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2012 DPRK Humanitarian News

UNICEF Releases 2012 DPRK Nutritional Survey

December 13, 2012

UNICEF has released its 2012 report on nutrition in North Korea, showing slight gains in childhood nutrition but demonstrating continuing challenges. The report was based on a survey conducted from September to October conducted by officials from the DPRK's Central Bureau of Statistics and the Institute of Child Nutrition, trained by a consultant provided by UNICEF.

“The slight gains in children’s nutrition in the country are very encouraging and they show that it is possible to improve the lives of children in DPRK,” Desiree Jongsma, the UNICEF country representative in North Korea, said. “But more than one in every four children remains stunted, hostage to life-long ill-health and reduced educational and career prospects as a result of a lack of much needed proteins, fruits, vegetables and fats, as well as frequent infections due to a lack of both essential medicines and clean water, as well as poor hygiene. It will take strong involvement from government, donors and international agencies to provide these children with a chance on a healthier future.”

Marcus Noland, writing in Witness to Transformation, discusses the report's possible sources of survey bias, and writes that

With these caveats, the survey paints a dismal picture.  Focusing on the height-for-age measure, a long-term indicator relatively unaffected by seasonal nutritional swings, nearly 10 percent of this generation appears to be severely stunted. Although the overall average for the sample is only 7.2 percent, the incidence of stunting accumulates through the successive age cohorts until reach a peak of roughly 10 percent at age 2.  At this age, stunting is irreversible and confers a lifelong set of physical and mental challenges that are passed on intergenerationally.

The full report is available here.

Hunger Still Haunts North Korea, Citizens Say

December 10, 2012

Based on a series of interviews with North Korean defectors in China, NPR reports that chronic hunger continues in North Korea, despite recent reports of improvements in the country's food situation. The report says that, while food is available in markets, its price remains out of reach for many ordinary people, and state rations aren't being distributed to the entire population.

"I saw five people who died of starvation right before I left this year," one interviewee told NPR. "There was one father, who worked in the mines, but his job provided no rations. His two children died. Apart from that family, I know of one other woman and two men who starved to death."

For the full story, click here.

Final Report on Red Cross Response to August 2011 Flooding

December 7, 2012

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has released its final report on its activities conducted in response to floods in North Korea in August 2011. The report details the DPRK Red Cross Society's and the IFRC's immediate response to the floods, including the provision of food aid and health services, as well as longer-term response efforts including the construction of 600 new flood-resistant homes for families identified as most vulnerable.

The full report is available here.

Assessing the FAO/WFP Crop and Food Security Report

November 15, 2012

Marcus Noland, writing in the Witness to Transformation blog, analyzes the recent FAO/WFP food assessment, taking a look at its reporting of household surveys and food insecurity.

If the assessment of increased production is correct, he writes, then it would be relatively easy for North Korea to cover its remaining 200,000 ton food deficit. However, Noland expresses skepticism about the accuracy of the report's household surveys, noting that less agricultural production may have been channeled out of state-controlled channels this year due to higher procurement prices, inflating the reported increase in production.

Noland also expresses skepticism at the report's indications that few households rely on the market for their food and that a large percentage received WFP food assistance. He adds, "My sense is that the survey overestimates the role of subsidized food delivered through state controlled channels and underestimates the role of the market.  Ironically, if the assessment is accurate, then food insecurity derived from economic vulnerability should be lessened, though if the state is really playing that central a role in the distribution of food, the possibility of political vulnerability a la the 1990s famine is revived."

For the full post, click here.

North Korea Food Assessment Questioned in South Korea

November 14, 2012

Some South Korean experts are questioning the accuracy of a recent FAO/WFP report estimating North Korean agricultural production to have increased about 10% from last year, according to the Daily NK.

“If you look at the flooding, typhoons and other bad weather plus the nature of North Korea’s basic agricultural facilities, there is no way that they got 4.9 million tons [of staple crops] out of it,” said one expert, requesting anonymity. “It looks like the North Korean authorities deliberately inflated the figures they reported to the UN.”

“Because North Korea is a closed and highly ideological state, it is impossible even for an expert agency to accurately put an accurate figure on food production,” added Lee Min Bok, an expert on North Korean agriculture. “Because North Korea does not allow them to look at every area of the country, there is always the danger of this kind of negative outcome. Incessantly demanding the right to visit all areas is primary in any attempt to solve this problem.”

For the full story, click here.

New Report on Food Security in North Korea

November 12, 2012

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization and World Food Programme released a new report on food security in North Korea on Monday, based on a crop assessment undertaken this September and October.

The report estimated a total 2012/13 crop of 5.8 million tons from collective farms, individual plots, and household gardens, with staple food production up about ten percent from the previous year. Acute malnutrition rates seem to have decreased, the report said, although chronic hunger continues to be a major problem and the population remains vulnerable to production shocks.

The report stated that food production increased despite a dry spell and several instances of flooding over the agricultural season, with the impact of the dry spell partially staved off by increased irrigation efforts. However, the report noted that the dry spell impacted the harvest of soy beans and other early crops, leading to possible protein deficiencies in the country's diet. 

The FAO and WFP recommended that the international community continue to address the prevention of malnutrition in North Korea by providing nutritional support to vulnerable groups and promoting the production of protein sources. The report also recommended that North Korea improve its incentives for agricultural production and provide support for household food production.

The full report is available here.

North Korea on the Brink of Humanitarian Disaster

November 12, 2012

Andrew Natsios, writing for US News, argues that this year's FAO/WFP assessment of food security in North Korea "will show that drought early this summer seriously damaged the crop so that the harvest will drive the country, always on the edge of starvation, ever deeper into nutritional disaster."

Natsios argues that the food shortage comes as North Koreans grow increasingly less dependent on the state for their survival, and as purged officials remain "angry at the new leadership for their loss of power and its perquisites." These dynamics, and bureaucratic resistance, led Jang Song-taek to reconsider the planned reforms he had engineered.

In the event of a crisis, Natsios writes, China "may resist sending a million tons of food to North Korea" as they have done in the past, and North Korea may attempt to create a military crisis with South Korea, Japan, or the U.S. "If in the middle of North Korea's current crisis it follows its old practice and attempts such an attack," he argues, "South Korea will respond aggressively with unpredictable results."

For the full article, click here. 

Economic Reforms Reportedly Postponed

November 9, 2012

Radio Free Asia, citing anonymous North Korean sources, reports that North Korea’s economic reform plans have been postponed until early next year due to food shortages and other difficulties.

The sources said that uncertainty about reforms had led to inflation in some areas. Sources also speculated that the announcement of reforms may have been postponed until after the first anniversary of Kim Jong-il’s death on December 17.   

The full report is available here.

International Red Cross Predicts Fall in North Korea's Crop Yield

November 8, 2012

A report from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has predicted a two percent decline in North Korea's food production this year, reports the Voice of America.

The report said that although the overall harvest turned out positively, late-summer flooding may exacerbate chronic food shortages in the country.

For the full report, click here.

German NGO Teaching Organic Methods in North Korea

November 7, 2012

Radio Free Asia reports that the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FIBL), a German NGO, is currently operating a cooperative farm near Pyongyang, teaching organic farming methods to cooperative farm managers from around North Korea with a three-year grant of €50 million from the EU.

Vias Te Hoover, a spokesman for FIBL, said “We are teaching North Korea how to farm with organic matter instead of chemical fertilizers or agricultural pesticides,” adding, “We are currently working with North Korea’s Agricultural Research Service to farm 30 hectares of land in an environmentally friendly way.”

The full report is available here.

South Korean Government Approves Private Aid Donation

November 2, 2012

South Korea's Unification Ministry has approved a private organization's plan to send aid to North Korea, according to Yonhap News.

The Korea Association of People Share Love plans to distribute 59 million won worth of bread and baby food to the Sinuiju region.

For the full story, click here.

North Korea Sees 77,000 Disaster Deaths in Past Decade

October 17, 2012

A report by the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, “World Disasters Report 2012,” says that 77,747 North Koreans died in disasters in the period 2002-2011, the 5th highest total in Asia. It also reports that 9. 74 million North Koreans were hurt or suffered damage as a result of disasters in the period, the 8th highest total in Asia.

The report is available here. A Daily NK story on it is available here.

