Korean assistance in Yemen is small, but significant [Archives:2008/1148/Reportage]

April 21 2008
The Korean NGO in Yemen, focuses on health and the social welfare of Yemenis.
The Korean NGO in Yemen, focuses on health and the social welfare of Yemenis.
Joseph Park
For the Yemen Times

While Korean non-governmental organizations are relatively new to Yemen, Korean aid isn't. As cooperation between the two nations continues, Koreans and their organizations are establishing roots here.

Since 1991, the Korean government has given Yemen more than $32.4 million. Over the years, it has helped with large infrastructure projects, including a communications network modernization project between 1998 and 1999, in addition to assisting with drought relief.

According to the Korean Council for Overseas Cooperation, approximately 57 Korean NGOs are working around the world, seven of which are in the Middle East and two currently in Yemen, spending approximately $200,000 annually.

Good Neighbors offers financial support to various organizations, while Global Care, the other Korean NGO in Yemen, focuses on health and the social welfare of Yemenis. Some of their projects include providing Korean professionals for Yemeni institutions such as the Center for the Disabled in Taiz and the National Cancer Center, as well as community health development in the poorer areas of Sana'a, such as Bani Hushaish, and clinical training of doctors and nurses.

The Yemeni government has commended these two NGOs' activities for providing efficient medical care, even wanting Global Care to serve as an example to attract more Korean NGOs to Yemen in the near future.

Global Care country director Dr. John Park states that while he's satisfied with his NGO's outcomes, he also desires to see strong, standardized administrative support from the Yemeni government.

“Although the Yemeni government is working hard to cooperate with international NGOs here in Yemen, speaking as an NGO worker, its administrative support seems somewhat insufficient,” Park noted.

Ahmed Hussein Jawi, the Ministry of Planning's general director for cooperation with NGOs, stressed the important role that Korean NGOs are taking on in Yemeni society. Considering the fact that, compared to many other countries, Korea's aid to Yemen began slowly and is relatively small, he pointed out that it is increasing and covers numerous sectors of society.

“The Koreans are helping to improve Yemen's infrastructure and there's still room for more to come and help,” Jawi said, ensuring the Yemeni government's full support for Korean NGOs wanting to work in Yemen.

One of the biggest obstacles for NGOs in Yemen is the precarious security situation, but members of the government have said that this shouldn't discourage NGOs – Korean or otherwise – from coming to Yemen.

One area urgently needing international aid is Al-Mahrah governorate located near the border of Oman. Due to its remoteness, it seems to open wide its doors for many NGOs to come and work and for international aid to flow into it.

However, the surrounding circumstances for NGOs in Yemen don't always seem promising. “Although Yemeni government officials do cooperate with international NGOs, some of the procedures to establish or work with an NGO are time-consuming,” commented Weshik Jeong, country director for Good Neighbors.

Although there are few Korean NGOs in Yemen, this can be viewed as a challenge for Koreans to expand their assistance to Yemen.

As Park pointed out, “Koreans also once experienced extreme poverty following the Korean War, but their economy grew significantly due to international aid, so now is the time for Korea to take up the responsibility to share this privilege with the Yemeni people.”