03/11/2016, 09.32
KOREA
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Signs of hope for North Korea’s TB patients

The Seoul government "is considering" the possibility of allowing the dispatch of medicines to approximately 1,500 TB patients cared for by the Eugene Bell Foundation. The Park Geun-hye executive says sanctions against the Pyongyang regime "remain valid, but we are assessing the humanitarian channel". Superior of Maryknoll Missionairies: "We do not want to enter into political issues, but to be apostles of peace to a people that desperately need hope."

Seoul (AsiaNews) - The Seoul government "is considering" the possibility of allowing a consignment of medicines against tuberculosis to be shipped to the northern part of the Korean peninsula. Despite the harsh sanctions approved by the UN Security Council against the Pyongyang regime, the South’s government "is assessing humanitarian channels".

The lives of 1,500 North Koreans are at stake, who are suffering from TB and are under the care of the Eugene Bell Foundation. Up to now, the Park Administration refused to allow the live saving medicines to be shipped. But, says an unnamed official of the Unification Ministry, "there is hope."

The tension between the two Koreas erupted in early February following a series of military provocations that led to the closure of the inter-Korean Kaesong industrial complex. Along with the tour to Mount Kumgang, the direct "red" telephone line and the "peace village" of Panmunjon, for years the complex has been one of the few bridges between the two nations. Despite the highs and lows in relations between the two nations, the simultaneous interruption of all contact points was unprecedented.

The Conservative government led by Park Geun-hye has made it clear that will not allow any more interchange - including humanitarian - until Pyongyang gives in and agrees to give up its nuclear ambitions and missile program.

This led to a halt in the export of medicines to the North which previously had been allowed for almost 20 years on a regular basis to the Eugene Bell Foundation. The intransigence of the Seoul government, however, seems to be ceding a little.

The regional superior of the Maryknoll in Korea, Fr. Gerard Hammond, has been making regular visits to the northern part of the peninsula for about 20 years just with the Foundation. Speaking to AsiaNews, the missionary says: "During these years we have only ever tried to take care of those who are suffering from tuberculosis. We tried to give hope, because there should be no limits to treatment, and dignity to their lives. As human beings we did what we could, entrusting the rest to God's hands ".

Regarding the political and diplomatic situation, Fr. Hammond is very clear: "We do not want to enter into political issues, but to be apostles of peace to a people that desperately need hope. One must always have hope, especially for the most important thing for everyone: the reconciliation of the Korean people, between the North and the South ".

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