Rice Prices Stabilize Amidst End of Autumn Harvest

Oct. 13, 2012

The Daily NK has reported that the price of rice is stabilizing in North Korea, but that its sources in North Korea are concerned that the trend may not last.

Sources from Sinuiju and Hyesan reported the price of rice to be 5,500 and 6,000 won/kilo, respectively, a decline of 200 to 600 won since October 23.

The source from Sinuiju explained the reason for the change: “Corn, which is a substitute for rice, has entered the market, easing prices and improving people’s food supply. This has meant that rice prices stabilized. With all this talk of reform and opening measures there has been a lot of anxiety and prices everywhere were up around 7,000won at one point. This caused a lot of resentment, but some of that has been relieved now.”

However, the report noted that expectations of a poor corn harvest may lead rice prices to rise again.

The full report is available here.

North Korea’s Hunger Situation Worse than 1990

Oct 13, 2012

The International Food Policy Research Institute’s 2012 Global Hunger Index (GHI) reports that the hunger situation in North Korea is worse than it was in 1990, and has only slightly improved since its low point in the mid-1990s, despite international humanitarian aid. The report stated that North Korea’s had the world’s highest increase in its GHI level from 1990 to 2012, saying that North Korea’s hunger situation was at a “serious level” attributable to economic mismanagement, high levels of military spending, and weather-related crop failure.

The report is available here. A Korea Times article on it is available here.

China gives $1 Million to WFP in North Korea

October 15, 2012

The World Food Programme reports that China has recently announced a $1 million contribution to its operations in North Korea, which will be used to support children and pregnant and nursing mothers most vulnerable to malnutrition. The WFP says that the donation will be used to buy 1,550 metric tons of maize, which will be converted into a nutrition-fortified “super cereal,” and distributed for one month to 400,000 children in hospitals, orphanages, and kindergartens.

For the full story, click here.

US Group Donates Medical Supplies to North Korea

September 26, 2012

The Cross Mission, an overseas Korean group based in the U.S., donated a large quantity of medical supplies to North Korea, Radio Free Asia reports. RFA reported that The Cross Mission visited Pyongyang and North Hwanghae Province to review flood damage in late August and provided a substantial quantity of antibiotics, ointments and blood pressure medication on September 6th.

For the full story, click here.

Hwanghae Province Suffering from Widespread Hunger

September 25, 2012

The Daily NK, citing Ishimaru Jiro, the director of the Osaka-based ASIAPRESS, reports that Hwanghae Province in North Korea is continuing to suffer from chronic food shortages that emerged in late spring. Ishimaru told Daily NK that he researched the issue through interviews with North Korean residents and recent defectors from the area.

“This year has seen people starving and suffering from malnutrition in Hwanghae Province more than at any time since the ‘March of Tribulation’,” Ishimaru said. “With rations having been cut plus natural disasters like drought, flooding and typhoons, coupled to the indifference of the authorities, the situation has become very serious.” 

For the full story, click here.

South Korea Aid Group Sends Flour Aid to North Korea

September 21, 2012

The Korea Times says that World Vision, a Christian charity group, delivered 500 tons of flour to North Korea through the border transit center in Paju. The flour is planned to be distributed to kindergartens and elementary schools in Anju and Gaecheon.

Yang Ho-seung, Korea World Vision Chairman, said “offering food to impoverished children is the most important and honorable mission,” and that World Vision is planning to monitor the distribution in North Korea. 

For the full story, click here.

North Korea Says Reduced Harvest Probable

September 19, 2012

The AP reports this year's harvest in North Korea may have a poor yield, exacerbating food shortages in the country. The AP cited a dry spell in the early summer and recent flooding as causes for the reduced output.

“I can’t predict this year’s harvest,”  Kang Su Ik, head of the Department of Crop Science at North Korea's Wonsan University of Agriculture, told the AP. “But it’s probable that this year’s output will be lower than expected.”

Kang also said that "we need technology to step up to the world’s standards" in agriculture, and that North Korea is sending farming experts to study in China, Russia, and elsewhere.

For the full story, click here.

Indonesia to Send Food Aid to North Korea

September 19, 2012

The Jakarta Post reports that Indonesia will send two million dollar worth of food aid to North Korea.

Agung Laksono, Indonesia’s Coordinating Peoples Welfare Minister, said “[We] have coordinated with the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) to send aid to the World Food Program (WFP), which will later distribute it to citizens of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.”

For the full story, click here.

North Korea Reports on Typhoon Sanba

September 18, 2012

KCNA reported that Typhoon Sanba, has brought heavy rain and wind to North Korea, hitting areas on the east coast and some parts of Ryanggang, North Phyongan and North and South Hwanghae provinces. The report did not mention any casualties or property damage caused by the storm.

For the full story, click here.

North Korea Reports Total Damage from Natural Disasters

September 14, 2012

KCNA reports that the flood and typhoons that hit North Korea from June to August caused serious damage, leaving 300 people dead, another 600 people injured or missing, and nearly 300,000 homeless.

KCNA added that about over 100,000 hectares of farmland were damaged and several thousand public and industrial buildings were destroyed during the summer.

For the full story, click here.

North Korea Rejects South's Offer of Aid

September 12, 2012

North Korea has rejected a South Korean offer for humanitarian aid, the New York Times reports. The South Korean government had offered to deliver 10,000 tons of flour, 3 million packets of instant noodles, and medicine, and had indicated its willingness to discuss additional aid once the two sides met.

KCNA, North Korea's state-run media, said that the South Korean Red Cross "seriously insulted us again by offering to send a negligible quantity of goods to us."

“It’s deeply regrettable that the North Korean government is rejecting our offer to help the North Korean people,” the South Korean Ministry of Unification said in a statement.

For the full story, click here.

North Korea to Consult on Aid

September 10, 2012

The Korea Times reports that North Korea has accepted Lee Myung-bak administration’s offer to discuss the provision of aid. North Korea contacted the South through Red Cross channels asking to discuss the type and quantity of the proposed aid.

An anonymous South Korean government official told the Korea Times, “The North said they want to engage in further discussion including through the exchange of documents.” The official did not comment about the type of aid that would be offered, but said that Seoul would make the next move.

For the full story, click here.

South Korean Government Delays Private Aid to North Korean Flood Victims

September 5, 2012

Hankyoreh reports the South Korean Unifications Ministry recently delayed permission for NGOs to ship flour to flood victims in the North, stating North Korea should submit a distribution plan first. 

An NGO umbrella organization had planned to send one thousand tons of flour without first receiving a distribution plan. However, Unification Ministry spokesperson Kim Hyung-seok said that, “a distribution plan applies to all aid going to North Korea, including humanitarian aid and even in emergency situations.”

 For the full story, click here.

North Korea Reports 48 Dead, More Missing After Typhoon

September 3, 2012

KCNA reports that 48 people were killed and 50 were injured or missing after typhoon Bolaven hit North Korea last week.
KCNA also stated that the typhoon has left more than 21,000 people without shelter and that it has destroyed more than 50,000 hectares of crops. It says the typhoon damaged or destroyed about 880 industrial enterprises and public buildings, including dozens of schools and clinics.

For the full story, click here.

North Korea Reports Property Damage, Deaths from Floods

August 30, 2012

KCNA reports that Typhoon Bolaven knocked down thousands of roadside trees, destroying farmland and buildings and causing three deaths. KCNA added that the storm damaged 32,000 hectares of farmland and left over 3,300 people homeless.

For the full story, click here.

South Korean NGOs to assist children and flood victims in North Korea

August 29, 2012

Hankyoreh reports that South Korean NGOs have begun a one-month drive to provide 3000 tons of wheat flour for children and flood victims in North Korea.

Hankyoreh estimates that the 3000 tons will cost $1.4 million. Five hundred tons of flour have already been prepared by World Vision, and other NGOs will try to bring together 1000 more tons. The rest of the flour will need to come from donations.

For the full story, click here.

North Korea Cancels Talks with South Korean Aid Organizations

August 28, 2012

Yonhap News reports that North Korea has canceled plans to hold talks with two South Korean aid organizations.

Independent sources told Yonhap that North Korea may have canceled the meeting because of the annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian military exercise. Other sources said that the meeting might have been canceled due to Typhoon Bolaven, which had recently hit the Korea Peninsula.

For the full story, click here.

