NCC/CWS Delegation to North Korea Includes Humanitarian Aid,
Visit to Demilitarized Zone, Worship with Church Community
Korean Peninsula, November 17 -- A seven-member ecumenical delegation from
the United States -- led by Dr. Robert W. Edgar, General Secretary of the National Council
of Churches USA (NCC), and the Rev. John L. McCullough, Executive Director of Church World
Service (CWS) -- reported significant results from their meetings in North Korea,
which took place there Nov. 11-15. The visit marks the culmination of a year-long
initiative by NCC and CWS.
The Korean Christians Federation (KCF), a long-standing ecumenical partner
based in Pyongyang, North Korea, hosted the delegation, who will spend this week in Seoul,
South Korea, in a specially convened National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK)
Assembly, and taking part in an international Interfaith Peace Conference.
The delegation issued a joint statement calling for
six responses by Americans, Koreans, and the international community to the
burgeoning political and humanitarian crisis on the Korean peninsula.
Humanitarian Aid Distributed
The delegation celebrated a mission accomplished as they monitored the distribution of 420
metric tons (924,000 pounds) of refined wheat flour that was donated by Church World
Service and was one of the primary reasons for the group's visit to Pyongyang. The ecumenical leaders also
had an opportunity to tour the KCF's Bongsu Noodle Factory and Bakery, which processes one
metric ton of flour daily.
The shipment, which cost nearly $100,000 ($99,960) to deliver, filled
seven railway wagons -- enough flour for some 924,000 loaves of bread. This supply could last through 2004. NCC/CWS member denominations raised
the money to send this shipment. Since the outbreak of the food crisis in 1996, the value
of food aid provided by CWS to North Korea totals close to $4.5 million.
In addition, Rick Corsino, the World Food Program Country Director, and Umberto Greco of
the WFP's NGO Office briefed the delegation on the food shortage and the general
humanitarian situation. Both officials expressed deep concern about the decline in the
quantity of international assistance, with Corsino encouraging the global community to
respond generously to the United Nations $200 million Consolidated Appeal that was
announced November 15, 2000.
For the delegation, a sobering visit to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) at Panmumjom brought
home the tragedy of the Korean division, which has resulted in the separation of an
estimated 10 million family members.
"The high-tech security and the ubiquitous modern military surveillance technology-as
American and North Korean soldiers stand eye-ball to eye-ball across this ideological
divide-were a sharp reminder that the Korean War has not, in fact, ended.
Equally sobering to us was the North Korean understanding of the role that the U.S. played
in creating and perpetuating the division," says CWS Senior Advisor Victor Hsu, who
is one of the delegates.
The delegation also had an opportunity to meet with Vice Chairman Kim Young Dae of the
Supreme People's Assembly, the third-ranking person in the North Korean government. The
group exchanged views on U.S.-North Korean relations, the prospects for the Six-Party
Talks on the nuclear issue, improvements in Inter-Korean relations and the continuing and
deepening humanitarian crisis.
By far, the highlight of the trip for each member of the delegation was the visit to the
Protestant Chigul Church of Pyongyang and a North Korean house church located on Tong-Il
Road in Pyongyang's Nangnang district. The KCF had arranged these two weekday encounters
at the request of the delegation. Even as challenges continue, the delegation was
"filled with thanksgiving" as the members prayed and sang hymns together with
their Korean brothers and sisters. They shared words of encouragement and comfort to each
other and pledged their common commitment to peace and the reunification of Korea.
The delegation continues meetings this week with South Korean President
Roh Moon-Hyeon and the Minister of Reunification as well as with the National Council of
Churches in Korea.
In response to an invitation from the Department of State, members of the
delegation will provide a briefing to Assistant Secretary James Kelley on November 26.
In June, U.S. and South Korean ecumenical leaders held talks with high officials at
the U.S. Department of State and the National Security Council about the serious political
and humanitarian situation on the peninsula; this briefing will serve as a follow-up and
update to those conversations.
Members of the NCC/CWS Delegation
In addition to Dr. Edgar and the Rev. McCullough, delegation members included:
Brian Grieves, Officer for Peace and Justice Ministries of The Episcopal
Church, New York City;
Mervin Keeney, Executive Director Global Mission Partnerships, Church of
the Brethren, Elgin, Ill.;
Victor Hsu, Senior Advisor to the Church World Service Executive
Director, New York City;
Sara Lisherness, Coordinator, Presbyterian Peacemaking Program,
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, Ky., and
Zhu Xiaoling, Area Executive for East Asia and the Pacific, Global
Ministries, United Church of Christ/Wider Church Ministries Christian Church (Disciples of
Christ)/Division of Overseas Ministries/ Cleveland, Ohio.
National Council of Churches USA is the nation's leading
ecumenical organization, comprising 36 Protestant, Orthodox and Anglican member churches,
which, in turn, count 50 million adherents in 140,000 local congregations.
Church World Service is the global humanitarian ministry of these 36
denominations, providing sustainable self-help and development, disaster relief, and
refugee assistance in partnership worldwide.
Six-Point Statement Calling for Responses to the Crisis.
Victor Hsu's Presentation to Peace Conference, with Photos from Delegation's Visit.
Statement by Participants in Third International Peace Conference in Seoul.