July 28, 2021

The perils and positives of residency in North Korea as an NGO

Permanently staying in the DPRK has its benefits - but comes with plenty of obstacles

In the summer of 1995, North Korea released its first wide-scale appeal for international humanitarian aid. The DPRK was in the midst of a famine caused largely by structural factors, but could conveniently lay blame on a series of natural disasters that had unfolded in the mid-1990s. As a result, international organizations, bilateral mechanisms, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) began programs in the country.

Despite making the appeal for aid, the DPRK remained largely suspicious of foreign intent and obsessed with restricting information and movement. The authorities subjected humanitarian groups to rigorous challenges of access, from aid recipients, which towns and provinces they could work in, and what kind of programs they could implement.