North Korea Willing to Discuss Aid

August 24, 2012

The Daily NK reports that North Korea has responded to aid offers made by private South Korean organizations. Officials from the Korea NGO Council for Cooperation with North Korea have visited North Korea to discuss the provision of aid to areas hit by drought and flooding. North Korea’s willingness to meet and discuss aid is an important opportunity to start the conversation between South and North because the official bilateral communication channels are currently closed, according to the report.

The South Korean government has said that it is responding positively to applications from private organizations. If North Korea responds positively to the aid offer, that may allow additional assistance from other private groups.

For the full story, click here.

U.N. Gives $1 Million Emergency Grant for North Korea Floods

August 21, 2012

Yonhap News, citing a Voice of America report, says that the U.N. Central Emergency Response Fund has approved a "Rapid Response Grant" of about $1.05 million to provide emergency aid to North Korea.

For the full article, click here.

North Korea May Lose 700,000 Tons of Crops from Drought

August 21, 2012

Asia One reports that North Korea could see its annual harvest reduced by about 700,000 tons of crops due to drought this spring and early summer, according to a report by the Korea Rural Economic Institute.

The summer harvest of wheat, barley, and potatoes declined by about 200,000 tons, the institute said, while the fall harvest is expected to see an estimated drop in production of 400,000 tons of beans, maize, and rice, and a 100,000 ton fall in non-grain products.

For the full article, click here.

South Korean Government Questions DPRK Flood Reports

August 13, 2012

An anonymous South Korean government official has told the JoongAng Ilbo that Pyongyang is exaggerating the extent of flooding in North Korea in order to receive a larger amount of international aid.

"We were informed that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ordered ruling party officials in late July to make announcements exaggerating rain damages, including casualties," the official said."He is apparently seeking more food aid and relief supplies from the international community."

The official also noted that the number of flood-related deaths reported by North Korea, relative to total precipitation during the flooding period, is greater than it was in previous floods.

For the full article, click here.

Impact of Floods on North Korean Food Levels Not Yet Clear: WFP Official

August 9, 2012

Reuters reports that a World Food Programme official has stated that the impact of recent floods on food security in North Korea has yet to be determined. 

"It is too early to assess the exact damage which has been inflicted by the torrential rains on agricultural production," said Claudia von Roehl, WFP Country Director for North Korea.

"We will do this in an assessment at the end of September where we will have a full assessment of the main harvest."

The Reuters report also notes that UN agencies have stated that their access to North Korea has improved following the recent flooding.

For the full story, click here

Vietnam Donates Rice to North Korea

August 7, 2012

The AP reports that Vietnam will donate 5,000 tons of rice to North Korea to provide relief for recent flooding. The pledge was made at a meeting between Vietnamese president Truong Tan Sang and Kim Yong Nam, North Korea's nominal head of state. 

Vietnamese state media said that Sang expressed "deep regret" for the deaths and loss of property caused by the flooding. The two leaders also vowed to promote economic cooperation, particularly in agriculture.

For the full story, click here.

An Assessment of North Korea's Dry Spell

August 7, 2012

World Food Programme DPRK Country Director Claudia von Roehl recently visited some North Korean farms in areas hit by a dry spell earlier this year, and reported:

 The chairman of Sokdam cooperative farm showed me what they have been able to harvest. They looked no larger than cherries, but they were in fact potatoes. Too small to eat – and useful only as seeds for the next cycle of planting.

The Korean Peninsula has been experiencing one of the most severe dry spells in living memory. In the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, where almost all the agriculture is rain-fed, the impact on the early crop (mainly potatoes, wheat and barley) has been severe – the government reports that it is 40 percent down on last year.

Although the early crop is only 10 percent of national production, it comes at a crucial time as the annual lean season months – when food supplies are at their lowest in DPRK – begin to bite. And perhaps more worryingly, there are now concerns for the main maize harvest later in the year.

 For the full story, click here.

North Korea Reports More Flood Damage

August 4, 2012

KCNA has reported new estimates of deaths and property damage caused by recent flooding, saying that they had left 169 people dead and 400 missing while leaving 212,000 homeless.

KCNA also stated that over 65,000 hectares of cropland were washed away or inundated, with most of the damage in North and South Pyongan and North and South Hamgyong provinces.

For the full story, click here.

World Food Programme Sends Food to Flood-Hit Regions

August 3, 2012

The World Food Programme reports that it is sending a first batch of emergency food aid to flood-hit areas of North Korea. The emergency aid will provide flood victims with ration of 400 grams of maize per day for 14 days.

For the full story, click here

UN Team in DPRK Reports on Flooding

August 2, 2012

The UN Resident Coordinator's Office in North Korea has published a report on humanitarian needs after weeks of heavy rainfall and flooding in parts of North Korea, following an assessment by multiple aid agencies. The report states that "immediate food assistance is required for the people in those counties most affected by the flood," although it says that the floods' longer-term effects on food security has not yet been determined.

The report said that many families currently lack access to clean water, leading to a high risk of a diarrhea outbreak; it added that aid agencies working in North Korea have begun distributing supplies, including hygiene kits and water purification tablets, to hard-hit areas. 

The report stated that "while most of the data provided by the Government at this juncture could not be verified during the inter-agency assessment missions to determine the human impact, the material damages are evident, mostly interrupting the water supply systems and standing crops in the field."

For the full report, click here.

Heavy Rains Lead to More Deaths: KCNA

August 1, 2012

KCNA reports that heavy rains in coastal areas of North Korea have led to more floods, and have left 31 people dead from landslides and thunderstorms. The report also states that many residences, croplands, public buildings, and factories were inundated or destroyed by the floods.

For the full story, click here.

UN Aid Workers Assess Flooded Areas

July 31, 2012

UN humanitarian aid workers based in Pyongyang have traveled to flood-hit regions of North Korea to assess the need for relief supplies, Voice of America reports.

The report adds that the North Korean Premier, Choe Yong Rim, visited several hard-hit towns, promising government support for reconstruction. North Korea has not made any formal requests for international assistance; a U.S. State Department spokeswoman said that the U.S. has no plans to make its own assessment of the impact of the floods.

For the full story, click here.

North Korea Reports Further Flood Damage

July 28, 2012

KCNA reports that flooding throughout North Korea has left 88 people dead and more than 60,000 people homeless. KCNA also reported widespread damage to farmlands. The flooding followed a week of typhoons and heavy rains.

For the full story, click here.

Typhoon Causes Human, Material Losses: KCNA

July 20, 2012

KCNA reports that a typhoon has caused damage in North Hwanghae and Kangwon Provinces, with heavy rains and flooding leaving seven people dead and destroying houses and infrastructure. 

For the full story, click here.

North Korea Launches Multi-Purpose Vaccination Project

July 15, 2012

Yonhap News reports that the DPRK has launched its first multi-purpose vaccination project recently, with funding for the project provided by international organizations including UNICEF. The project aims at inoculating children against five diseases:  diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B, and haemophilius influenza type B.

For the full story, click here.

Price of Rice Rising in North Korea

July 11, 2012

The Daily NK, citing sources in Hyesan, reports that the price of rice has reached 5,000 won/kg in the border city, the first time the price has been reached under regular conditions in the border city.

The Daily NK's source said: “The price was just 4,500 won as recently as the 5th, but this morning it reached 5,000 won. The prices of all other items are also on the rise, and as corn and rice prices rise in the midst of an already difficult food situation, many households are buying less food.”

For the full story, click here.

Dry Spell Threatens Food Security for Most Vulnerable

July 10, 2012

The quarterly bulletin for the DPRK Team in North Korea reports that drought in some parts of North Korea could negatively impact the harvest of early crops such as barley, wheat, and potato, as well as maize production.

While the overall prospects of food security in 2012 appear to be better compared to last year, the recent dry spell could change the situation dramatically. Although early crops, according to WFP/FAO, only constitute 10-12 percent of the total food production in DPRK, a reduced yield will nevertheless increase the food gap.

Currently, the situation appears to be under control. Further food donations in April of 330,000 metric tons of cereals have helped to maintain the PDS (Public Distribution System) rations on a higher level compared to last year. The rations for May and June are 395 and 380 grams per person per day, respectively compared to 190 and 150 grams (see graph below) respectively in 2011. Besides the low caloric content, the vast majority of the population subsists on a carbohydrate-based diet lacking dietary diversity with low contents of protein, fat and micronutrients.

