North Korea FAQ
Q: Why does the Fuller Center intend to build homes in North Korea?
A: Like so many other places in the world, the DPRK is experiencing a housing shortage, exacerbated by Typhoon Ewiniar, which destroyed an estimated 30,000 houses in 2006. There is a need for The Fuller Center to do what it is called to do – build homes for people. An equally important objective in this project is peace making and trust building between our countries and the individual citizens of both nations.
Q: What good does it do to build homes when people don’t have enough food?
A: Food production is a continuing problem for the DPRK as their arable land is insufficient for the country’s needs. The worst of the shortages occurred during the years from 1995-1997 and the situation appears to have stabilized. Most of the nonprofit work in the DPRK is related to food relief, which is not The Fuller Center’s area of expertise. House building is, though, and this initiative could have long-term benefits for people in both countries, benefits that go beyond providing homes.
Q: Why should we build homes in a nation that continues to hold nuclear weapons?
A: We believe that engagement between people is the best way of building trust and understanding. What we propose to do as individuals is to take small steps toward understanding and reconciliation—with the hope and belief this will lead to better relations and interaction for the benefit of all.
Q: Will the North Korean government cooperate?
A: This initiative is sponsored officially by North Korea’s Asia-Pacific Peace Committee, which is a governmental agency that maintains communications with countries that do not have diplomatic relations with the DPRK. The Committee, has been working with The Fuller Center for Housing since the summer of 2008. Our technical partner in the work is the Paektusan Academy of Architecture, which oversees and implements major construction projects in that nation.
Q: Who would own and live in the homes you build there?
A: Private ownership of land is not part of the North Korean system. There is, though, stability of tenure, and we have been assured us that it is common in the villages for families to pass their home from generation to generation. Their Asia Pacific Peace Committee specifically invited us to return at any time to see who is residing in these homes and be assured that they are used by the intended families.
Q: Will North Koreans be involved in helping with the construction?
A: Yes, most definitely. They will do the site preparation and much of the actual construction work. The Fuller Center’s role will be to assist in their work, help fund it, and to participate as volunteers.
Q: Is this more of a PR project for the North Korean government then something that is really helping people?
A: Neither the DPRK nor The Fuller Center is pursuing this as a PR event. As we succeed in building houses and building peace we are sure to attract media attention, but both parties agree that the real potential in this initiative is to build decent and innovative houses and to provide a way for Koreans and Americans to come together in a good cause.
Q: How much will these homes cost?
A: The first project will introduce new technology into the DPRK such as the insulated concrete form (ICF) polystyrene foam block system. Our current estimate is that each of the 50 family units will cost between $11,000 and $15,000 each – for an overall project cost between $550,000 and $750,000.
Q: When will these homes be built?
A: Construction is expected to begin by the summer of 2010. Enough volunteers for the first few work teams have already signed up. Don Mosley, who has been a part this project from its beginning, will lead the initial teams. Mosley is a longtime friend and associate of FCH founder Millard Fuller and is a member of The Fuller Center Advisory Council. He has been an important part of the Korea team—helping to organize, plan and guide the progress of the initiative..
Q: Are there any political or personal risks that the volunteer might face?
A: We will be entering the country as guests of the government and all volunteers are expected to respect the country’s laws and customs. Recent cases of westerners being detained in the DPRK have all involved either illegal entry into the country or unwelcome political or religious activities or both. For those who act appropriately the DPRK is one of the world’s safest places to visit.
Q: Is Christianity permitted in North Korea?
A: Yes, there are active North Korean Christian churches. Proselytizing, though, is not permitted and while our volunteers will be free to have private devotions and prayer, volunteers will not have opportunities to share their faith with others.
Q: Can a program such as this help improve relations between our countries?
A: This is our sincere hope and one of the primary reasons for taking on this challenging initiative. By bringing Koreans and Americans together in a good and noble undertaking we will provide a place and a means for them to know one another as people who share aspirations, hopes and values. While we don’t expect to change the world we do hope to change the way a few of us see each other.
Q: Why is this program so important?
A: For 60 years the people of the DPRK and the United States have regarded each other with fear and mistrust. There are many political issues that divide us, but at the human level we are very much alike. In addition to the visible benefit of providing shelter this project will allow common people from both countries to experience one another in a totally new and healthy way.
Q: How will volunteers for this project be selected?
A. Volunteers will be selected based on their sincere interest in building peace, one house at a time. Those whose primary interests are political or evangelical should not apply. The Fuller Center is accepting applications now. Those interested in volunteering for a Global Builder team to Korea, should visit the Global Builders page and fill out the on-line registration form. Team members will be expected to pay their own expenses for the trip.
Q: Where will volunteers be housed and fed?
A: Accommodations will be simple but safe and sanitary. Lodging and food—mostly Korean meals—will be provided for the volunteers as part of their participation fee.