NCNK Statement on the Late Ellsworth Culver

October 9, 2019

The Oregonian has published a lengthy investigative piece into the late Ellsworth Culver, a co-founder of the National Committee on North Korea as well as a co-founder and former president of Mercy Corps, NCNK’s parent organization. The newspaper’s story details several accounts of alleged sexual abuse by Ellsworth Culver of his daughter, Tania Humphrey, and examines how Mercy Corps responded to the allegations in the early 1990s as well as how the organization responded to renewed outreach by Ms. Humphrey’s family in 2018.

Given that Ellsworth Culver played a significant role in the formation of the National Committee on North Korea in the early 2000s, it was shocking and deeply upsetting for NCNK staff to learn about the allegations in The Oregonian. NCNK was initially an informal network formed by Ellsworth Culver and other Americans to facilitate engagement between the United States and North Korea. Following his death in 2005, NCNK was formally established as an independent program.

It is hard to reconcile Ellsworth Culver’s reputation as a humanitarian with the horrific actions attributed to him. We are deeply saddened by the pain and trauma Ms. Humphrey has endured, and commend her courage in bringing this matter to light. Sexual misconduct of any kind is antithetical to our values and those of Mercy Corps.

Mercy Corps’ leadership has begun the process of engaging an independent, external review into how it responded to Ms. Humphrey’s 2018 request. A statement from Mercy Corps CEO Neal Keny-Guyer is available here.

Update, October 10, 2019: Mercy Corps CEO Neal Keny-Guyer has announced his resignation. His decision to step down follows the resignation of Barnes Ellis, Mercy Corps' Corporate Secretary and Senior Legal Counsel, and the resignation of Robert Newell from the Mercy Corps Board of Directors earlier this week. Keny-Guyer's letter of resignation is available here; a statement from Mercy Corps Board Co-Chair Gisel Kordestani on next steps for the organization is available here.