For the full report, click here.

Summer Rains End Korean Drought

July 6, 2012

The Daily NK, citing analysis by the Korea Meteorological Assocation, reports that heavy rains have ended the drought that has affected part of the Korean Peninsula since April. 

Kim Young Hun, a researcher at the Korea Rural Economic Institute (KREI), told the Daily NK that "Because the drought persisted for a long time in Hwanghae Province, the rice planting could have been significantly delayed; however, due to large amounts of rain in late June, the drought has been beaten and rice farming does not appear to have been affected, apart from the delayed schedule."

However, KREI predicted that agricultural production in North Korea would be below average, with 20% and 10% declines in wheat and potato yields, respectively, and as much as a 30% decline in maize production.

For the full story, click here.

Letting North Korea Starve

July 5, 2012

Morton Abramowitz, writing in The National Interest, argues that Washington should work for a solution to the food crisis in North Korea:

Despite Washington’s efforts to ignore it, the humanitarian crisis in North Korea is not going away. The UN reported that its agencies need $198 million for their activities in the country this year, but less than 40 percent of this has been donated. A number of human-rights champions such as China and Russia stepped forward with donations, but the stated requirements of the agencies are still far from met. Meanwhile, the White House, immobilized by possible political backlash, refuses to budge on funds. Indeed, our human-rights envoy to North Korea noted that the food situation was no different from other years and that drought conditions have been mitigated by brief rain—hardly a comforting analysis. It is doubtful food aid is even being seriously discussed; official statements have put it out of the range of possibilities. Pyongyang’s brethren in Seoul show even less concern.

For the full commentary, click here

Korean Peninsula Suffering From Worst Drought in a Century

June 27, 2012

The Associated Press reports that, according to meteorological officials in both Pyongyang and Seoul, parts of both North and South Korea are experiencing the most severe drought since record-keeping in the Peninsula began over a century ago.

The AP reported that reservoirs in the southwestern provinces of North Korea are drying up, and that soldiers have been recruited to manually water the fields. 

South Korean officials also report that the drought may have a harmful impact on agricultural production and lead to a large drop in the water levels in the nation's reservoirs.

For the full story, click here.

Congress Needs Tough Monitoring of North Korea Food Aid: Royce

June 26, 2012

A Senate amendment which would require a presidential waiver to send food aid to North Korea overlooks the need to ensure adequate oversight of food distribution in the country, Congressman Ed Royce (R-CA) told Yonhap News in an interview.

"My concern is that the compromise reached in the Senate would not lead to effective monitoring of food aid, should U.S. food aid ever be resumed," Royce said.

For the full article, click here.

The Scale of Chinese Aid to North Korea

June 24, 2012

The Dong-a Ilbo, citing anonymous sources, reports that China provides North Korea with 100,000 of food, 500,000 tons of oil, and $20 million worth of goods annually as unconditional aid. The Chinese government does not publicly provide data on the scale of its aid to the DPRK.

The report adds that China has sent only 10,000 tons of food to North Korea this year, possibly because of the North's attempted satellite launch in April.

For the full story, click here.

Noland and Haggard on the Food Situation in North Korea

June 22, 2012

In two posts on their blog Witness to Transformation, Marcus Noland and Stephan Haggard write on reports of drought in North Korea, and its apparent policy consequences.

"We have stories of worsening food insecurity in North Korea connected in part to state behavior in the aftermath of weather problems last year.  There are emerging stories of weather problems this year and by extension the possibility of worsening food availability later in the year, but this narrative appears to rest largely, if not completely, on unverified North Korean official claims," the two write.

Pyongyang, Seoul, and Washington "all appear to be acting incoherently" in response to the situation, they add. North Korea has reportedly directed more resources toward food procurement while denying the need for austerity; the U.S. linked food aid to security issues even as NSC spokesman Tommy Vietor said that millions of North Koreans were starving; and South Korean officials have given conflicting media statements on the seriousness of the drought and the possibility of resuming aid.

The full blog posts are available here (on the DPRK weather) and here (on policy issues).

Head of German NGO in North Korea Gives Observations on Dry Spell

June 22, 2012

Reuters reports that, according to the head of the German NGO Welthungerhilfe, drought in North Korea may threaten food supplies.

"We were repeatedly confronted with the statement that we are in a drought, the most severe drought in 60 years," Wolfgang Jaman, the head of the aid agency, told the Foreign Correspondents' Club of China after returning from an almost week-long visit to North Korea.

"It's planting season now for the main crops - rice and cabbage and maize - and you can see in the entire country the planting has happened. But of course it is dry, and you don't know what's going to happen, whether these plants will survive the dry spell you have at the moment."

Jaman said "there's a huge effort being made now to provide water" to the maize crop, as there was no rain or large-scale irrigation in the region. He added that his observations were made based on limited access, and said he could not estimate how many people may be affected.

For the full article, click here.

Amendment Would Require Waiver for U.S. Food Aid to North Korea

June 20, 2012

On Wednesday, the Senate adopted by a vote of 59 to 40 an amendment to S. 3240, the Farm Bill, which would prohibit the provision of aid to North Korea under title II of the Food for Peace Act unless authorized by a presidential waiver certifying to Congress that such aid is in the national interest of the United States. The Farm Bill directs policy for five years, through 2017.

The amendment, sponsored by Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Richard Lugar (R-IN), was offered as a competing amendment to one sponsored by Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ), which would have prohibited the use of title II funding for North Korea, but would not have included a Presidential waiver. Senator Kyl's amendment was defeated by a vote of 43-56.

The U.S. Agency for International Development's website says that title II funding “authorizes the vast majority of U.S. international food assistance.” The Farm Bill is expected to pass the Senate later this week.

The House has yet to move ahead with its version of the legislation, although it is likely that a House version may be introduced in the near future, which would lead to the two bills being reconciled in a conference committee. 

In June 2011 Representative Ed Royce sponsored an identical amendment prohibiting title II food aid to North Korea (without a waiver) in the House version of H.R. 2112, an omnibus spending bill. The amendment was adopted in the House, but was not included in the Senate version.  Language was adopted in conference to make the U.S. provision of food aid contingent on adequate monitoring.

North Korea Not in Food Crisis: Seoul

June 19, 2012

South Korea's Foreign Ministry has stated that food shortages stemming from drought in North Korea are not as serious as expected, Yonhap News reports.

ROK Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Byung-jae said that, "Our general assessment is that (the North's food situation) is not so serious as to fall into a level of crisis."

 "At present, no plan is in the offing with regard to government-level food assistance to North Korea," he added.

For the full article, click here.

FAO Reports on Dry Spell in North Korea

June 18, 2012

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization has issued a report on drought in the southwest of North Korea, the most productive agriculture region in the country. The report states that the area's maize crop is likely to be the hardest hit by the dry spell.

In addition to statistics on the extent of affected land provided by the DPRK government, the report includes precipitation estimates provided by the World Meteorological Organization.

To read the report, click here.

Interview with Founder of Love North Korean Children

June 14, 2012

NK News has published an interview with George Rhee, the founder of Love North Korean Children, which has set up bread factories in North Korea to help feed the population. 

"Bakeries are the most convenient, direct and cost-effective way to stop child malnutrition," Rhee told NK News. "Because we have a special relationship with the National Department of Education of North Korea, they have given us the right to set up Bakeries anywhere we wish, as long as we have the finance."

For the full interview, click here

Seoul Considers Drought Aid

June 13, 2012

The Korea Times, citing an anonymous South Korean official, reports that the ROK government is considering providing aid to North Korea in response to drought in Pyongan and Hwanghae Provinces if enough data is collected on local conditions.

“There could be government-level aid if enough data were collected from credentialed sources,” the official told the Korea Times. “Our basic stance on aid to the North has not changed and we maintain our principle of helping the vulnerable population of North Koreans.” 

For the full article, click here.

UN: Two Thirds of North Koreans Struggle to Get Food

June 12, 2012

The UN has released a report stating that millions of North Korean children are not getting the food, medicine, or health care they need, leaving many malnourished, reports the Associated Press. 

The report provided an update of the humanitarian situation in North Korea, saying that lack of food, medicine, clean water, and electricity, particularly in the countryside, has led to stunting among nearly a third of children under the age of five, and has made chronic diarrhea the leading cause of death among children.

