06/26/2008, 00.00
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Korean Church: 200,000 tonnes of food to prevent starvation in the North

The Division of Aid for North Korea, an organisation of the bishops that manages Church aid for the North Koreans, has launched a fundraising drive in order to buy food aid, fundamental in order to guarantee the survival of the North Korean population. Famine could kill 900,000 people.

Seoul (AsiaNews) - The South Korean Church has decided to continue supplying food aid to the North, despite the regime's repression and the absolute lack of religious freedom in the country, in order to try to contain the damage of the terrible famine that has fallen upon the population.  The decision was made at the 15th meeting of the Division of Aid for North Korea, an organisation of the bishops that manages Church aid for the North Koreans.

In practical terms, the Korean bishops launched a prayer novena for North Korea, to be recited in every diocese during the week of prayer for the reconciliation of the Korean peninsula.  All of the parishes of the country responded to the appeal, preparing special initiatives during the week, which concluded yesterday.  The aim was that of gathering funds in order to buy to 200,000 tonnes of food aid to send to the North.

According to Noh Ok-jae, director of the research department at the Peace Foundation, North Korea needs about 1.8 million tonnes of food every year.  In an attempt to hold off the crisis provoked by famine - which according to independent estimates puts at risk the lives of about 900,000 people - the country urgently needs at least 200,000 tonnes of food.

Fr John Kim Hun, executive secretary of the Division, says: "The situation in North Korea will go out of control next year, if the starvation continues. Therefore, the faithful should set an example of fraternal love to open the exchange between the two Koreas and an aid channel". Fr Thomas Shin Ho-cheol, of the diocese of Chuncheon, adds: "It is very painful to see that our society shows less interest in North Korea than in Myanmar or China, which were recently stricken with natural disasters to which we responded with urgency.  Now the same emergency is at our door, but we don't seem to care".

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