instead of essential food.  With the funds spent on noodles, twenty or
thirty more stomachs could be fed if an instant rahmen cup o' noodle  was
converted to rice or even more stomachs, if it is corn.

         Two Korean-American brothers actually pledged $250 each through
Internet e-mail but their donations never arrived; e-mail requests to
confirm the missing donations elicited no response.

          The President of a large manufacturing group in South Korea (who
was born in North Korea and has relatives in Kaesong), who also owns a
university, read about my activities in a Korean newspaper and sent several
admiring faxes to me urgently wishing to meet me on my next trip to Seoul
and indicating he would provide a generous donation to the flood victims.
When I turned up for the lunch which he arranged in a luxury Seoul hotel,
during my busy schedule, he did not show up but sent some lower-level
people from his company. They were non-committal about a donation, which
was disappointing and puzzled me. They said I would hear from him but I
never heard another word. During the lunch they never stopped asking
questions and took assiduous notes but in the end, while glowing with
admiration for my work explained their fear in helping the flood victims
because of South Korean laws against such contributions. They were afraid
of being sentenced to jail!

        American donors have also been reluctant to donate funds for rice
purchases and distribution as it might contravene the U.S. Treasury
Department regulations that prohibit "trading with the enemy." Treasury has
provided some licenses to certain organizations, allowing them to send a
container or two, but the signal isn't very clear and the general policy
has been to discourage private donations.

        The Mormons in Utah contacted me through another organization to
inquire if I could help them trans-ship 40,000 pounds of milk powder, 50
metric tons of white flower and badly needed medicine. I contacted the
North Korean Flood Damage Rehabilitation Committee and they eagerly awaited
this shipment. I had started arrangements to organize a transshipment at a
Japanese port. At the last moment the Mormons reneged and informed me they
had decided instead to ship everything to Rome and ask the World Food
Program to handle it from there. I wonder if they did and how it will ever
get there. (see latest letter from Pyongyang, dated June 15, posted today).

        The Treasury Department, however, quietly unblocked my account in
the Crestar Bank (Washington DC) for the North Korean Flood Victims in
June but insisted that contributions to it should only be sent through the
World Food Program. I therefore closed the account and am only receiving
donations now through three accounts:

        Donors worldwide and in Japan may transfer funds to
        Acct. #748849,
        Sumitomo Bank, Hiroo Garden Hills Branch, Tokyo.
        Account Name: North Korean Flood Relief.

        Donors in South Korea may send donations to
        Name of Account: HOPE Worldwide, Korea
        Account number 371-05-012315
        Branch: Kangnam Choongang
        Branch Tel. No.: 82-2-538-5505

        Donations from Australia may be sent to:
        Commonwealth Bank of Australia
        Account Name: North Korea Flood Relief
        A/C: 06-2903-1011-9582

        Other good news included the number of news clippings and TV
programs (Japan, CNN, Australia, Germany) which have poured in, including a
front page story about our activities in The Christian Science Monitor
(June 5) which is also being posted here.

        A number of persons reading this page have been disturbed that
their desire to help starving people is being blocked by governments who
wish to mix food and politics. They have asked me how I felt about their
breaking the law.

        I have done some research into this philosophical problem and given
it much thought. As I lay in my hospital bed enjoying my remarkable
recovery from heart surgery I concluded with great conviction that there
exists a higher law than civil law when it comes to saving lives (or not
killing people).

        International law, through the Nuremberg war crimes trials in fact
supports the principle of civil disobedience through rulings "which
affirmed the principle that an individual may, under certain circumstances, 
be held accountable for *failure* to break the laws of his country" 
according to The Encyclopedia Britannica.

        A man may be held legally accountable for following "orders" to
kill.  Likewise then a person could be held morally responsible for failing
to save lives because an unjust law stands in his or her way.

        During World War II, a gentleman called Schindler (Spielberg made a
movie out of his noble acts) saved hundreds of Jewish lives by breaking
laws in Nazi Germany that convicted all Jews to death.  At the same time a
Japanese diplomat in Lithuania, called Sempo Sugihara, also broke Japanese
laws by "illegally" issuing thousands of transit visas to Jews doomed to
death by allowing them to pass through Japan for refuge in Curacao. Today
they are heroes because they listened to a higher law. I believe anyone
following their conscience, regardless of any laws, to help feed starving
civilian North Koreans, and save them from disease or even death, will be
blessed by God and whatever it takes, the risk is worth taking.