"I've seen babies ... who should have been sitting up who were not sitting up, and can hardly hold a baby bottle," Jerome Sauvage, the U.N. resident coordinator for North Korea, told reporters in Beijing.

The UN called for $198 million in donations in 2012, mostly to feed the hungry. It requested $218 million in global food aid in 2011, receiving only $85 million.

For the full article, click here. The UN report is available here. Stephan Haggard, writing in the Witness to Transformation blog, weighs in here.

North Korea Requests Vaccines for Children

June 12, 2012

The Chosun Ilbo reports that North Korea has requested vaccines to prevent infectious diseases in children from the International Vaccine Institute, an international organization based in Seoul. The organization is reportedly waiting for approval to deliver the vaccines and other supplies to the North.

Chistian Loucq, the institute's director-general, said that North Korea requested the vaccines during his visit to the country a month ago. He added that an estimated 12 out of 100 North Korean children carry the Hepatitis B virus, and that there is an urgent need to develop diagnostic and immunization systems in the country.

For the full article, click here.

Iran to Send Humanitarian Aid to North Korea

June 11, 2012

Iran's semi-official Fars News Agency reports that Iran plans to send more humanitarian aid to North Korea, including powdered milk and medical items. In April, Iran had previously announced plans to send 85 tons of humanitarian aid, including flour, powdered milk, and rice to North Korea. 

North Korean Red Cross official Paek Yong Ho expressed his thanks for Iranian aid, and said that his country may need more help, with heavy rainstorms forecast for the coming months.

The full Fars New Agency article is available here. An AP summary can be found here.

Indonesia to give $2 Million in Food Aid to North Korea

May 31, 2012

The Jakarta Post reports that the Indonesian government plans to give $2 million of aid to North Korea to help alleviate its food crisis.

Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said distribution of the aid had been delayed for technical reasons, adding that Indonesia wanted to make sure that it went to the right people in North Korea.

Earlier in May, North Korea's chairman of the Supreme People's Assembly, Kim Yong-nam, met with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudyohono to discuss trade and investment.

For the full article, click here.

DPRK Reports Drought in Western Coastal Areas

May 25, 2012

KCNA reports that western areas of North Korea have seen very little rainfall in the past month, saying that it is the longest period of dry weather in the country fifty years.

"The drought is expected to get more serious," the report stated. "An all-people campaign for overcoming drought is now going on in the country." 

U.S. Open to Resuming Food Aid if North Korea Avoids Provocations

May 24, 2012

Two U.S. officials have indicated that the U.S. could resume food aid to North Korea if the country avoids making further provocations and makes a serious commitment to changing its direction, the Korea Times reports.

"I think the precondition is that North Koreans have to demonstrate that they are going to refrain from those types of provocative actions and they are serious about moving in a different direction," Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, said at a press conference.

"We haven't seen that indication yet," he added. "Right now we not optimistic that there will be any imminent breakthrough that could lead to the provision of additional assistance."

Glyn Davies, the U.S. Special Envoy for North Korea, told reporters after meeting with officials in Beijing that "should the opportunity present itself, if we can reach a stage where we can once again have faith in the North Koreans' ability to abide by its undertakings and its promises, we would like very much to get back to the provision of nutritional assistance."

For the full article, click here.

Starvation Reported in North Korea's Rice Belt

May 20, 2012

The Daily NK reports that food shortages have worsened in North and South Hwanghae provinces, traditionally North Korea' s agricultural heartland. Citing sources in North Korea, the report says that many agricultural workers in the area have left the collective farms in search of food. 

After being hit by flooding last year, the region saw most of its crop production diverted to the military or to the citizens of Pyongyang, Daily NK reported. Additionally, the halt in market activities following the death of Kim Jong-il last December disrupted the local safety net.

A source in North Hwanghae province told the Daily NK, “Local people are in pain from hunger, but the only help that households short of food are receiving from the authorities is 1 or 2 kg of corn; it’s emergency relief but only sufficient to stop them starving. Seeing the situation getting worse and with help from the authorities being so inadequate, there are people leaving for other areas to get help from family.”

For the full article, click here.

North Korea Begins Farming Mobilization

May 15, 2012

The Daily NK reports that North Korea has begun its annual 40-day farm mobilization campaign, curtailing market activities and sending students, office workers, and laborers, and to work on collective farms.

The report says that the mobilization atmosphere is particularly intense this year. A source told the Daily NK: "The whole nation is out there supporting the farms, including enterprises affiliated with state agencies, upper middle school and college students and military bases. People are not allowed to be at home or in the streets. Restaurants are not open either. Everybody is out on the farms. It’s just like martial law, really brutal.”

For the full article, click here.

House Reauthorizes North Korean Human Rights Act

May 15, 2012

On Tuesday, the House of Representatives approved the reauthorization of the North Korean Human Rights Act (NKHRA) until 2017. The NKHRA, which became law in October 2004, was previously reauthorized in 2008. The legislation addresses U.S. policy on issues including radio broadcasting into North Korea, humanitarian assistance to North Koreans within and outside of the DPRK, and North Korean eligibility for refugee status in the United States. NKHRA also established the position of Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights in 2004, and the 2008 reauthorization further outlined the scope of this position.

In addition to maintaining the Special Envoy position and other provisions, the reauthorizing legislation contains two notable changes. First, the new legislation adds a “Sense of Congress” clause calling for the U.S. to seek further cooperation with foreign governments to allow the United States to process North Korean refugees, and to urge China to halt the forcible repatriation of North Koreans and fulfill its obligations on refugees under international law.

Additionally, the Act’s annual authorized expenditure on assistance and protection to North Koreans outside of North Korea has been reduced from $20 million to $5 million annually. However, this will not result in any reduction in actual spending, as the State Department already has access to Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA) funds to pay for such assistance, and its spending of funds specifically allocated through the NKHRA has been minimal. The reduced allocation therefore reflects a change in how the Congressional Budget Office will score the bill, but not in actual spending.

Annotated text of the legislation is available here.

White House Wrong to Link Food to Nukes: Amb. Tony Hall

May 11, 2012

Tony Hall, a former Congressman and U.S. Ambassador to the UN Agencies on Food and Agriculture, argues in an op-ed in the Dayton Daily News that the U.S. should not withhold food aid to North Korea because of the country's nuclear and missile programs.

"It is wrong to use starving children as a policy tool," Hall writes. While the North Korean government has a "long history of human rights abuses, political gulags, and broken promises toward denuclearization," he adds, "it is because the people are innocent, powerless and starving that we choose to feed them." 

"It is deeply concerning that the U.S. government recognizes that there are millions of innocent people starving to death, but is withholding food aid because of its own policy of making food aid conditional on the actions of a tyrannical regime."

For the full op-ed, click here.

Food Crisis at Hwanghae Steelworks

May 9, 2012

Good Friends reports that food rations to employees at Hwanghae Steelworks, located in Songnim City in North Hwanghae Province, have been cut off since January, with several workers dying on a daily basis. The report says that the Steelworks is one of the largest enterprises in North Korea, employing about 60,000 workers.

Good Friends also reports that North Korea has banned the export of marine products in order to provide more food for its own population, and that the country is preparing for a second launch attempt to put the Kwangmyongson-3 satellite into orbit.

For the full report, click here.

Kim Jong-un Gives Speech on Land Management

May 8, 2012

Kim Jong-un has given a speech on land management and conservation, according to DPRK state-run Korean Central News Agency. The KCNA article states that "A master plan for land construction should be worked out in a scientific and realistic manner and it should be carried out under a long-term plan."

The articles says that the priorities in Kim Jong-un's speech include transforming Pyongyang into a "model city of Songun culture," conserving water and natural resources, and the conservation of forests. It adds, "The country's nature conservation should be done in an intensive way as an all-party, nationwide and all-people work in these periods."

For the full article, click here.

World Grain Prices and Food Availability in North Korea

May 7, 2012

In a post on his Witness to Transformation blog, Marcus Noland demonstrates the effect that world food prices have had on the availability of food in North Korea. It is not by accident that the three worst food emergencies in the past 20 years have coincided with periods of peak cereals prices," Noland writes.

