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Korean government and Korean film star Jang Dong-Gun help the hungry in Laos

At a ceremony in Vientiane, WFP representative in Laos, Ms Karin Manente was joined by the Vice-Minister of Labour and Social Welfare, H.E. Mr Laolee Faiphengyoa to thank H.E. Mr Lee Gun-tae, Ambassador of the Republic of Korea, for the US$400,000 donation from the Korean MOFAT through the Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA).

“This contribution is invaluable as it helps WFP and its partners ensure assistance to the most vulnerable populations in the country in times of need,” Ms Manente said, adding that it will be used to support Laotians who benefit from WFP’s relief and recovery operations.

The donation comes at a critical time as food needs in the provinces are escalating. In some of the northern provinces, vulnerable communities are suffering from the compounded effects of rodent infestations and drought. The provinces in the south which were affected by Typhoon Ketsana require continued food assistance as their capacity to cope is limited and their food stocks are depleted.

A strong supporter

“The Republic of Korea has been a strong supporter of WFP and its work in Lao PDR over the past few years, with both private and public contributions,” Ms Manente continued. “Thanks to their generosity, WFP and its partners have been able to assist many food insecure communities in times of hardship.”

“As a nation which has transformed itself from a recipient to a donor country in a relatively short period of time, the Korean Government recognizes the importance of development cooperation and will continue to work closely with the Government of the Lao PDR, both bilaterally and through cooperation with international organizations like WFP,” said H.E. Mr Lee at the handover ceremony.

Celebrity ambassador

Also at the ceremony was WFP’s Ambassador Against Hunger for Korea, Mr Jang Dong Gun. Since being appointed as a WFP Ambassador in 2008, Mr Jang’s commitment to raising awareness about hunger and WFP has been outstanding. This has included starring in advertisements aired and printed in several Asian countries which prompted cash donations from fans and partners to support WFP programmes in Asia and other parts of the world.

Last year, Mr Jang engaged other Korean celebrities in a photo project entitled Share Happiness, which was published by Elle Korea. The project raised US$60,000 for WFP’s School Meals programme in Laos. This donation was received by the Vice Minister of Education, H.E. Mr. Lytou Bouapao and WFP's Deputy Representative Ms Elisabeth Faure during another ceremony held earlier in the day at the Ministry headquarters in Vientiane.

“This contribution supports school children who come from very poor families,” said Mr. Lytou while receiving Mr. Jang’s contribution. “School feeding feeds both minds and bodies and helps these children reach their full potential. We commend the Korean celebrities for their extraordinary generosity.”

A special visit

During his one-week visit to Laos, Mr Jang visited provinces in the south which were heavily affected by Typhoon Ketsana, including villages supported by WFP and its partners. He also attended WFP relief distributions, so that he could see first-hand how contributions are used in the field. He spoke to villagers and witnessed the long-lasting effects of unexploded ordinance contamination.

“This was my first field visit since I became a WFP Ambassador Against Hunger, and it was very important for me to see villages and learn about the daily lives of WFP beneficiaries in poor and food insecure communities,” said Mr Jang at the handover ceremony. “I was thrilled to see the difference WFP’s work makes to them and the commitment of WFP staff to helping the poor. I am very happy that I can contribute to brighten the future of Lao children and will keep my efforts to make this world a better one.”

by S. C.
10 april 2010, World News > Asia