Famine in North Korea

North Korea is known as one of the world’s most economically isolated countries. According to the CIA’s World Factbook, North Korea’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was only $40 billion in 2015. North Korea also has an extremely negative track record of famine. The 1990s famine in North Korea is estimated to have killed between up to 1 million people from 1995 to 2000.

How Did North Korea Get to This Point?

After the conclusion of World War II, Korea was split between the Soviet Union and the United States along parallel 38. In 1950, the Korean War began after communist North Korea invaded democratic South Korea. The war went on until 1953 and ended in a stalemate. Ever since the Korean War, North and South Korea have been divided at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), and the two countries have still not signed an official peace agreement to date.

North Korea’s communist regime has committed numerous human rights violations and threatened the United States, Japan and South Korea with a war on a frequent basis. As a result, the United Nations and the United States have placed significant sanctions on North Korea that have seriously reduced economic growth in the country. In fact, North Korea’s economic situation is so poor that many experts believe that, without China as North Korea’s major ally and trading partner, the country would not be able to sustain itself.

There have been past attempts to negotiate with North Korea, particularly regarding their nuclear weapons program. In June 2018, President Trump became the first United States President to meet with North Korea’s tyrannical regime, headed by Kim Jong Un. While President Trump is attempting to negotiate with North Korea, there has not been any significant progress made so far regarding diplomacy. However, President Trump temporarily succeeded in stopping Kim Jung Un from testing ballistic missiles (as many as 12 tests were conducted in 2019) and was also able to negotiate bringing home the remains of 55 American soldiers who died during the Korean War.

Why Does North Korea Have Problems With Famine?

Since North Korea’s annual GDP is low, monetary resources are tight. Unfortunately, the Regime uses nearly 25 percent of its GDP towards military funding. It does not invest as much in basic services such as healthcare, clean water, roads and food. On top of that, North Korea is a rather small country with nearly 24 million people. Its land area is estimated to be the size of Mississippi. Most of the northern areas are mountainous, which makes agriculture very difficult.

The devastating 1990s famine in North Korea was caused by a variety of factors. Besides the major problems discussed above, an excess of floods brought on by El Nino in 1995 and 1996 caused devastation in North Korea. This devastated crops and destroyed already limited farmland. As grain resources decreased, the government reduced the supply to its people in order to preserve food resources for itself and the military.

Are Conditions in North Korea Improving?

Conditions in North Korea are very difficult to gauge because the country is extremely selective regarding who is allowed in and out of the country. Therefore, data is limited. However, most experts agree that famine in North Korea has not improved very much. While North Korea’s GDP is slowly growing at approximately 4 percent, there were still 1,137 defectors in 2018. Twenty percent of North Korea’s children are thought to be stunted, and 40 percent of North Korean residents are malnourished. All of these factors are signs that conditions are still poor throughout the country.

On a positive note, domestic agriculture has improved greatly. Grain production has almost doubled from the 1990s to about 5 million tons per year. Humanitarian aid to North Korea is now supplying nearly 30 percent of the country’s food supply. In 2016, the United Nations spent at least $8 million in foreign aid to help reduce malnutrition. In the meantime, North Korea’s upper class, which largely consists of government officials and military generals, has plentiful access to food. This is largely because they all live in North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang. Unfortunately, smuggled photos out of North Korea show small villages with residents starving, and in extreme cases, eating grass.

Nearly half of North Korea’s population still lives in poverty. Human rights violations are common, and the military is considered a priority over infrastructure and agricultural production. Until North Korea develops normalized relations with the rest of the world and commits more resources to its people, it is highly doubtful that any major breakthrough against famine or poverty will be possible.

Kyle Arendas
Photo: Pixabay

South Korea AidNorth and South Korea have been separated since the end of World War II when the Soviet Union took control of the northern half of the peninsula and the United States took over the South. The two halves of Korea have been at war with each other since.

North Korea has since become a nation of poverty. The greatest threats to North Korea are its water pollution, waterborne diseases, deforestation, soil erosion and degradation. In 2017, one in five North Koreans did not have access to clean water and 41 percent of people were undernourished. Since the country’s poverty level has been increasing, North Korea has been reliant on international aid. Recently, South Korea has announced it will be sending $8 million in food aid to North Korea.

