Feeding the dictator or making a difference? The experiences of international aid and development agencies in North Korea 1995-2005

University of New South Wales
Publication Type:
Journal Article
The International Review of Korean Studies, 2009, 6 (1), pp. 1 - 28
Issue Date:
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Since 2005 food aid to North Korea has been in steep decline, however, during the period 1995 to 2005 North Korea received more food aid from the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and US government than any other country. Similarly, private relief aid to North Korea significantly increased, with approximately 130 organisations worldwide providing over US$2 billion in aid between 1995 and 2005. This article revisits this period marked by the most extensive engagement of humanitarian organisations since the establishment of the Democratic Peopleâs Republic of Korea (DPRK) in 1948. In the context of this dependence on foreign aid the article examines the impact of International Aid Agencies or International Nongovernment Organisationsâ (INGOs) operations, not only in humanitarian terms but with regards to political, social and economic development. We argue that due to tight operating restrictions there was no discernable impact on North Korean society or the polity. However, it is argued that longer term and unanticipated effects are likely due to the extensive diversion of aid to the emerging informal market economy.
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