        When a ship signals an SOS the highest law is to save the
passengers, regardless of their nationality or ideology.

        I now propose that no civil laws should justly prevent any
well-meaning sincere person who wishes to feed starving civilians crying
for help. My trips to North Korea assure anyone that the donated rice goes
to civilians in need and documentation, in the form of videos and photos,
exist proving my direct distributions reach the victims. It should be a
crime, in turn, to prevent a well fed person from helping a hungry person.

        I urge everyone to respond to such a higher law and to support me
in this campaign, even if it is an act of Civil Disobedience at the risk of

        I cite below material reprinted  from  the Encyclopedia Britannica
on "Civil Disobedience" to reinforce this point.

        I have waited ten months to finally urge all good-meaning people to
follow their conscience and religious philosophies, even if it constitutes
an act of civil disobedience.  Don't wait for people to starve and die. Act

                                Bernard Krisher
                                Tokyo, July 15, 1996

  ON CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE (from The Encyclopedia Britannica)

        There is a higher law than the civil one, and the higher law must
be followed even if a penalty ensues. So does its application: "Under a
government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is
also a prison."

                             --Henry David Thoreau on "Civil Disobedience"

. . .
        CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE, or PASSIVE RESISTANCE, an illegal action
committed publicly as a protest against the law violated or against some
other law or social situation that cannot be confronted directly. Civil
disobedience has been a major tactic and philosophy of nationalist
movements in Africa and India, in the civil rights movement of the U.S.
Negro, and of labor and anti-war movements in many countries.

        Civil disobedience is a symbolic or ritualistic violation of the
law, rather than a rejection of the system as a whole. The civil
disobedient, finding legitimate avenues of change blocked or nonexistent,
sees himself as obliged by a higher, extralegal principle to break some
specific law. It is because civil disobedience is a crime, however, and
known by actor and public alike to be punishable that the act serves as
protest. By submitting to punishment, the civil disobedient hopes to set a
moral example that will jolt the majority or the government into effecting
meaningful change. Under the imperative of setting a moral example, the
major spokesmen of civil disobedience insist that the illegal actions be

        A variety of criticism has been directed against the philosophy and
practice of civil disobedience. The radical critique of the philosophy of
civil disobedience condemns its acceptance of the existing political
structure; conservative schools of thought, on the other hand, see the
logical extension of civil disobedience as anarchy and the right of the
individual to break any law he chooses, at any time. Activists themselves
are divided in interpreting civil disobedience either as a total philosophy
of social change or as merely a tactic to be employed when the movement
lacks other means. On a pragmatic level, the efficacy of civil disobedience
hinges on the adherence of the opposition to a certain morality to which an
appeal can ultimately be made.

        The civil roots of civil disobedience lie deep in Western thought:
Cicero, Saint Thomas Aquinas, John Locke, Thomas Jefferson and Henry David
Thoreau all sought to justify conduct by virtue of its harmony with some
antecedent superhuman moral law. The man who most clearly formulated the
concept of civil disobedience for the modern world was Mahatma Gandhi.
Drawing from Eastern and Western thought, Gandhi developed the philosophy of
*satyagraha*. First in the Transvaal of South Africa in 1906 and later in
India, Gandhi led his people in satyagraha to obtain equal rights and
freedom. Inspired by Gandhi's example, the civil rights movement of the
American Negro in the 1960s adopted the tactics and philosophy of civil
disobedience, perhaps best expressed by Martin Luther King, Jr. Later, the
tactics, if not always the philosophy of civil disobedience, were employed
by a variety of protest groups. The principle of civil disobedience has
achieved some standing in international law through the war crime trials
at Nuremberg after World War II, which affirmed the principle that an
individual may, under certain circumstances, be held accountable for
failure to break the laws of his country.

. . .

"Civil Disobedience," first published as "Resistance to Civil Government"
(1849), as an essay written by Henry David Thoreau, defending the priority
of private conscience over civil law. In the 20th Century this essay
influenced such people as Gandhi.


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