NEW YORK (FOX 5 NEWS) - Father Gerard Hammond, 84, is known as "Grandfather" to the people he helps in North Korea. He has been traveling to the Communist country since the mid-1990s to help bring much-needed medical supplies to tuberculosis patients.
"One of the most important things is you have to develop a trust relationship plus you treat the person with dignity and respect," Father Hammond said. "We do all our work outside… rather than work inside the TB centers themselves because it's highly contagious so by treating the patients outside, the fresh air, hopefully, will take away a lot of the germs."
Father Hammond, a Catholic priest, was born and raised in West Philadelphia. As a missionary in 1960, he was sent to South Korea to help homeless orphans after the war in the Maryknoll-run orphanage. That work eventually led him to help the sick in North Korea with the charitable Eugene Bell Foundation.
While not a politician, he is a strong advocate for peace in the region. He said that peace on the Korean peninsula could mean more social development in both the north and the south.
Despite the escalating tensions between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and President Trump, Father Hammond plans to return to North Korea. He said he is not afraid for his own safety.
That is not to say that Father Hammond, who has been recognized for his work by Pope Francis, is not worried about war.
"Everybody's very tense about, 'Would war break out?'" he said. "Who wants to go to war?"
Father Hammond returns to North Korea Friday. While he is there he is always watched by someone known as a "minder." He speaks fluent Korean and though he is a priest he does not preach or bring up religion. Instead, he just tries to treat those he is helping with respect.
Father Hammond said he would like Americans to know more about North Koreans with the goal of better communication between the countries.