Jimmy Carter, the 39th President of the US, and Mary Robinson, the seventh and first female President of the Republic of Ireland, traveled with two other political leaders to North Korea. The other leaders are the former president of Finland, Martti Ahtisaari and Gro Harlem Brundtland, a past prime minister of Norway.
Mrs. Robinson called the situation in North Korea a “very serious crisis” over food supplies because of a harsh winter, severe flooding and an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. She said the withdrawal of American and South Korean food shipments had aggravated the already-dire situation, which had become, she said, “a matter of life-and-death urgency.”
They are part of a group called The Elders which was announced the first time in a speech by Nelson Mandela on the occasion of his 89th birthday. The Elders offer their wisdom and independent leadership to address the world's toughest problems. Mary Robinson is one of the founding members.
Robinson was President of Ireland from 1990 to 1997.
In addition to the intense tension between North and South Korea, the North Koreans are holding an American named Eddie Yong-su Jun, who was taken into custody in connection with illegal religious activities in the North. Mr. Carter said he is disappointed not to have obtained the release of the American.