North Korea: ICRC to support new orthopaedic centre
22-03-2005 Press Briefing
The ICRC's Delegate-General for the Asia-Pacific, Reto Meister, has recently returned from a visit to North Korea, where he took part in high level talks about the institution's operations.
During his recent mission to Asia, the Mr Meister spent five days in the DPRK. On his return, Mr Meister held a press briefing in Geneva and spoke of the ICRC's activities in the country.
For two years, the ICRC has been participating in a joint medical programme with the country's Public Health Ministry and the Red Cross Society of t he DPRK. It involved the establishment of an orthopaedic centre in Songrim, 40 kilometres south of the capital, Pyongyang.
The ICRC provides the centre with technical, material and financial support to treat hundreds of civilians a year, many of them the victims of landmine accidents.
Following the success of the project, the Ministry of Armed Forces had approached the ICRC to see if it would contribute to a similar project in Pyongyang aimed at treating disabled members of the military forces. The ICRC has agreed to equip the centre and train technical staff, some of whom have already been placed in Songrim.
It is planned for the new orthopaedic centre to be open during the current year.
Hundreds of thousands of Korean families were separated by the 1950-53 Korean war.
Mr Meister said the ICRC would continue to support joint programmes by the National Societies of both the DPRK and the Republic of Korea to enable the reunion of family members.
Between 2000 and 2004, the two governments and the National Red Cross Societies organized several temporary reunions that allowed family members – most of them over 70 years old - to meet for the first time in 50 years and spend a few days together. The ICRC hopes that such meetings can start again soon and that all separated families can keep in touch through the exchange of Red Cross Messages.
In his meetings with the President of the Red Cross Society of the DPRK, Dr. Jang Jae On, Mr Meister underlined the fact that the ICRC is keen to facilitate joint humanitarian programmes across the line of demarcation by the two National Societies.
Mr Meister also said he was satisfied by the reaction from the Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Choe Su Hon and the Vice-Minister of the Armed Force, General Jong Chang Ryol, who reiterated their commitment to IHL.
The discussion focused on plans for a partnership to train future diplomats and army officers in international humanitarian law.