First North Korean Rotarian

On 8 December, Past RI President Bhichai Rattakul from Thailand joined forces with the members of the Rotary Club of Charlottetown-Royalty in Canada to formally welcome into the Rotary family its first Honorary Member from the DPRK (North Korea), Dr. Jong Sang Hun, PhD, PHF.

Past RI Director Noraseth Pathmanand organized a formal ceremony that was held during a joint Council of Past Governors meeting of all 4 Rotary districts in Thailand at the Rotary Centre in Bangkok, Thailand. The meeting was attended by senior Thai Rotary leaders including PRIP Bhichai, PRID Noraseth, PRID Dr. Saowalak Rattanavich, PDG Chan Chanlongsawetakul, PDG Muk Vongchavalitkul, DG Marasee Skunliew as well as two of Dr. Jong’s colleagues from the DPRK Embassy in Bangkok, Mr. Hwang Min Chol and Mr. Ri Nam Song.

PRIP Bhichai presented to Dr. Jong on behalf of Tom Campbell, Past President of the Rotary Club of Charlottetown, an Honorary Membership Certificate that was signed personally by RI President Ian Risely when he paid a visit earlier this summer to Charlottetown and where he met PDG Tom Wilkinson, the key man leading his club’s 15 year track record of supporting 10 Rotary projects in the DPRK. 

North Korea is a “non-Rotary” country that borders on China and Russia in the North (two un-districted Rotary regions but each with fully chartered Rotary clubs) and South Korea to the South. Because the DPRK has a historically close relationship with the Peoples Republic of China and shares regular air, sea and rail links, Rotary and Rotaract clubs in China are in a unique position to facilitate Rotary service projects in the DPRK - if there is a strong project partner at the receiving end. For more than 15 years Dr. Jong Sang Hun, an economist long serving within the Committee for the Promotion of International Trade in Pyongyang and now based in Bangkok as Counselor in the DPRK Embassy in Thailand, has played this key role.

Dr. Jong made first contact with Rotary in 2001 when he visited Beijing and was introduced to Past RI Special Representative to China, Randal Eastman, a Canadian who was leading an informal fellowship of Rotarians in Shanghai. It took 2 years to plan and implement their first joint project in 2003 during PRIP Bhichai’s presidency. Thereafter Dr. Jong has enabled Rotarians, Rotaracters and Rotary project partners from around the world to successfully conduct 15 service projects in North Korea. To date most projects have focused on disease prevention and treatment, food security, and disaster relief.

In total 25 Rotary clubs, 4 Rotaract clubs, 1 Interact club, 2 districts, 2 Rotarian Action Groups, 1 Rotarian Fellowship, 2 Rotary Project Partners and 27 tenacious Rotarians have joined forces with Dr. Jong and his team to implement more than $1.8 million USD in service projects over the years.

Ten of these projects have been supported by the Rotary Club of Charlottetown Royalty and to show their thanks to Dr. Jong for his own determined support, they resolved to make him an Honorary Member of their club – the first North Korean to formally join the Rotary family.

Past President Tom Campbell wrote, “We understand and appreciate the work you have done over the years in promotion Rotary’s goals of peace and understanding, demystifying Rotary International aims and objectives, and helping in our projects to assist the people in North Korea, in particular the orphans and disabled.” 

He concluded, “Welcome to the Rotary Club of Charlottetown Royalty and the family of Rotary International.”

In expressing his heartfelt thanks, Dr. Jong said, “I will work for Rotary service projects continuously here in Bangkok in cooperation with more Rotary clubs and members of the Rotary family in both our country and Thailand.”

Rotarians and Rotaracters who wish to explore the possibility of conducting further service projects in the DPRK may contact PSR Randal who maintains ongoing contact with Dr. Jong Sang Hun and his colleagues, through an informal fellowship of Rotarians called the “Korean Friendship Network of Rotarians”.
 

Download the accompanying press release here.