Noland further notes that, despite a drop in global food prices in March, the broader trend has been increasing upward pressure on food prices, due to factors including rising prices for production inputs such as oil, water, and fertilizer; increasing global demand for meat, particularly in China; and diversion of stocks to ethanol production. 

For the full post, click here

South Korea Notifies the North on Debt Repayments

May 4, 2012

The South Korean government has notified North Korea that its first payment on a low-interest loan used to pay for food aid from 2000-2007 will be due next month, Fox News reports. 

The $720 million loan paid for 2.6 million tons of rice and corn to be shipped across the DMZ in six tranches, as part of the Sunshine Policy of previous South Korean administrations. The loan was given an interest rate of one percent, with a twenty-year repayment period to begin after a ten-year grace period. The first payment will be worth $5.83 million.

For the full article, click here.

North Korea Leadership to Convene Large Conference on Food Cultivation

May 2, 2012

Good Friends reports that the North Korean leadership will convene a "Homeland Meeting" in early May in Pyongyang to discuss the DPRK's food shortage. The conference will reportedly be attended by officials from across North Korea, and will discuss cultivating new areas and responding to a shortage of farm labor due to hunger in breadbasket areas.

For the full article, click here.

Food Security along Chinese Border Stable as Situation in Interior Declines

April 25, 2012

Good Friends, citing an anonymous North Korean official, reports that the food situation in most of North Korea is worsening, with North and South Hwanghae Province particularly hard-hit. The official said that areas along the border with China were better off thanks to the cross-border trade.

The Good Friends newsletter also reported that the North Korean Ministry of Agriculture has ordered the purchase of 200,000 tons of fertilizer from abroad, and has allocated $2 million to repairing agricultural equipment.

For the full newsletter, click here.

Starvation Reported in South Hwanghae Province

April 23, 2012

The Choson Ilbo, citing the Japanese daily Tokyo Shimbun, reports that more than 20,000 North Koreans in South Hwanghae province have died of starvation since Kim Jong-il's death in December. The famine was caused by acute rain and flooding last year.

For the full article, click here.

Obama Administration Wrong to Link Food Aid to Politics: Los Angeles Times

April 22, 2012

An editorial in the Los Angeles Times argues that the Obama administration should not have linked geopolitics and humanitarian assistance in the Leap Day deal with North Korea:

The underlying problem is that food aid was linked to North Korean compliance in the first place. Had it not been, proceeding with the aid after the missile launch wouldn't have looked like a sign of weakness on the part of the U.S. And what of the future? White House Press Secretary Jay Carneysaid last week that if North Korea abandons its nuclear weapons program and abides by its international obligations, "there is an avenue available … to allow them to better feed and educate their people." Put another way, that means that hungry children will continue to be held hostage to the machinations of a rogue regime. Finding a way to feed those children remains a moral imperative.

For the full editorial, click here.

Are North Koreans Really Three Inches Shorter than South Koreans?

April 22, 2012

Richard Knight, writing for BBC News, examines the claim that North Koreans are significantly shorter on average than South Koreans due to the combination of chronic malnutrition in North Korea and rapid economic growth in South Korea. Professor Daniel Schwekendiek from Sungkyunkwan University in Seoul has studied the heights of North Korean refugees entering South Korea, and says that North Korean men are, on average, between three to eight centimeters shorter than their South Korean counterparts.

Dr. Schwekendiek said that measuring the refugee population can produce an estimate of North Korean society as a whole, because the refugees 'come from all social strata and from all regions." He says that he has also studies data collected by the North Korean government and by UN agencies working in North Korea.

For the full article, click here.

Iran Sends Humanitarian Aid to North Korea

April 22, 2012

Ynetnews reports that Iran has sent 85 tons of humanitarian aid to North Korea, including flour, powdered milk, and rice. The shipment was sent from Iran's Red Crescent Society.

For the full article, click here.

Bakery Charity Feeds North Korean Children

April 20, 2012

An article in the Christian Science Monitor reports on the London-based group Love North Korean Children, which has established four community bakeries in North Korea which feed 5,000 children one steamed bun a day. The organization is currently raising funds for a new bakery in Sariwon, and plans to ultimately build 26 bakeries across North Korea.

“Everybody in North Korea receives food supplies from the government to last three months,” said George Rhee, the head of the organization. “But people in rural areas only have food for one month. They have to go to the countryside to hunt [for] tree bark or corn. That’s why kids have to have these meals; otherwise, they wouldn’t have anything else to eat.”

For the full article, click here

South Korea to Continue Aid to North Despite Rocket Launch

April 18, 2012

The Voice of America reports that the South Korean government will not cut off private relief agencies from providing humanitarian aid to North Korea. Unification Minister Yu Woo-ik said that while the South Korean government will take other punitive measures against North Korea in response to the rocket launch, private humanitarian efforts may continue.

For the full article, click here.

North Korea Threatens Retaliation for Cancellation of Food Aid

April 17, 2012

The Los Angeles Times reports that North Korea has threatened to take "retaliatory measures" in response to the U.S. decision to cancel its nutritional assistance program in the wake of North Korea's attempted satellite launch. The Korean Central News Agency stated that North Korea no longer feels bound by the food aid agreement, and "The U.S. will be held wholly accountable for all the ensuing consequences."

To read the full article, click here.

How Food Aid Can Undermine Kim Jong-un

April 15, 2012

In an op-ed for, Gordon Chang argues that the Obama administration should not suspend food aid to North Korea, as it both meets a humanitarian need and subverts the regime's control of information in the country:

The three Kim rulers have maintained power by keeping the North Korean people sealed off from the rest of the world so that their propaganda would remain believable.

Food aid, if properly monitored, can help end this control on information. Food monitors, present in the country to ensure no diversion of aid, give the North Korean people an opportunity to meet outsiders and thereby get a different perspective on the world - and on their own society.

To read the full op-ed, click here.

U.S. Calls Off Food Aid to North Korea

April 13, 2012

AFP reports that the U.S. has called off plans to provide nutritional assistance to North Korea in the wake of the DPRK's failed satellite launch. "Their efforts to launch a missile clearly demonstrate that they could not be trusted to keep their commitments," said deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes.

"Therefore we are not going forward with an agreement to provide them with any assistance."

To read the full article, click here.

North Korea has long put weapons ahead of food for its people

April 13, 2012

In a news analysis in the Los Angeles Times, Barbara Demick writes that North Korea has placed far more priority on its military than on feeding its population, and that the cancellation of emergency U.S. food aid provides only the latest example.

"Telling the North Koreans you're not going to feed their starving people if they launch a missile is like telling your 2-year-old you'll take away their broccoli if they don't behave," said an American aid official who asked not to be named because of the ongoing efforts to help feed the North's population.

To read the full article, click here.

As North Korean rocket launch nears, the hungry get hungrier

April 12, 2012

CNN reports that, as the U.S. threatens to withdraw its nutritional assistance program to North Korea in the face of an impending satellite launch, many North Koreans remain severely malnourished.

David Austin, Mercy Corps' program director for North Korea, described "an entire generation" of North Korean children who are "stunted physically, developmentally because of chronic malnutrition."

"I have real questions about whether we should have linked humanitarian food assistance to the nuclear missile program in the first place," said Mike Green, who was senior director for Asian affairs at the National Security Council during the Bush administration. "It is not the fault of the average North Korean who needs the food, who is at starvation level, that the regime is developing nuclear missiles."

To read the full article, click here.

Withholding Food Aid Won't Punish North Korea's Leadership

April 11, 2012

In an op-ed for the Chicago Tribune, Dorothy Stuehmke argues that further isolating North Korea will not lead to change, and that withholding food aid only punishes the vulnerable:

Perhaps a satellite launch should not justify, by itself, the cancellation of a negotiated U.S. food aid program. The U.S. now claims that the satellite launch purportedly demonstrates North Korea's inability to allow food aid monitoring. America maintains this position in spite of the United Nations World Food Program's successful food aid program in North Korea as well as the improved standards that the U.S. reached with North Korea under their recent food aid agreement. What people should not lose sight of is that these types of programs have the proven track record of forcing North Korea to remain engaged and leave its comfort zone of isolation

To read the full op-ed, click here.

Food Crisis in South Hwanghae Province

April 4, 2012

Good Friends reports that hunger is mounting in North Korea's South Hwanghae province. The newsletter states that the halt in trading activities during the 100-day mourning period for Kim Jong-il exacerbated the problems caused by heavy rains last summer.

