The Internet Campaign to Help North Korean Flood Victims


This is an international appeal over the Internet, encouraged by the people and government of North Korea, to seek assistance for more than 100,000 families left homeless by last month's ravaging floods which have inundated large parts of the country. Thi s is an urgent appeal to help minimize the danger of spreading disease and hunger and protect the population from the cold against the harsh winter ahead.

North Korea may not be familiar with the Internet, but it does understand the acute crisis it faces and has openly welcomed and thanked us for putting this appeal on the World Wide Web. North Korea is reaching out to whoever will help and we, in turn, are appealing on the Internet to bypass the delays of politics, bureaucracies, and caution shown by government, media and charitable organizations. If this campaign is successful it will also prove the exceptional ability of the Internet to bypass conventional channels to make an important contribution in rescuing people who have been suddenly and unexpectedly hit by Mother Nature. As former journalists we want to cut such red tape and simply help the victims of this flood.

These are the facts:

Since July, torrential rains have continued to ravage much of North Korea. A United Nations assessment mission has concluded that the flooding is affecting more than 100,000 families (or 500,000 persons) and causing severe crop and industrial damage.

For the most part the devastating damage in North Korea has been ignored or undereported by the international press, mostly because of the difficulty of getting to the devastated areas. Hurricane damage in the Caribbean, for example, received extensive coverage even though the damage in terms of real human suffering was tiny compared to the destruction North Korea is experiencing.

The lack of media coverage has meant that an appeal to governments by the U.N. Department of Humanitarian Affairs has so far resulted in a slow and inadequate response. This is where the Internet, as an alternate media of communications can be an innovative way of bringing a serious humanitarian crisis to the public.

Consider the results of conventional media coverage of the flood: The United States announced last week a donation of only $25,000. Japan has said it will give $500,000. South Koreans seem torn on the issue. There are more than 10 million relatives of South Koreans living in the North. Yet there has been fierce debate in South Korea over whether it was "too generous" in its offer of $2 million in assistance. That's less than private groups in South Korea gave to Kobe earthquake victims in Japan!

That is why we are taking to the Internet with this unusual appeal. We need an innovative, fast solution because traditional disaster response is not working.

Usually when such a catastrophe hits a country the international response, public and private, is quick and generous. North Korea, however, poses a particularly difficult humanitarian challenge. North Korea continues to find itself isolated from the daily business of most countries. Most key donor countries do not have diplomatic relations and even if they did, communications and transport routes to and in Korea are far from adequate.

North Korea also suffers from isolation, not all of it self-imposed. But politics should not play a role in assisting these helpless and homeless people in need. It is nature, not a political system, that has caused the flooding. The people of North Korea are thus justly entitled to any humanitarian assistance the world is willing to offer.

I am a former Newsweek correspondent in Asia, who has lived in Asia for 33 years and have been to North Korea three times. I can visualize the pain the people and the country itself is experiencing. There is no dispute about the suffering: the U.N. confirms "there has been severe damage to agricultural land and production, to critical facilities such as hospitals and health centers, to water supply and other infrastructure such as roads, bridges, and irrigation systems as well as industrial facilities."

According to the U.N. team which visited the afflicted areas this month, the problem is getting worse, not better. There is an acute danger that a diarrhea epidemic will, or is already, breaking out. The Korean factory that produces oral rehydration solution has been knocked out of action by the flooding. There is no reserve stock of this essential drug.

Measles and other diseases are also spreading.

North Korea also suffers from an acute food shortage. The North Korean government estimates that the flood, compounded by earlier shortages, has reduced by half already low annual grain requirements. U.N. observers report that children in the affected are as are "both wasted and stunted and eating a diluted porridge of whole grain maize."

North Korea infrastructure has also taken a big hit. Floods destroyed electric lines that normally power the mills that produce maize flour or ground maize.

Property loss is incalculable. With an extremely cold winter coming, flood victims will need clean blankets and warm clothing. Average temperatures during January, for example can get as low as minus 20 degrees Celsius. Consider that during the Kobe earthquake, the government of Japan ran out of blankets and needed international assistance. Japan is one of the richest nations on earth. Korea is one of the poorest. The North Korean government does not have enough blankets and clothing to meet this need.


This appeal is a request for donations in cash and goods to help these households to recovery, in particular cash to purchase grain and powdered milk for infants is the highest priority.

INTERNATIONAL CASH DONATIONS will be used for the purchase of drugs, blankets, footwear and winter clothes to be purchased in China and transported by train from there to the North Korea-China border city (Sinuiju) where delivery will be supervised by a member of our team and given directly to North Korea-based representatives of the UNDP, headed by Mr. Faruq Achikzad, the UNDP representative in Pyongyang. The UNDP will distribute these donations to one of the most badly affected areas, around the border city of Sinuiju. The North Korean government is authorizing these direct distributions by the UNDP. Other distribution areas are being studied by us and will be added if equally verifiable checking procedures can be established.

DONATIONS ARE ALSO REQUESTED for goods: food, clothing, cloth, quilts and blankets, pots and pans, footwear, underwear for winter, all kinds of daily necessities and medical supplies (drugs against cold and diarrhea, antibiotics). Used winter clothing and blankets which have been dry cleaned will be accepted. We are in the process of establishing collection depots in major cities, seeking volunteers to accept and process the donations and transport firms (trucking, airlines and ships) which would donate their services and lend their equipment to fly the donations to Beijing for train transfer to North Korea; Tokyo or Niigata (Japan) for transshipment to North-Korea bound ships, and if feasible to also load goods on trains in Paris which can connect to the Moscow-Pyongyang express, passing through Moscow-Khabarovsk-Shenyang (China)-Dandong (China), Sinuiju (North Korea). We would need a volunteer from Paris to travel with the donations and a sponsor to pay for the transport.

Donors of goods and volunteers may respond via the Internet as to (a) what you can donate, where you could deliver your donation (nearest capital, airport or port city in your country) and (b) Your Internet, fax, phone number and your address.

All Internet communications should be addressed to: Bernie Krisher (

We will get back to you.


Please click here for bank information for Australia and South Korea.

Funds may also be wired into Account: 748849, Sumitomo Bank, Hiroo Garden Hills Branch, Tokyo. Account name: North Korea Flood Relief.

CASH DONATIONS IN JAPAN may be transferred to the above account.

Receipts will be provided as well as copies of receipt of delivery of contributions from the authorities in North Korea.


         North Korea Flood Relief
         c/o Bernard Krisher
         Hiroo Garden Hills (L-605)
         4-1-7-605 Hiroo
         Shibuya-ku, Tokyo (150)


BERNARD KRISHER, IN TOKYO, AT +81-3-3486-4337 (in Japan: 03-3486-4337)
Mobile phone: +81-30-08-88493 (in Japan: 030-08-88493)
FAX: +81-3-3486-6789 (in Japan: 03-3486-6789)
MCI MAIL: 215-2204 (Bernard Krisher)
COMPUSERVE: 72206,3031

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