중앙데일리

North main focus of NGO’s attention

Sept 19,2004
Edward Reed, the new representative of the Asia Foundation in Korea, said the foundation plans to provide more educational materials and programs to North Korea to help the reclusive nation gradually open to the outside world.
Mr. Reed, a former professor and associate director at the Center for East Asian Studies at University of Wisconsin-Madison from 2000 until last month, took his post here on Sept. 1. He has also worked for several foreign aid organizations.
The Asia Foundation is a U.S. non-profit organization that promotes “development of a peaceful, prosperous, and open Asia-Pacific region.” It opened an office in Seoul in 1954.
Mr. Reed told the JoongAng Daily last week, “The foundation will assist North Korea academically, because North Korea has been showing big changes to open up since the mid-1990s.” He said North Korea was especially interested in English language studies and its agricultural and health problems. The foundation, he said, would be shipping larger quantities of books there; it has provided nearly 70,000 since 1996 and plans to continue as long as the North Koreans continue to request them.
Most of these books were donated, Mr. Reed said. The foundation passed them to institutions like the Pyongyang University for Foreign Studies, Kimchaek University and the Grand People’s Study House, the country’s largest library.
“The Asia Foundation helped stage two education sessions for North Korean officials in China two years ago,” Mr. Reed added. “We are planning to increase those training programs and make opportunities for North Korean business managers who want to travel to the United States to look at the changes that are happening in the world.”
Mr. Reed’s special expertise is studies of rural societies in Asia. He holds a doctorate in development studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Before taking the Asia Foundation post here, he was the associate director of the Center for East Asian Studies at the same university.
He was the country director for North Korea for World Vision, a non-governmental relief organization, from 1997 to 2000. Earlier, he was the Northeast Asia representative of Quaker International Affairs.
“If you were a farmer on a collective farm in the North, it meant that you were much better off than those living in the suburban areas. People on collective farms had some crops to eat while others starved,” said Mr. Reed, stressing that agriculture was the key issue for improving the lives of North Koreans and was one of the most urgent needs there.
On his work in South Korea, Mr. Reed said there were still reasons for the foundation to remain here even though its main interest is less-developed countries.
“Most international non-government organizations left South Korea after the country started developing,” said Mr. Reed. “But maintaining good relations between the United States and Korea is important, which is our task that as one of the very few international organizations with a branch office in Korea.”
He acknowledged that there were much more voices here criticizing U.S. policies than when he was first here 30 years ago as a Peace Corps volunteer, working with farmers in Pyeongtaek and teaching English at Konkuk University.
“I don’t think those voices are anti-U.S. sentiments nor do they hate the American people,” he said, saying that Koreans had more diverse ideas about the United States now than before.


by Lee Min-a


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