To read the full report, click here

North Korea Criticizes US Suspension of Food Aid

 March 31, 2012

Bloomberg News reports that North Korea has criticized the US decision to suspend its planned nutritional assistance program if the DPRK moves forward on its planned satellite launch, calling it an overreaction "beyond the limit."

Suspending food aid “would be a regrettable act” scrapping the entire Feb. 29 agreement between the two nations, North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency said.

North Korea maintains that its Kwangmyongsong-3 is a “scientific and technological satellite for peaceful purposes,” 

For the Bloomberg article, click here. For the KCNA statement, click here.

Details of the US-DPRK Beijing Talks

March 30, 2012

In an analysis of the "leap day deal" and the subsequent North Korean announcement of a pending satellite launch, Reuters recounts the history of US-DPRK relations under the Obama administration and reports on the details of recent negotiations on North Korea's nuclear and missile moratorium and U.S. nutritional assistance.

Citing U.S. officials involved in the talks, the article says that a U.S. assessment of North Korea's food needs had found chronic malnutrition throughout the country, but not famine. The officials also stated that the U.S. had made it clear to North Korea that any launches using ballistic missile technology would be considered a violation of the moratorium.

The proposed nutritional assistance program would have greatly increased the presence of foreign aid workers, and would have included new monitoring methods to ensure that targeted populations were receiving aid. "This would be a big leap forward in what we have been able to do," said Jim White, vice president of operations for Mercy Corps, one of the NGOs preparing to implement the program.

For the full article, click here.

Who is in Charge of US Humanitarian Policy?

March 29, 2012

Writing for Foreign Policy, Mike Magan argues that humanitarian assistance to North Korea is needed, but that linking a program to political issues sets a bad precedent. Noting that a Defense Department official was the first to confirm the suspension of the U.S. nutritional assistance program, Magan asks:

Why has the administration allowed the Department of Defense to announce food assistance has been halted?

It was Special Envoy King and a senior representative from USAID who were responsible for negotiating the resumption of food assistance during the March meetings.

It begs the question -- who is in charge of U.S. humanitarian policy in North Korea and what is the Obama administration's overall strategy?

Until a coherent strategy is articulated, questions will continue to be asked about the philosophical and practical origins of this administration's approach to humanitarian assistance and the need for North Korea to halt its nuclear agenda. These are, and should remain, separate issues.

For the full article, click here.

NGO Criticizes US Suspension of Food Aid

March 29, 2012

A U.S.-based aid agency that had been preparing to implement the U.S. nutritional assistance program to North Korea has criticized the suspension of the program in the wake of North Korea's announcement of a planned satellite launch, Radio Free Asia reports.

 Despite the Obama administration's insistence that the political and humanitarian issues are not linked, “There is evidently a strong linkage in the negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea—the linkage being an exchange for discontinuation of enriching uranium in swap for food," said Ken Isaacs, Vice President of Samaritan's Purse.

“And I think it’s unfortunate, because in the end it’s going to be the people in the rural areas of North Korea that we know are hungry and malnourished—they’re going to be the ones that suffer,” Isaacs added.

 For the full article, click here.

US Suspends Food Assistance to North Korea

March 28, 2012

The United States has suspended its planned nutritional assistance program to North Korea, Voice of America reports.

Peter Lavoy, Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense (Policy) for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs, told a congressional hearing that the U.S. is working closely with its allies to to try to discourage North Korea from proceeding on its planned satellite launch, and that North Korea's inability to follow through on its commitment to the nuclear and missile moratorium has raised concerns about the U.S. nutritional assistance program.

"We have been forced to suspend our activities to provide nutritional assistance to North Korea largely because we have now no confidence that the monitoring mechanisms to ensure that the food assistance goes to the starving people and not the regime elite," Lavoy said. 

For the full article, click here. For more information on the hearing, click here.

Obama Warns Satellite Launch May Jeopardize Aid

March 26, 2012

Speaking at a joint press conference with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak in Seoul, President Barack Obama said that "it would be extremely difficult to move forward" with planned nutritional assistance if North Korea moves forward with its planned satellite launch. 
"It’s very difficult to have monitors at a period of tension and friction.  And it is difficult to provide aid if you don’t think that it’s going to get to the people who actually need it," said Obama.

To read the full transcript, click here.

US NGOs Call for Resumption of Proposed Aid Program

March 23, 2012

In a recent press release, five US NGOs involved with humanitarian assistance to North Korea called on the US and North Korean governments to resolve the political impasse blocking the delivery of a proposed nutritional assistance program to North Korea, and urged the delinking of politics and humanitarian assistance.

"Delay or potential cancellation of this program would violate humanitarian principles which hold that lifesaving assistance should not be used to achieve political aims," the statement said. In prior visits to North Korea, the NGOs had repeatedly witnessed "extensive food insecurity and malnutrition, especially among young children, pregnant and nursing mothers and hospitalized patients."

For the full press release, click here.

US Warns It Won't Send Food Aid if North Korea Launches Rocket Next Month

March 16, 2012

After North Korea's announcements of its plans to launch a satellite next month, the US has said that the planned shipment of nutritional assistance may not go ahead, the AP reports.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that the launch would not create an atmosphere conducive to the food shipments and would bring Pyongyang's good faith into question.

Nuland added, "we did warn them that we considered that a satellite launch of this kind would be an abrogation" of the moratorium on North Korea's nuclear and missile programs that the two countries announced last month. 

To read the full story, click here.

North Korea Said to Reject Monitored Private Aid Shipments from South Korea

March 12, 2012

Citing anonymous officials from South Korean relief agencies, Yonhap News reports that North Korea will not accept private humanitarian aid shipments from South Korea that come with monitoring conditions. Yonhap's sources said that North Korea will only accept "pure" humanitarian aid from the South. The move comes as the US and North Korea worked out the details for a shipment of 240,000 metric tons of monitored nutritional assistance to the DPRK.

Last year, South Korean civic groups donated nearly 3,000 tons of flour to North Korea and some of the civic groups sent monitors to the North to try to ensure the transparency of the distribution of their food aid.

 To read the full story, click here.

US Envoy Optimistic after Talks on North Korea Food Aid

March 8, 2012

CNN reports that US Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights Robert King expressed optimism that US nutritional assistance to North Korea would reach its intended targets, after two days of talks with DPRK officials in Beijing. However, it remained unclear when the shipments would begin.

"We resolved the administrative issues that we were concerned with," King said Thursday before leaving for Washington to report the results of the discussions. He described the meetings as "very productive, positive talks."

He added, though, that the timing of the food deliveries was not yet clear. "We're still working on the details," he said. "Not all of those questions have been worked out."

To read the full article, click here.

Should US Food Aid Be Made in China?

March 5, 2012

The International Herald Tribune's Mark McDonald takes a look at US policies for sourcing food aid, taking a particular look at how it might affect the shipment of US nutritional assistance to North Korea. "By U.S. law, nearly all food aid — literally from soup to nuts — must be purchased domestically and then shipped abroad," McDonald writes. But "a more cost-efficient approach would have the federal government buying food directly from foreign providers located closer to recipient countries. In the North Korea deal, for example, neighboring China seems the likeliest vendor. Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia are other possibilities."

To read the full article, click here

US Officials to Finalize Agreement for North Korea Food Aid

March 5, 2012

The AP reports that Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights Robert King and USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator Jon Brause will meet with their North Korean counterparts in Beijing on Wednesday to finalize the details of a 240,000 metric ton US nutritional assistance program to North Korea. 

"The idea is to finalize all of the technical arrangements so that the nutritional assistance can begin to move," spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters.

To read the full article, click here.

US, North Korea Announce Plans for Nuclear Freeze, Food Aid

February 29, 2012

Following the US-DPRK exploratory talks in Beijing this week, North Korea has agreed to implement a moratorium on nuclear tests, missile launches, and nuclear activities at Yongbyon, including its enrichment program, as announced by both  the State Department and KCNA. North Korea has also agreed to allow IAEA inspectors to return to the country to verify and monitor the moratorium on enrichment and the disablement of its 5-MW reactor and related facilities at Yongbyon. Both sides reaffirmed their commitment to the September 19, 2005 agreement and the U.S. reaffirmed that "it does not have hostile intent toward the DPRK and is prepared to take steps to improve our bilateral relationship in the spirit of mutual respect for sovereignty and equality."