The good news about South Korea’s $8 million aid is that it expected to begin reducing tension between the opposing governments while reducing poverty levels in the North. North Korea previously chose not to accept aid from the South. The Supreme Leader, Kim Jong-un, is now open to receiving the aid due to the current harvest being the worst in the past decade and the current drought problem, which is currently the worst it has been in over three decades.

Expected Benefits

  • Decrease in Poverty LevelsFood aid will help the 40 percent of North Koreans that are suffering from severe food shortages. It will also provide access to clean water and reduce the number of people affected by waterborne diseases.
  • Vaccines and Medicine Will Also Be Provided – South Korea’s $8 million aid will also include $3.5 million in vaccines and medicine. This secondary aid is supplying treatments for malnutrition in children and pregnant women. It will also include other medicines for the population.
  • Tensions Between the North and South Should Improve – Despite tensions between the North and South, South Korea is still willing to give aid to the North regardless of the political situation between the two halves. This aid is letting the North know that South Korea is not willing to let those in need suffer.

Taking a Stand

Tensions between North and South Korea have been high since the end of World War II. In a press release, the South Korea Unification Ministry made it clear to the public that its tension with North Korea was not a reason to deny the country humanitarian aid. South Korea’s aid will begin to lessen those tensions. It will also provide food and medical aid to the suffering population and begin to reduce the poverty levels.

Most countries have been hesitant to send international aid to North Korea due to their involvement in missile and nuclear weapons developments. South Korea is taking a stand and using compassion to state that political issues do not affect the fact that almost half of the North Korean population is starving and in need of help.

Chelsea Wolfe
Photo: Pixabay

Agriculture in North Korea
A massive famine struck North Korea in the 1990s with a death toll of more than one million. While grain production has nearly doubled since the famine, many agricultural scientists and international humanitarian aid liaisons believe it is not enough to sustain the nation. According to the World Health Organization, two out of every five North Koreans were undernourished in 2017 and 28 percent of North Korean children are stunted in growth due to a “largely irreversible outcome of inadequate nutrition and repeated bouts of infection during the first 1,000 days of their life.”

After Kim Jong Un took power in 2011, the government is more willing to admit its administrative shortcomings in perpetuating food insecurity across the country. In 2018, Former Premier Pak Pong Ju, a member of the ruling Korean Worker’s Party and longtime member of the political elite hierarchy, admitted an agricultural crisis had formed a chokehold on the North Korean economy. In a report, he mentioned that “Some have failed to conduct seed production and management in a responsible way and also fell short of doing proper strain distribution in line with climatic conditions and characteristics of fields.” With lower food production, many locals are going hungry and the poorest are affected the most.

North Korea has many tactics underway in order to improve agricultural conditions in their nation. Here are three strategies for improving agriculture in North Korea.

  1. A 5-Year Strategy – North Korea’s 5-year strategy for improving agricultural development is already underway. The plan includes increasing fruit, vegetable and mushroom cultivation along with improving domestic animal breeds. Furthermore, North Korea plans to upgrade fishing boats and farm equipment in order to use modern scientific methods. As 2018 came to an end, North Korea has already improved plant species with high-yield, created agricultural machinery and scientific farming, increased greenhouse farming production and increased livestock and development of fish aquaculture. They are also in the second stage of constructing the South Hwanghae Province waterway.
  2. Juche Farming Method –  The Juche Farming Method uses the nation’s government style ideals to give farmers a plot of land and a house to live in on collective farms in exchange for the food they produce. Additionally, in just six months after the method was implemented, 650 greenhouses were built across the country allowing for four to five harvests a year. Without greenhouses, locals say the soil is too salty and not sufficient enough for growing crops. Salt increases the acidity in plants which results in poor harvests.
  3. International Aid – International Aid can improve agricultural development in North Korea significantly. The American Friends Service Committee’s Publication and Advocacy Coordinator, Daniel Jasper, says his organization is working on multiple techniques to improve North Korea’s agriculture. For example, one of the organization’s projects is rice cultivation and the introduction of plastic trays. The project has been very successful, raising yields 15 to 20 percent in some farms. North Korea is also interested in joining institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). These institutions would allow North Korea to gain additional international aid.

Agriculture in North Korea has greatly improved since the famine in the 1990s, but the nation’s mountainous geography still makes farming difficult. With 11 million North Koreans malnourished, it is vital that the nation continues to correct the problems within its agricultural industry.

