Civic groups pitch in to relieve disastersThe brutal succession of recent natural disasters ― hurricanes Katrina and Rita in the United States, a massive earthquake in Pakistan and Hurricane Stan in Central America ― even led to more than a few people talking about the end of the world. They should talk first with the Korean diplomatic community, which has rallied to help victims of natural disasters.
The Korean Red Cross has led the charge, raising about 1 billion won (about $945,000) for earthquake relief efforts in a fundraising drive. Seven representatives of the organization left for Pakistan on Wednesday. Among the Red Cross efforts was an annual charity bazaar held that day at COEX, southern Seoul. The spouses of a number of Seoul’s foreign ambassadors participated. The Spanish embassy booth sold bottles of wine; the Uzbek, Lebanese and Kuwaiti embassies sold native dishes; the Qatar embassy sold spices and many others were also present selling the wares of their respective nations.
Annarosa Rojtenberg Azevedo, the wife of the Brazilian ambassador to Seoul, sold jewelry from her native land. A big hit with the crowd of middle-aged Korean women, she helped many try on various pieces and gave fashion advice. Most of the booths sold all their stock within a few hours.
Another Korean group participating in the relief effort is Join Together Society, which sent a representative to Pakistan three days after the quake. The group has given 1,750 blankets and 200 tents to victims in mountainous areas with poor infrastructure, in addition to a $5,000 donation to the Pakistani Embassy in Seoul.
Support from the Korean government has also been plentiful. Last month, President Roh pledged $30 million to relieve hurricane victims in the United States, and the government promised $3 million in monitored aid to Pakistani earthquake victims.
Imtiaz Ahmad, the charge d'affairs at the Pakistani Embassy, was very appreciative of the help Korean organizations have offered his country. “This timely assistance would go a long way to alleviate the sufferings of earthquake victims,” he said.
Though one leader of the foreign business community here said that Korean businesses owned by people from the disaster area were unlikely to be affected, Mr. Ahmad emphasized the human impact of the earthquake. “Some of [the Pakistanis in Seoul] are from the areas, and some of them have gone back to look for their relatives.”
Those interested in helping can make donations to an account set up by the Pakistani Embassy at the National Bank of Pakistan on the 12th floor of the Kyobo Building, in central Seoul. The account code is KRWCU001016-05. The Korean Red Cross (www.redcross.or.kr) has a bank account for Katrina victims at Woori Bank, account number 1005-300-981799.
by Ben Applegate