Franklin Graham Arrives in North Korea for Historic Visit

Franklin Graham, president of relief organization Samaritan's Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, arrived Thursday in North Korea for a historic four-day visit to meet with high-level government officials, visit relief projects, and preach at the newly constructed Protestant church in the capital city of Pyongyang.

"I do not come to you today as a politician or diplomat," Graham said after arriving in Pyongyang. "I come to you instead as a minister of Jesus Christ with a message of peace-peace with God, peace in our hearts and peace with each other."

This is Graham's second visit to the country, but his family has a long history in North Korea, going back to 1934 when his mother Ruth Bell Graham attended a mission school in Pyongyang. His father Billy Graham visited in 1992 and 1994, meeting with President Kim Il Sung.

In the past year, Samaritan's Purse has been involved in two breakthrough aid projects in North Korea. In response to devastating floods last August, the Christian relief organization chartered a 747 cargo jet to deliver $8.3 million in medicine and other emergency supplies. That was the first private flight directly from the United States to North Korea since the Korean War.

Samaritan's Purse is also one of five non-governmental organizations that has been invited to help distribute food provided by the U.S. government to hungry North Koreans. The first shipment of grain arrived earlier this month.

The relief organization has been working in North Korea since the 1990s, primarily with medical and dental programs. Graham will be visiting a local hospital, where Samaritan's Purse installed an intensive care unit, as well as the People's Provincial Hospital in Sariwon, an hour west of Pyongyang, where medical technicians are preparing to install a generator and new electrical system.

In addition to supporting the elder Graham's visits to North Korea, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association donated a mobile dental clinic to the country in 1995.

-30-