[THE KOREA TIMES] NGO chief seeks sustainable assistance to N. Korea
[The Korea Times 보도]
NGO chief seeks sustainable assistance to N. Korea
Kang Young-sik, the secretary-general of humanitarian aid group Korean Sharing Movement (KSM) / Courtesy of KSM
By Kim Hyo-jin
Kang Young-sik, the secretary-general of humanitarian aid group Korean Sharing Movement (KSM), is seeking to create a sustainable environment for assistance to North Korea.
"It has been miserable to see our aid projects abruptly stalled, back to square one, due to a political situation. I believe humanitarian assistance should continue regardless of political or military considerations," Kang said during an interview with The Korea Times, Monday.
The launch of the new liberal Moon Jae-in government has spurred expectations about active inter-Korean exchanges. Moon vowed to back humanitarian aid and development projects by civilian groups despite high military tensions with the North.
Now with the government's backing, the head of humanitarian aid is grappling with the question ― how to keep their future aid activities viable.
"You think now Moon that is opening the door to the North, civilian exchanges and aid projects would cascade out right away? It's your wish."
He said, for the past 10 years of the conservative governments' hostility to exchanges with North Korea, bridges between the two sides were completely cut off and many humanitarian groups vanished after losing sponsors, technicians, and staff.
"It's not going to be a resumption, it will start from scratch. The so-called civilian ecosystem for humanitarian aid to the North has been totally destroyed. You will not be able to see large-scale, multi-actor aid projects like the old days," he said.
Though his aid group survived the black-out decade, there are many projects he feels sorry for leaving behind in the middle of the development process. One example was a factory built in Pyongyang making medical fluid bags and medicines.
"We finished establishing the factory but couldn't check if its operation was put on a track where it makes safe enough products. It's a real shame," he said.
Kang thinks his priority is forming public consensus and institutionalizing a stable assistance system so as not to repeat the past mistakes.
He plans to mount public campaigns, develop systemic aid models with experts, and win over legislators to introduce the law that guarantees sustainable assistance to the North regardless of a change of government.
The KSM was the first NGO that received approval from the Moon government for contacting North Koreans for humanitarian aid.
The group has mainly worked on agricultural and medical assistance and nutrition projects for North Korean children since 1996.
Kang is prepared to launch a quarantine and cure project with the North in fighting malaria. He said the plan will benefit North and South Koreans as it is concerned with health of citizens living near the inter-Korean border.
He believes aid projects should be promoted for mutual prosperity of the two Koreas. The veteran aid director is aimed at broadening the public view on assistance programs.
"We can find ways of managing the inflow of fine dust from China by working with the North. We can make the Korean Peninsula infectious disease-free if we work together," he said.
North Korea currently turned down the KSM's request to enter the country, putting the brakes on its aid project. Dismissing concerns that inter-Korean relations will hardly take a conciliatory turn; Kang projects that the ban will be lifted in the near future.
"Civilian exchanges were taken hostage temporarily while Pyongyang is sounding out the Moon government's stance toward the North. Things will change soon," he said