March 22, 1997
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Bernard Krisher, Tel: 3486-4337
A veteran American journalist, who is engaged in helping avert a famine in North Korea through personal distribution of rice to its starving civilian population, targeted the Japanese government today for its un-humanitarian policy of hoarding surplus rice its population will never consume while allowing innocent civilians, including two million potentially malnourished children, to starve.
"Japan has forgotten," says Bernard Krisher who has an Internet Home Page to collect donations for the innocent victims of the food shortage, "that it also experienced a severe food shortage right after the war and the United States then provided emergency food relief to prevent a similar famine. Now it is Japan's turn to be magnanimous and respond to an SOS of a suffering neighboring nation."
So far Japan has rejected appeals to join in providing rice to North Korea from the UNDP, the World Food Program and U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
Krisher pointed out in a message on his Home Page that the United States pledged $10 million last month in emergency food aid, followed by a $6 million commitment by South Korea. Japan for political reasons has refused to join their allies who have placed humanitarianism above politics.
Krisher's campaign which is non-political was prompted to help innocent, helpless people whose hunger is aggravated as nations are refraining from food aid because they don't like the North Korean regime.
"This," says Krisher, "is like ignoring the plight of the Jews in Nazi Germany because they did not like Hitler." Krisher is a survivor of the Holocaust and the experience remains sharply ingrained in his mind as he is about to depart in early April on his third donation trip to North Korea. He will deliver at least 200 tons of rice, a Toyota vehicle to serve as an ambulance and medical equipment, from hundreds of donors, including the Christian Association for Medical Mission of Michigan; Hope worldwide, an international welfare organization; World Mate, a Tokyo-based charity; Harry Winston, the jeweler, Wyeth-Eisai Pharmaceutical Co., and many others. Many Japanese individuals have sent in donations to this appeal but the government itself has shown no concern for the threat of famine in a neighboring country, Krisher noted.
His charges of disregard for suffering leveled against the rice policy of the Japanese government appears on his Home Page and is based on his failure to get the authorities to make surplus Thai rice, rotting in Japanese warehouses, available to him at cost for this humanitarian mission. The Home Page URL is: http://shrine.cyber.ad.jp/mrosin/flood
As Krisher states in his report on the "Internet Appeal for North Korean Flood Victims" Home Page, which also features photos and videos of prior direct rice distributions to civilians: ` Japan has a growing rice surplus it will never consume. Its laws also prohibit the commercial foreign sale of such surplus rice. But the laws do not prohibit sale or donations for humanitarian distribution. The only problem is the jacked up price of such rice--ten times what the government spent to buy it.
Japan currently has a surplus of 3 million tons of domestic surplus rice stored at some 300 storage sites. More warehouses will have to be built as the surplus will soon exceed the storage space. Japan signed WTO agreements a few years ago with principally four countries to import their rice in increasing amounts each year but much of it is not consumed by Japanese households whose tastes favor the rice produced in Japan.
Last year Japan purchased 120,000 tons of Thai rice which is 25 percent of its imported rice. It was only able to re-sell 90,000 tons domestically to senbei (rice cracker) makers. Hardly any consumers bought the rice as they were not accustomed to the taste. The starving masses in North Korea, whose rations were reduced from 900 grams after the 1995 floods to 450 and are down now to below subsistence 100 (a tea cup), would gladly receive such rice which is rotting in Japan's warehouses.
In 1995 Japan imported a total of 400,000 tons of foreign rice, last year this grew to 480,000 tons and in the year 2000, due to the WTO commitments, it will rise to 800,000 tons. It will never be consumed in Japan and may rot.
Krisher says he has been offered free space for 100 tons of rice that could be shipped on the North Korean vessel, Mangyongbong, which leaves Niigata April 2 for the North Korean port of Wonsan, if he can obtain this amount in Japan, but neither the government nor Nokyo (The Agricultural Cooperative Association) seem interested in providing such rice to him at the cost China or Vietnam sells rice, at around $250 per ton, which can feed 75 people at the subsistence level of 450 grams a day for one month, or donating it.
He is looking for further private donations and hopes the Japanese government will reverse its policy before a tragedy strikes the innocent people in North Korea.
Individuals interested in contributing to Krisher's appeal may send their donations via bank transfer to North Korean Flood Relief, account number 748849 (futsu yokin), Hiroo Garden Hills Branch, Tokyo, Sumitomo Bank.
Krisher has a U.S. Treasury Department license to purchase foodstuffs outside North Korea for humanitarian distribution in North Korea.
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