Friday, February 16, 2018

What About Those UN Sanctions?

“Where you live, should not determine whether you live ...”

In response to concerns about the UN’s new sanctions, we would like to state the following about our partnership with the work of the Eugene Bell Foundation (EBF) in North Korea.  (UN resolution statements are in italics and sourced from Reuters).

North Korea has TB rates that are four times higher than South Korea and China (Choe, 2014) and a growing problem with multiple drug resistance tuberculosis (MDR-TB).  Since the mid 1990s, EBF have been able to put politics to the side and find a way to work with North Korea to effectively address TB.  Around 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) stepped in to pick up the first line TB treatment.  EBF shifted their focus to MDR-TB patients - a strain that is difficult and expensive to treat.  They currently report a more than 70% success rate.  Having witnessed the program first hand, they do an exceptional job and we are proud to have SFS partner with them in this work.

“All cargo going to and from North Korea must now be inspected …”
This has been the case for some time and is the case with EBF’s shipments as well.  They are open and transparent, and work with the cooperation and approval of the South Korean Government.  Medicine goes out, sputum samples come back to South Korea for testing.  This could not happen without government consent.  Indeed several years ago when there was a ban on all aid to NK, EBF were one of two organizations granted permission to continue their work.  It is essential work.

The resolution stresses that the new measures are not intended to have "adverse humanitarian consequences" for civilians, the majority of whom face economic hardships and food shortages.
Eugene Bell will continue their work.  To stop it would seriously impact impoverished people and create a bigger problem of XDR than already exists, for which there is no cure.  Ceasing support of medicine for our TB patients at Dongdaewon would directly counter the intent of the UN resolution, as it would have adverse humanitarian consequences for civilians.  Currently the UN is spending a little over 100 million annually on humanitarian aid (South Korean UN Ambassador Oh Joon), including releasing an additional 8 million just last month (UNOCHA, 2016) - and they cannot monitor all of that, unlike EBF foundation who monitors every single bit of their aid.  They are proven to be reliable, transparent and responsible with the aid they provide.

The UN Security Council's list of explicitly banned luxury goods has been expanded to include luxury watches, aquatic recreational vehicles, snowmobiles worth more than $2,000, lead crystal items and recreational sports equipment.
Medicine is not a luxury good.  It is a basic human right and simply not available at all in North Korea.  The WHO provides all the first line TB treatment,  but they cannot deal with the MDR patients, as they do not have resources to cover both.  Eugene Bell is hitting an area that was not being reached.  They actually led the way in developing a support system for MDR patients.  They work closely with Dr KJ Seung, who is a recognized expert in this field and a member of the World Health Organization’s Global Drug Resistance TB initiative.

There is also an unprecedented ban on the transfer to North Korea of any item that could directly contribute to the operational capabilities of its armed forces, such as trucks that could be modified for military purposes.
Medicine is not used to expand the operational capabilities of armed forces.  It goes directly to sick patients.

In detail, the new sanctions are:

  • A ban on the export of coal, iron and iron ore used for North Korea's nuclear or ballistic missile programmes
  • A ban on all exports of gold, titanium ore, vanadium ore and rare earth minerals
  • A ban on aviation fuel exports to the country, including "kerosene-type rocket fuel"
  • A ban on military and police co-operation, closing down North Korea's training programmes abroad, especially in Africa
  • Upmarket watches, watercraft, snowmobiles and other recreational sports equipment added to a ban on luxury goods
  • Countries working in North Korea's financial and banking sector are now obliged to freeze the assets of companies and other entities linked to North Korea's nuclear and missile programmes - under a previous resolution, they were only encouraged to do so

As stated already, medicine does not fall into this area.  As a fundraising team, we regularly have to answer questions/misperceptions about aid to North Korean patients.  If you have concerns or queries about the program and what we do, we would love to discuss with you as we know first hand how the program works and have worked through many of these concerns multiple times over the years.

Choe, J., (2014).  Unexpected partnerships with North Korea.  Harvard Political Review  Retrieved from

Eugene Bell Foundation (2015) Our work and outcomes.  Retrieved from:

Charbonneau, L., & Nichols, M.  U.N. imposes harsh new sanctions on North Korea over its nuclear program.  Reuters News Agency  Retrieved from:

United Nations Office For The Coordination Of Humanitarian Affairs, (2016). UN emergency fund releases US$8 million to assist most vulnerable women and children in DPRK.  Retrieved from

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