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Project could earmark $5 million for N. Korea

PYONGYANG, North Korea (BP)??Southern Baptists propose pumping up to $5 million into North Korea during the next several years to help devastated farmland bloom again.
A long?range project being developed by the International Mission Board and Texas Baptists ?? under the watchful eye of North Korean officials ?? would not only bring new life to flat, salty paddies, but also would invigorate upland farming areas.
Flooding in recent years has raked off topsoil and dumped mounds of sand throughout North Korea. Much of the nation’s fertile land has become useless. Drastically reduced yields from the most productive government farms have led to severe food shortages.
The crisis has caused alarm globally, but aid consultants from outside North Korea have been unable to determine its severity. Many aid experts fear the worst has not yet been seen and are calling for recognition of the crisis as a full?fledged famine.
North Korean officials have said they want to work with Southern Baptists partially because Southern Baptists promise only what they can do and then deliver on their promises, said Tom Williams, who leads International Mission Board work in the Western Pacific.
Southern Baptists will survey the area in a trip scheduled to begin Oct. 21. Among them will be International Mission Board worker Harold Watson. He is known by governments throughout Southeastern Asia as an expert in teaching people how to use homegrown technology to salvage eroded hillside farming areas devoid of nutrients. Representing Texas Baptist Men on the survey team will be DeWayne Williams, a retired agriculturist and soil scientist who will take soil samples.
“It’ll be a number of years before we can get the soil restored,” said Tom Williams. “There’s not a quick fix.”
North Korean officials have asked Southern Baptists to begin working on about 100,000 acres of collective government farms in the country’s central region around the capital city, Pyongyang.
“The land has deteriorated. There’s a lot of salt content,” Williams said. “Because of the flooding, a lot of topsoil has been washed away, and it doesn’t have nutrients needed for healthy food production.”
Southern Baptists have been working to alleviate effects of the famine for some time. They first sent food into the country in April 1996 and helped rescue one city by continuing food shipments to it.
Williams expects the project to lead to other avenues of ministry, such as educational and medical projects. Already the International Mission Board is working to recruit 10 Southern Baptist International Service Corps workers during each of the next three years to teach English at a university in the country.
Financial contributions to the North Korea project may be sent to North Korea Relief, P.O. Box 6767, Richmond, VA 23230. For further information about teaching opportunities in North Korea, interested persons may contact the International Mission Board at 1?800?789?GOYE.