Bringing Bread to North Korea – An Interview with George Rhee

June 14th, 2012

Bakeries in North Korea?  Love North Korean Children has set up bread factories in Rajin, Sangbon and Pyongyang to help feed North Koreans in a direct and practical way. Two more factories are due to open in 2012.  The group’s overall objective is to open 26 bread factories: 1 in each major district of North Korea.  NK News recently caught up with founder George Rhee to learn more about the interesting project.

1) You state that your goal is to become financially self-sufficient,
how do you intend to achieve this?—–

Our eventual goal is to setup different businesses in China. Our
current budget does not allow this yet. But as finances come in, we
will be developing these.

2) Where has been the most difficult place thus far to set up a
bakery? What is the biggest obstacle?—

Because we have a special relationship with the National Department of
Education of North Korea, they have given us the right to set up
Bakeries anywhere we wish, as long as we have the finance. Therefore
we do not need to go through many doors of beaurocracy to set bakeries
up. Once financed, it is not difficult to build and run a bakery.

3) Why a bakery? Do you plan to expand the goods you offer beyond bread?

Bakeries are the most convenient, direct and cost-effective way to
stop child malnutrition.
We are hoping to set up North Korean orphanages in the future, when
permission is granted. As of now, we are constructing 2 orphanages, on
the Chinese side. One site is on our website

4 Do you believe the bread goes to those who need it the most or are
the worst off children unable to receive the bread?

There are 4 ways that we verify the Children are getting the Bread.

1. Our bakery staff belongs to us, therefore they can personally
verify where the bread is going.
2. We can also verify with the School, that they are receiving the meals.
3. We can also get verification from the National Department of
Education in NK, that the meals are being delivered.
4. We can also visit the Bakeries, and oversee the operations personally.
So we know the bread is being delivered.

The Bread is delivered to Elementary School Children, along with
certain Camps that house street children. Also our staff, is allowed
to make suggestions about any other group that may desperately need

5) You have previously said that you believe being a British citizen
has made the venture easier. Why do you think the North Korean
government trusts British citizens more?

Britain and N Korea have a good diplomatic relationship, which
helps us get the visas and permission we need, quicker than American
or South Korean Charities.

6) What are the most common ailments you see in the clinics you run?
Do you hope to open more clinics in the future or are bakeries and
orphanages the main goals?

Currently we do not have any Clinics, it is a possibility in the
future. As of now, most of NK people suffer from malnutrition,
therefore bakeries are the most effective way to stop malnutrition.

7) How have you seen the food situation change over the past few years
since setting up your business in North Korea?

I think that food situation is becoming more unstable, because
many foreign donators suspect that food sent to NK will be sent to the
military. Currently there is a severe drought in North Korea.

8 ) How are your staff within North Korea chosen and employed?

Our staff is made up from factory workers, managed by us, and the local governing board. We pay them in Food supplies, not money, this brings in more food, and avoids taxes and other financial problems.

9) Have you noticed any significant changes under Kim Jong un? If so,
what are they?

We haven’t seen many changes, and are not hopeful in the new leadership.

10) Has there been one particular moment which has made it all
worthwhile for you?

Seeing the Kids smile while they receive their food, has meant
so much to me. I don’t want to stop helping

You can find out more about the initiative and make a donation at their website here.

Michael Rank also wrote a story about the Love North Korean Children Bakery in Rason.  See it here.

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About the Author

Nicolle Loughlin

Nicolle Loughlin first became interested in North Korea whilst studying Chinese history at college which brought her attention to the Korean War. She subsequently spent her time reading and learning about anything she could find related to North Korea. Nicolle Loughlin lives in the UK and is undertaking her final year of university studying English Literature and Mandarin Chinese. Nicolle has particular interests in North Korea's foreign relations and literature about North Korea. Next year, Nicolle intends to begin a masters degree in Asia studies or international relations in order to further and appropriate her knowledge and interests.