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Finnish church NGO quits North Korea over tougher sanctions

The Pentecostal NGO Fida said that international banking sanctions are making it impossible to implement aid projects.

Maanviljelijät kyntävät peltoa.
File photo of farmers in North Korea. Image: Adrian Bradshaw / EPA

The Pentecostal Church-run Finnish NGO Fida has said that it is pulling out of North Korea, after operating in the closed country for more than 20 years.

Fida, which engages in missionary and development work, said on Tuesday that it will end its programmes in North Korea because sanctions imposed by the US in the past few months have made operations increasingly difficult.

The round of sanctions target international banking, which Fida said is making it impossible for the organisation to implement projects in the pariah state.

"We are disappointed that the tightening of sanctions has suddenly begun to prevent global humanitarian operations. Leaving North Korea was a difficult decision for us because there is a great need for aid in the country. We will have to end the long-term work that has made our operation functional," said Fida secretary general Harri Hakola.

Food aid for rural communities

Fida will terminate its Finnish Foreign Ministry-funded national programme in North Korea in June. It had budgeted 414,000 euros for its work there. The development programme has improved food security and access to care and was due to continue to 2021.

The NGO said that it had just delivered 412 tonnes of maize and soy beans in emergency aid to 134 day care facilities in Kangwon in the west of the country. It will satisfy the daily dietary needs of 12,000 people until the end of September.

Earlier this year, Pyonyang had requested aid from Finland to help ease a worsening food shortage.

Fida has assisted with the development of potato farming in North Korea since 2001. It said that the crop has provided additional nutrition for rural communities and reduced malnutrition among children.

In Finland, Fida is well known for its chain of second-hand clothing stores, which was established in 1979. It is also the country's largest development aid and missionary organisation.

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