DALLAS—A Korean Texas Baptist minister who has provided humanitarian relief in North Korea for more than two decades hopes to make another trip this month to the communist nation to help schools, orphanages and others affected by a typhoon.
Yoo Yoon, director of the Korean-American Sharing Movement of Dallas, has journeyed to North Korea more than 30 times since the mid-1990s to supervise delivery of food, medical supplies and other assistance to orphans and hospital patients provided by Texas Baptist Men and other donors.
Since Sept. 1, 2017, the State Department has restricted travel to North Korea. Yoon submitted a request in March to the U.S. Department of State requesting the special passport validation that permits Americans to travel to North Korea for limited purposes, including “compelling humanitarian considerations.”
Last year, Yoon received the passport validation, allowing him to visit three orphan schools and deliver 60 tons of soybeans to Kangwon Province. At the time, he learned he was one of only three Korean-Americans who had received the validation to enter North Korea since the travel restriction went into effect.
Since the validation is effective for only one trip, he had to reapply. On Aug. 22, Yoon received a letter from the State Department granting his request.
“Please be aware that the United States does not maintain diplomatic or consular relations with North Korea, and the U.S. government has no means to provide routine consular services to U.S. citizens in North Korea,” the letter warned.
North Korean entity requests help
One month later, he received a letter from the North Korea Education Project, the in-country entity with which Yoon’s organization works to provide relief ministries.
The letter noted a typhoon that hit North Korea in early September damaged schools and apartments. The North Korean-based organization asked for building materials to repair the damaged structures, as well as essential food for schools.
“I plan to bring 60 tons of soybeans to the stricken schools and apartments in Hwanghae Bukdo Province and another 60 tons to the orphans and the sick in Kangwon Province, as well as some materials for the school buildings damaged by the typhoon,” Yoon said.
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An independent investigator reported last month to the U.N. General Assembly’s human rights committee that about 11 million people in North Korea are undernourished, including at least 140,000 children.
“Our Lord fed the hungry, healed the sick and gave the depressed hope of life possibilities,” Yoon said. “I bring food to the mouths of the children and the sick that are the least of the least there.”