Korean Peninsula: ICRC president emphasises plight of families separated for 60 years
27-08-2013 News Release 13/141
Geneva (ICRC) – President Peter Maurer of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) left Seoul today at the end of an official back-to-back visit to the two Koreas, during which he met with senior officials from both countries.
During the visit, Mr Maurer reaffirmed the ICRC's willingness to increase its engagement and cooperation on the Korean Peninsula and to expand its response to humanitarian needs. In addition, the ICRC president raised with the representatives of both governments the issue of the ongoing plight of the thousands of family members who have remained separated without any contact for the last 60 years.
"The recently agreed resumption of family visits is a very positive step. However, time is running out for these people. Given the number of families involved, we urge both governments to do all they can to step up the pace and scale of these visits so that over a reasonable length of time all families can have contact," said Mr Maurer. "The ICRC would be willing to play a role in facilitating this process if requested."
In the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Mr Maurer met with Kim Yong-Nam, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly, and with the minister of public health, the deputy minister of foreign affairs, and the deputy director of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland. He discussed a possible expansion of the ICRC's current activities in the areas of surgery, physical rehabilitation and water and sanitation infrastructure. The visit also provided an opportunity for extensive consultations with the Red Cross Society of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the ICRC's key partner in the country.
"Over the last 10 years, in partnership with the national Red Cross, the ICRC has helped develop high-quality physical rehabilitation services in two centres, which have made a real difference for people with physical disabilities," said the ICRC president. "More recently, we have expanded into working with orthopaedic surgery departments in four provincial hospitals, where we have also renovated some key facilities. We have now expressed our willingness to further develop these activities and provide more support in the area of upgrading water and sanitary facilities."
In Seoul, Mr Maurer met with President Park Geun-hye and with the minister of foreign affairs, the minister for national defence, and senior officials of the national Red Cross. "Our work in the Republic of Korea promoting international humanitarian law and engaging with the authorities on worldwide humanitarian issues has steadily increased in recent years. Now is the right time to take that relationship further," said Mr Maurer, at the signing of a cooperation agreement with the government to strengthen relations and dialogue on humanitarian matters.
During a stopover in Beijing on 24 August, at a ceremony held to award the Florence Nightingale Medal to six Chinese nurses, Mr Maurer also met briefly with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
For further information, please contact:
Martin Unternaehrer, ICRC Beijing, tel: +86 139 10 44 92 74
Ewan Watson, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 33 45 or +41 79 244 64 70
Sébastien Carliez, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 28 81 or +41 79 536 92 37