North Korea Tells Aid Groups To Leave


2005.11.16
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WASHINGTON—North Korea has ordered European NGOs to pull out of the country next month after the European Union submitted a U.N. resolution criticizing Pyongyang’s human rights record, aid workers say.

“I can confirm that the NGOs have been asked to leave the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea],” Padraig O’Ruairc, Pyongyang coordinator for the Irish aid group Concern, told RFA’s Korean service. “They asked last week basically that we should stop operations by the 31st of December and leave at the latest by the end of March.”

The order covers at least 11 of the 12 foreign nongovernmental organizations in the isolated North, which has struggled for a decade with severe food shortages. The groups affected are running health, sanitation, forestry, and other programs.

Of course we’re concerned and regret the decision and would hope that we would be allowed to stay here in the DPRK. We feel our work is valid here. But we have to accept the decision of the government. They feel offended by the resolution,

“The reason that we have been given is that as a result of the motion by the European Union in the General Assembly that criticized the human rights situation here, they have decided to cut off,” O’Ruairc said. “They basically told the EU that [they don’t] want its funding here at the moment.”

Concern and regret

Concern is currently conducting sanitation, water, health, forestry, and food security through winter wheat modification projects, he said.

O’Ruairc regretted Pyongyang’s decision but said his organization was resigned to it.

“Of course we’re concerned and regret the decision and would hope that we would be allowed to stay here in the DPRK. We feel our work is valid here. But we have to accept the decision of the government. They feel offended by the resolution,” he said.

‘There is no choice’

“Unfortunately the NGOs don’t have any say in the resolution and we’re not responsible for the resolution. But the government here feels that it is an offensive resolution and therefore decided that humanitarian aid has to stop,” O’Ruairc added.

“We’re not directly involved in the human rights issue here. We’re doing humanitarian aid here. And the actual wording I’m not familiar with, so I’m not too sure what the actual motion is. We’re not involved at that level. It is above and beyond what the actual NGOs are involved with here in the DPRK.”

Marcelo Garcia, country coordinator in North Korea for the Italian aid group CESVI, said his organization would withdraw from North Korea “by the end of the year.”

“All the projects carried out by the NGOs should stop by the end of the year,” he told RFA’s Korean service. “It’s not a question of whether we want to or not—we have to leave immediately, there is no choice… The feeling is basically that we would like to stay here to support the people but we cannot.”

All the projects carried out by the NGOs should stop by the end of the year,

The government announced the decision Nov. 9 to a European Union delegation that visited Pyongyang to discuss aid plans, the Associated Press quoted Garcia as saying.

WFP scrambling too

The order comes as the World Food Programme also is scrambling to preserve its access to North Korea following a government request for the U.N. agency to wind up its food aid program this year and switch to economic development assistance.

Other groups ordered to leave include Britain’s Save the Children, the French groups Handicap International and Premier Urgence, and Sweden’s PMU Interlife, according to the Associated Press.

North Korea issued the order last week after the EU submitted a U.N. resolution expressing “serious concern’’ about reports of torture in the Stalinist dictatorship and its restrictions on religion, travel, and other activities.

It calls on the North, one of the world’s most secretive societies, to cooperate with U.N. human rights investigators.

Original reporting in Korean by Mr. Sungwon Yang. Korean service director: Jaehoon Ahn. Written for the Web in English by Sarah Jackson-Han.

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