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Creating Lasting Impact in North Korea

FILE - North Korean women queue up to receive corn at a public distribution center. (World Food Program)

The U.S. seeks to alleviate the humanitarian problems in North Korea and to end the egregious human rights violations occurring in the country.

The United States remains deeply concerned about the well-being of the North Korean people. Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights Issues Robert King said, “[The United States] seek[s] to alleviate the humanitarian problems in North Korea and also to end the egregious human rights violations occurring in the country.”

Between 1995 and 2008, the United States provided North Korea with over $1.3 billion in aid, both in the form of food and heavy fuel oil. But in early 2009, North Korea unilaterally terminated the U.S. assistance program. Just two months later, North Korea conducted its second nuclear weapons test.

The 2014 report of the U.N. Commission of Inquiry, or COI, on North Korea’s human rights situation noted the deplorable use of food by the North Korean government as a means of controlling its population. According to the COI, North Korea’s leaders are guilty of “knowingly causing prolonged starvation” and are responsible for the death by starvation of hundreds of thousands of its own people.”

The need for food, medical, technical, and educational aid remains urgent in North Korea. North Korea has set up road blocks to government-to-government engagement but has demonstrated a willingness to work directly with NGOs. The U.S. supports these NGO efforts.

The U.S. believes direct people-to-people contact, which occurs through the provision of humanitarian aid, can have a positive long term impact on advancing change in the country. That’s why the U.S. calls on North Korea to honor its international obligations and agreements and to allow international humanitarian assistance groups and independent monitors unfettered access to all areas of the country to ensure that humanitarian aid reaches its intended recipients.

Ultimately, said Special Envoy King, “We will judge North Korea not by its words, but by its actions - the concrete steps it takes to address the core concerns of the international community, from its nuclear program to its human rights violations, and its effort for the well-being of the North Korean people.”