The US and North Korea will also meet in the near future to discuss monitoring conditions for 240,000 metric tons of nutritional assistance, with the prospect of additional assistance based on continued need. The Korea Herald reports that North Korea sought 50,000 tons of corn in addition to the 240,000 tons of nutritional assistance that was first outlined last December. 

For more resources and analysis on this deal, see NCNK's briefing book.

What Does 240,000 Metric Tons of Food Mean for North Korea?

February 29, 2012

On the heels of press reports indicating an imminent deal on food aid in exchange for a North Korean nuclear freeze, the Los Angeles Times has published a chart demonstrating how the assistance would allow the DPRK to meet its minimal aggregate cereal requirements.
To view the chart, click here.

US Military Official Says Food Aid to North Korea Tied to Nuclear Progress

February 29, 2012

The BBC reports that Admiral Robert Willard, Commander of the US Pacific Fleet, said at a Senate hearing that the issue of food aid to North Korea was linked to the country's steps toward denuclearization. His statements contradict official US policy, which maintains that the two issues are separate.

"There are conditions that are going along with the negotiations with regard to the extent of food aid," Admiral Willard told the US Senate Armed Forces Committee.

He said "preconditions" for assistance "now include discussions of cessation of nuclearisation and ballistic missile testing and the allowance of IAEA perhaps back into Yongbyon [reactor]".

To read the BBC story, click here. For video of Admiral Williard's congressional testimony, click here.

US Says No Decision yet on Food Aid to North Korea

February 28, 2012

The United States said Monday that it has not made any decisions on further talks with North Korea or restarting a food aid program for the country despite “some moderate, modest progress” at their talks in Beijing last week, the Korea Herald reports.

“No decisions have been made on the six-party talks side or on the nutritional assistance side,” State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said at a press briefing.
“My understanding is that the conversations on this subject are also becoming more substantive and more constructive, but we‘re not yet at a point of being able to make decisions,” she added.
To read the full article, click here.

China, North Korea Discuss Food Aid

February 27, 2012

China's Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, Fu Ying, traveled to North Korea last week to discuss issues including food aid, Daily NK reports.

“They exchanged views on bilateral relations and on international and regional areas of common interest,” said a spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “Of course both sides agreed to maintain traditional friendly relations, but also to work toward the early restarting of the Six-Party Talks for the sake of the peace and security of the Chosun Peninsula.” 

“They also debated the issue of food support for Chosun. China welcomes giving various forms of assistance to Chosun.”

To read the full article, click here.

Seoul City Government to Spent $4 Million on Inter-Korean Exchange Programs this Year

February 27, 2012

The Seoul metropolitan government plans to spend 4.4 billion Won, about $4 million, on six inter-Korean exchange programs this year, Arirang reports. The programs will be focused on providing humanitarian aid to infants and children in the North, and on improving hospital facilities there.

To read the full story, click here.

Conflicting Reports on Future of WFP's Emergency Aid to North Korea

February 23, 2012

The UN World Food Programme's emergency aid mission to North Korea, which began in April of last year, is scheduled to end in March. The Korea Herald reports that the WFP plans to extend its program, as it was unable to fully address the food crisis which began last year. However, the Chosun Ilbo reports that the emergency mission will indeed end in March, and that the WFP will thereafter switch back to its smaller-scale nutritional assistance program.

North Korea Edges toward Crisis as Nuclear Talks Begin

February 22, 2012

As the US and the DPRK prepare for their first talks since Kim Jong-un assumed power, North Korea faces a difficult humanitarian picture, the Interdependent reports. The UN estimates that the country will need 400,000 tons of grain in 2012 to prevent a food deficit. While its humanitarian situation has improved somewhat since the flooding last summer, the country continues to face chronic malnutrition. "The situation has improved on the level of food availability," said Marcus Prior, Asia spokesperson for the UN World Food Programme, "but we remain concerned about the level of nutrition, especially for children in poorer areas." 

To read the full article, click here.


Randall Ireson: Developing the DPRK through Agriculture

February 8, 2012

Writing in 38 North, Randall Ireson discusses how North Korea can revive its agricultural sector. "There are no technical obstacles to greatly increased farm productivity," he writes, and many farms in North Korea have started to adopt the practices international NGOs have brought over the last fifteen years. The larger problem, he writes, is institutional: 

grain production quotas inhibit wider planting of soybean and other legumes. The requirement that farms sell all surplus grain to the state at a price less than 5% of its free-market value insures that no more than minimum effort is directed to maize and rice farming. Farm workers give more attention to the production of vegetables, small animals, and fruit which can be sold for a profit in the farmers’ markets, but which do not substantially boost the national food balance."

To read the full article, click here

Mort Abramowitz: US Hypocrisy Starves North Korea

February 3, 2012

Writing in The National Interest, Mort Abramowitz argues that the Obama administration has dithered on providing food aid to North Korea, putting its impoverished people at risk.

Amidst all the speculation about the future of North Korea’s leadership, a critical problem remains unresolved: the country has a major food problem affecting its most vulnerable and poorest populations, which even Pyongyang acknowledges could result in another humanitarian disaster. Despite the importuning of its humanitarian organizations and the contributions of other countries, the United States has sat by and watched.

To read the full article, click here.

China to send large food, oil shipments to North Korea: Tokyo Shimbun

January 30, 2012

The Daily NK, citing the Japanese newspaper Tokyo Shimbun, reports that China is planning to send large amounts of food and crude oil to North Korea in an attempt to provide stability to the country's political succession. Citing anonymous sources in China and North Korea, the newspaper says that China will provide 500,000 of food aid and 250,000 of fuel oil.

To read to Daily NK Story, click here

N. Korea Warns South but Accepts Food Aid

January 27, 2012

The New York Times reports that North Korea has warned that a South Korean military drill around front-line islands could turn into "full-scale war," as South Korean trucks carrying food aid for North Korean children crossed the border. The 180 tons of flour sent by the Korea Peace Foundation, a private organization, were the first South Korean shipments of food to the North since the death of Kim Jong-il on December 17.

To read the story, click here.

U.S. Remains Cautious on Food Aid to North Korea

January 24, 2012

The Los Angeles Times reports that the U.S. remains cautious on providing food aid to North Korea, as the first aid shipments from South Korea and China to the DPRK after Kim Jong-il's death move ahead. "The ball is in North Korea's court; they asked to postpone the negotiations when Kim Jong Il died," Ralph A. Cossa, president of Pacific Forum CSIS, told the Times.

To read the full story, click here.

North Korea Sends Signals on Food Aid Negotiations

January 11, 2012

A statement from North Korea's Foreign Ministry has indicated a willingness to open further negotiations with the United States concerning a suspension of its uranium enrichment program and food aid. The statement also accused the US of "politicizing" food aid. It claimed that American negotiators had previously offered to send humanitarian aid and temporarily lift economic sanctions if North Korea suspended its uranium enrichment program, but added that "the U.S. has drastically changed the amount and items of provision" of its food aid package relative to a previous offer. "We will watch if the U.S. truly wants to build confidence," the statement concludes. 

To read the North Korean statement, click here. For the New York Times' coverage of the story, click here.

Humanitarian Aid Worker Opposes Providing Grains to North Korea

January 11, 2012

Posted at the Witness to Transformation blog, Suzanne Scholte interviews an anonymous humanitarian aid worker with years of experience working in North Korea. The aid worker states that, based on his personal experience and interviews with defectors, much of the food aid sent to North Korea is diverted. He says he therefore opposes sending commodities such as rice and corn to North Korea, but that he supports aid such as "high nutrition and therapeutic supplements and other such food items for children, the elderly, pregnant and nursing mothers."

To read the interview, click here.

North Korea Renews Food Aid Talks

January 8, 2012

The Korea Herald, citing Japanese media coverage, reports that North Korea reopened food aid talks with the US in late December 2011 following the funeral of Kim Jong-il, and that Pyongyang is requested more rice, corn, and other grains in the package than the US had previously suggested. In the mid-December negotiations prior to the death of Kim Jong-il, the US focused its proposed aid package on providing nutritional supplements for vulnerable groups.
To read the full report, click here.