Christian aid workers say they are motivated by such biblical admonitions as “love your enemies.” Many say their work can foster peace through cooperation and trust-building. Groups hail from many denominations, including the Quaker-founded American Friends Service Committee, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mennonite Central Committee and the interdenominational World Vision.
Stephen Linton and Chris Rice, sons of missionaries in postwar South Korea, are among those who believe that humanitarian aid, delivering food and medicine, builds goodwill.
Mr. Linton has traveled to North Korea more than 80 times since the 1970s. He runs a program to treat multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, a widespread problem. Late last year, North Korea asked him to double the scope of the program’s work in the country, he said.
Other Christian humanitarians have turned away from North Korea. “This money is all going straight into the pockets of the regime,” said Nancy Purcell, a Philadelphia-area native who first traveled to North Korea with a Christian nonprofit in 2000. She helped distribute food produced there until concluding in 2004 that the military siphoned off donations. Aid was “prolonging the regime,” said Ms. Purcell, 68.
Tim Peters, of Michigan, said he first traveled to North Korea to deliver food during the 1990s famine, inspired by a verse in the Book of Romans: “If your enemy hungers, feed him.” Today, Mr. Peters, 67, runs a Christian group, Helping Hands Korea, that assists North Korean defectors.
North Korea badly needs food and medicine, experts said. At least 40% of North Korea’s population is undernourished, and such diseases as tuberculosis and hepatitis are rampant, according to U.N. reports. In January, UNICEF said a slowdown in aid could lead to starvation for some 60,000 children. Read more