Two Church leaders visit North Korea, assess needs

Two members of the Asia North Area presidency recently participated in an international assessment of agricultural needs in the flood-damaged areas of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea), where efforts are being made to stave off famine.

Elder Sorensen, president of the area, and Elder Rex D. Pinegar, a counselor in the area presidency, toured the stricken areas, along with representatives of Latter-day Saint Charities, the Church's official relief and development agency; Mercy Corps International; and other humanitarian organizations.Elder Sorensen and Elder Pinegar are members of the Seventy. Elder Pinegar will become president of the Asia North Area effective Aug. 15.

"Though we have provided some humanitarian aid to North Korea in the past, we were asked by the First Presidency of the Church to assess the current situation in order to determine the nature of further assistance in the northern provinces of the country where food is in short supply, rationing has been instituted, and there is a potential for famine," Elder Sorensen said.

From 1995 to the present, the Church, working through the Red Cross and other agencies, has contributed some $3 million in humanitarian aid to the needy people of North Korea. This aid includes 2,600 tons of flour, powdered milk, cooking oil, blankets and first-aid supplies, as well as freight expenses. The Church has also given cash to purchase food and medical supplies. The most recent shipment arrived in North Korea in June 1997, Elder Sorensen said.

"The country has been mobilized to combat the food shortages, with military personnel, office workers, school children, and the general populace assisting the farmers in planting needed crops," he added. He also noted that Church member Brent Chugg, from Latter-day Charities, presented and helped plant 500 apple trees donated by the Church. Technical assistance to assess and prevent further soil erosion was also provided by Garry Flake, another Church representative.

"It appeared to us during our tour that relief agencies were distributing aid in an efficient and satisfactory manner," Elder Sorensen said.

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