Tag Archives: support

Tour d’horizon in Korea

Only for a few days but nonetheless: I could once again visit our project partners in Pyongyang.

Stirling
Mr. Yang explains the progress of the project: The technical books “Stirlingengines” and “Stirlingmachines” have been translated, a copy of the “ST05 Viebach” has been manufactured and they are working on their in-house development of the Beta-Stirling for domestic production. At the end, I leave with a catalogue of questions for the Stirling specialists in Europe!

Eye Clinic
One morning I visit the Ryu Gyong-Eye Clinic with 102 beds that treats about 300 outpatients per day. Three years ago, Mr. Yang underwent glaucoma surgery performed by Dr. Kim who was still working at the Red Cross Hospital at the time and today is the director of the clinic. Mr. Yang is thankful that the operation was successful, “otherwise I would be blind today.” He has his eye pressure measured in the outpatient clinic where the referred patients from the regional hospitals are examined. The director explains that they have received new instruments but have no experience with them yet. Additional on-site training would be helpful. A wide-open door!

Visiting Doctor
I was very excited about going to the Red Cross Hospital and seeing our visiting doctor again.

The rheumatology ward has 50 beds and 25 doctors. Our doctor has finished translating the reference book and it will soon be printed. The microscope and ultrasound are being used – I encourage his supervisor to have him train others in using them. He would like further material and is open to inland-workshops. More open doors.

Glances
After a tour through the new Sci-Tech Center (similar to the science center we know and with many visitors) my colleagues had to run some errands. Having a car at my disposal was very useful and once again I get a glance of life in the quarters: streets with many sales booths, alive and bustling.

A View over the River

The plan to monitor the transport of relief supplies ended at the Yalu, the border river between China and North Korea. We assume that the container with the proven baby food has reached its goal, the area around Yonsa.

Unfortunately, we cannot witness the distribution: After quite some back and forth, we were not given an entry visa. The precise reasons probably have little to do with the current situation and are not clear to me. Therefore, I am somewhat disappointed. I would have liked to explain the correct use of the nutrition on-site: something the recipients always appreciated. I would have liked to tell you about it as well. Now it is up to GAiN Germany to hold negotiations determining if further relief good transports are worthwhile and possible in the future.

I am already in Beijing when I find out that I would not be granted entry. To make the most of the extra time I still travel east to the border: From a reconstructed watch tower close to the Chinese border city of Dandong you have a wonderful view into North Korea: Fields with untiring workers plan ting corn, a couple of oxen or cows pulling a plow, a chugging tractor and a couple of villages in the distance.

Despite the harsh rhetoric in the media, despite the missile tests, it is downright peaceful here, everybody is busy doing their work. In contrast, the Chinese fields spread out behind my back. Close to the city they are covered in plastic or completely covered by green houses. I bless both sides of the river in my mind, I wish the people peace and well-being, that their work would feed them and they would enjoy it.

On a short boat trip on the river I witness Chinese tourists and their reaction to the North Koreans we see on our way: Some of them wave and smile at them, others call out a provocative “Hello” and less friendly words to the opposite bank. I feel like I am in the zoo: Observing North Koreans. I notice that most Chinese hardly know anything about their neighbors. They glance over the border curiously – but seem to have no interest in more.

Retrospection and Perspectives

It is with thankfulness that we look back on another year of partnering with the people of North Korea some of which we met personally when they came to Switzerland. From others we have heard through the reports of our partners telling us what they have been able to achieve with the finances they received from us. Networking, communicating, building bridges, going the extra mile – it was a year of challenges stretching me to my limits but at the same time a source of much joy.

In 2017 we will remain committed to Koreans and Swiss meeting each other. We will continue to work towards combined heat and power generation. And are looking forward to hearing how and where deaf people can work creatively and how we can support them.

All of this is only possible through our partnership with many other people and organizations.

Thank you for joining us!

Emergency Aid after the Flood Disaster

In late August the typhoon “Lionrock” arrived in the mountains of North Korea. It rained heavily for three days causing all streams to flood and destroy everything in the area. The flooding along the Tumen River, the river bordering China, washed away whole settlements.

North Korea mobilized thousands of soldiers to clear railroad tracks and streets. Together with international organizations they rebuilt houses for people that had lost their homes – all before the winter. 30‘000 residential buildings were destroyed, over 500 people were killed and about 600‘000 people were in need. 27‘000 hectares of land were flooded shortly before harvest. The people that lost their houses also lost their kitchen gardens – hunger will be a threat in the coming winter. The people in the whole country collected relief goods, gave away their kitchen utensils, and as much food as they were able.

Besides the North Korean Red Cross many international relief organizations as well as the UN reacted quickly. Emergency aid kits, building materials, food, and hygiene products were immediately sent to the affected areas. The government secured the monitoring and follow-up of the distributed goods. Many organizations were allowed to visit the affected areas.

Several organizations were able to relieve the immediate need with the materials that they had in stock. But the next spring and the next harvest is many months from now!

The North Korean embassy in Berne has asked us for help. In our proven cooperation with GAiN Germany we have sent a container of relief goods, consisting mainly of baby food, soap, and tea. Our container is a welcome contribution to existing help.

The affected areas are difficult to access: They are far from the sea and the port. Trucks must drive over many hills and mountains on natural all-weather roads. In China the roads to the border of North Korea are better developed. But certain laws and international sanctions do not allow relief goods coming from other countries to be transported through Chinese territory, although the sanctions expressly allow humanitarian aid. As a result of the sanctions, many countries and organizations are extremely careful in becoming involved in North Korea or with organizations that are active in North Korea.

On request of the North Korean embassy and in cooperation with GAiN Germany we have sent a container with relief goods.

"Your relief goods are a welcome contribution to existing help!"
“Your relief goods are a welcome contribution to existing help!”