‘Opening up’ by default: North Korea, the humanitarian community and the crisis

Smith, Hazel Anne (1999) ‘Opening up’ by default: North Korea, the humanitarian community and the crisis. The Pacific Review, 12 (3). pp. 453-478. ISSN 0951-2748

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Digital ID: http://doi.org/10.1080/ 09512749908719299


In 1995 the Democratic People's Republic of Korea made an unprecedented appeal for humanitarian assistance. The community responded with food aid, and support for health services, education,water and sanitation. Tension developed in the relationship between the DPRK government and the international organizations - mainly around the issue of adequate access to information, institutions and geographically remote areas of the country. The argument of this paper is that the presence of the humanitarian community in the DPRK contributed significantly to a de facto opening up of the country to the outside world. The humanitarian community systematically collected and disseminated information about the economic, social, cultural and political organization of the DPRK. Engagement between the two partners has enabled some response to the very severe food shortages affecting the entire population. Engagement has also constituted an important 'confidence-building' exercise for the DPRK in terms of its relations with the West.

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