Caritas continues its work in DPRK (North Korea)

Vatican City, 8 November 2005 - Caritas Internationalis, a Confederation of 162 Catholic relief, development and social service agencies, has pledged at its Korea Country Group meeting in Seoul to continue its relief and development work in the DPRK.
The first Caritas food aid shipment reached the shores of North Korea on 24 November 1995. Ten years later, Caritas is in the process of shifting its involvement from humanitarian aid to a more development-oriented support, or from a 'band aid' approach to strengthening local livelihood and capacity.

Kaethi Zellweger, Director of International Cooperation in Caritas Hong Kong, the lead agency for the programme, said after her latest visit: "Bad roads, erratic electricity supply, and poor water, sanitation and health facilities still make life difficult, but our projects in health and agriculture as well as food aid for the most vulnerable continue to help the people."

Bishop Lazzaro You, President of Caritas Corea which chairs the international group, said that 2005 was the 60th year since the nation was divided into North and South and said he felt ashamed that Korea was the only divided nation on Earth.

He continued: "I would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to Caritas Internationalis for its evangelical love for the people suffering in North Korea. Our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, said he always kept a special affection for the people of North Korea and prayed for them. I hope he continues to pray for us in heaven. Pope John Paul II appealed for material assistance as well as special prayers for those in dire need in North Korea. There has been tremendous support of approximately $32 million by Caritas Internationalis for 10 years and I believe that this has been done in response to the Pope's will."

Bishop You, Bishop of Daejeon, continued: "We have to clearly separate humanitarian assistance from politics. In other words, we should distinguish between the authorities and poor people. It is our Christian duty to give concrete help to those suffering from famine and disease in order to give them a better life."

CI Secretary General, Duncan MacLaren, said that he was pleased to announce that the group had agreed to set up a steering group to give advice on the programme and that this group would be led by Caritas Corea. He said: "We do not know exactly how the present changes in North Korea with regard to a shift from humanitarian aid to development cooperation will affect our aid operations but our commitment to the people of North Korea remains firm."

Caritas Internationalis is a confederation of 162 Catholic relief, development, and social service organisations present in 200 countries and territories.

For more information, contact:
Jane Kronner, editorial coordinator
Tel: 0039 06 698 797 43
Email: editorial.coordinator@caritas.va