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AFSC welcomes new legislation to improve humanitarian access to North Korea

Amid COVID-19 pandemic Rep. Andy Levin and Senator Markey announce bill to allow better humanitarian aid delivery

North Korea skyline
Photo: / AFSC

WASHINGTON, DC (April 13, 2020): Representative Andy Levin and Senator Markey announced a new bill today that would help with the delivery of humanitarian aid to the people of North Korea. The announcement comes at an important time as aid groups prepare urgent shipments amid the pandemic. The text of the bill addresses key challenges to aid delivery including clarifying regulations for humanitarian groups and streamlining approval processes.

“If passed by Congress, this bill would address some of the most challenging obstacles humanitarian organizations face in carrying out aid deliver to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea),” said Daniel Jasper, Public Education and Advocacy Coordinator for the American Friends Service Committee in Asia. 

The American Friends Service Committee has been engaged in relief efforts on the Korean Peninsula since the years after the Korean War. AFSC’s North Korea program is currently working with cooperative farms to raise productivity and implement sustainable agricultural practices in the region.

The bill spells out in greater detail existing exemptions for humanitarian organizations. Aid groups have reported in recent years that more complex sanctions regimes have had unintended consequences for aid workers. Complicated approval procedures at multiple government and intergovernmental bodies have slowed the delivery of humanitarian assistance – sometimes with life-threatening consequences.

The DPRK closed its borders shortly after the discovery of COVID-19. Officially, the DPRK still reports no cases of the disease. However, many experts worry that needs are mounting in the country as normal humanitarian supply chains have been completely shut down since the end of January.

“This bill comes at a crucial time. When the COVID-19 situation subsides and borders open again, humanitarian groups will need immediate access. We simply won’t have time for approval procedures that can last nine months or more,” said Linda Lewis, DPRK Country Director for the American Friends Service Committee.

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The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization that includes people of various faiths who are committed to social justice, peace and humanitarian service. Its work is based on the belief in the worth of every person and faith in the power of love to overcome violence and injustice.