Humanitarianism goes on over century

By Om Ryong

There was a fierce battle between the allied forces of France and Italy and the Austrian army in Solferino of northern Italy in June 1859. The battle was over and more than 40 000 soldiers of both sides were killed or wounded there. The wounded were dying in pain with no medical assistance.

Jean-Henri Dunant
Jean-Henri Dunant
Jean-Henri Dunant, a 31-year-old Swiss man, was passing by on business as he witnessed the suffering of thousands of wounded men for whom medical and nursing care was lacking, and he made up his mind to help them. He did more than what he really could with the help of local inhabitants in the nearby town of Castiglione: he organized assistance for the wounded who had been brought there.

Back home in Geneva, he could not forget the terrible scene he saw that day. In 1862 he published “A Memory of Solferino”, in which he described the terrible aftermath of the fighting and proposed that in every country relief societies should be formed in peacetime so that they could be recognized and ready to succour the wounded in time of war.

His proposal generated wide interest of European countries and the first humanitarian relief organization was formed in February the following year.

It drew the attention of many countries gradually and the League of Red Cross Societies was founded at an international meeting of RC societies of 26 countries held in Geneva in 1919. Later the international league developed into the league embracing Red Cross and Red Crescent societies. It has so far conducted brisk humanitarian activities to help the wounded and prisoners of war in time of war and made emergency relief efforts in areas stricken by disasters including natural ones in peacetime, saving lots of people’s lives across the world.

The Red Cross Society of North Korea was formed in October 1946, the year after Korea’s liberation from Japanese military rule, and renamed the Red Cross Society of Korea after the DPRK was founded.

The RC Society of Korea has implemented a variety of humanitarian programmes in conformity with the ideal of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies since its inauguration, while promoting close contact with RC organizations of many countries in the world.

Most successful among them are the repatriation of over 100 000 Koreans in Japan from December 1959, the delivery of a large quantity of relief supplies to south Korean flood victims including 50 000 sok (about 7 000 tons) of rice, 500 000 metres of cloth, 100 000 tons of cement and over 700 cardboard boxes of medicines in 1984 and the repatriation of dozens of former unconverted long-term prisoners in south Korea including Ri In Mo.

The RC Society took an active part in humanitarian assistance to disaster-stricken areas in such countries as the former Soviet Union, Indonesia and Iran. It also conducted positive activities in close collaboration with the IFRC when the northern areas of the country were hard hit by flash flood a few years ago.

With over 70-year history, the national RC Society has well over 1 million members and is carrying out a variety of projects including the production of prosthetic appliances and supply of clean water.

It now focuses on building up self-development capacity of all communities in the country.

May 5 marked the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the IFRC.

(Pyongyang Times - May 11, 2019)
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