– Maura Byrne

Photo: Unsplash

life expectancy North Korea

Korea was divided into the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the north and the Republic of Korea in the south due to opposing political ideologies. Before the 1990s, the World Bank estimated that the life expectancy of North Korea was similar to that of South Korea. Men were expected to live to 65.9 years, and women 73 years. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in North Korea that will list what factors have had the largest impact on the growth or decline or this rate.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in North Korea

  1. The 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union in Russia led to an economic decline that ultimately decreased North Korea’s life expectancy. This decline was the direct cause of the mid-1990s famine in North Korea, which caused a mortality crisis that lowered its life expectancy by 5.6 years in men and 4.7 years in women.
  2. Though North Korea shares a similar issue with South Korea regarding mortality rates among small children and adults older than 55, the famine-affected North Korea more heavily, leading to a gap between the two countries of 11.14 years among men and 9.90 years among women by the year 2008.
  3. Currently, North Korean men are expected to live to 68.2 years and female life expectancy is 75.5 years. This places the country as 103 on the ranking of life expectancy rates. Unlike several countries in the top 10, North Korea’s national leading cause of death is not suicide, but rather stroke. This is also different from its leading cause for the life expectancy gap between North and South Korea, which is infant mortality.
  4. South Koreans may live longer, but North Koreans have more babies. For the past decade, South Korea has struggled to boost its birth rate, hitting an all-time low in 2017 with only 1.05 births per woman. In comparison, North Korea had a birth rate of 1.91.
  5. Food shortages were thought to be the primary reason why North Koreans also fell behind South Koreans in terms of height, with an average difference of 3-8 cm. Some originally thought that this difference was the result of genetics, but Professor Daniel Schwekendiek from Sungkyunkwan University in Seoul rejected this claim. Additionally, Schewekendiek disproved the theory that North Korean refugees are shorter as a result of poverty. The height difference can provide some insight into the correlation between a person’s height and their life expectancy.
  6. North Korea has directed the majority of its funds to its military. An estimated 25 percent of the nation’s GFP is going into these programs. A major cause of young men leaving the workplace is that most take part in some form of military training. As a result, although 40 percent of its population currently lives below the poverty line, North Korea has the world’s fourth-largest army.
  7. North Korea ranks pretty low among countries in terms of carbon emissions. In 2013, North Koreans kept their emissions to 63.8 metric tons while South Koreans put out more than 10 times as much with 673.5 metric tons. This gap has been one of the most significant factors of North Korea’s recent rise in life expectancy. While there are still debates about a nation’s level of carbon emissions and its overall effect on the world, a lot of studies have proven that there is a relationship between carbon emissions, life expectancy and income.
  8. North Koreans struggle with poverty. Citizens of nations with low carbon emissions are predicted to be unable to achieve higher levels of income. This is because these low-emission nations tend to have a stronger focus on exporting goods in order to keep its economy afloat. While these low carbon emissions provide a healthier territorial range for its citizens, without a moderately sufficient and independent economy, the majority of North Koreans still remain in lower-income levels of poverty.
  9. North Koreans have attempted to redirect their focus to their country’s nutrition and health problems. The government has taken steps to increase the number of young children receiving Vitamin A supplements in order to combat the effects of North Korea’s many food shortages. The World Health Organization encouraged the consumption of Vitamin A in 2000. Additionally, North Korea has mandated that nutrition be a part of medical curricula.
  10. In the past, North Korea has prided itself on being a self-reliant country. However, this attitude has been theorized to be the primary cause of the nation’s chronic food shortages since the nation was reluctant to request international food aid. However, after the North Korea’s 2008 population census revealed its significantly poor health conditions, North Korea began a collaboration with the World Health Organization Centre for Primary Health Care Development to improve the nation’s poor health situation.

North Korea’s reclusive and secretive nature means that there is still a lot that remains unknown. However, these 10 facts about life expectancy in North Korea provide some insight into what areas may need more attention from the country’s government and international human rights organizations.

Jordan Melinda Washington
Photo: Unsplash

Life Expectancy in North Korea

North Korea formed in 1948. With Japan’s surrender in World War II in 1945, the nation divided in two, with the Soviet Union occupying the north and the United States occupying the south. Efforts at reuniting the nation in 1948 failed, resulting in the formation of two distinct governments: the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the north and the Republic of Korea in the south. Soon after the advent of the nation, Kim Il-sung seized control of the northern government and his family has remained in control for three generations. This rule has had a significant impact on life expectancy in North Korea.

The nations have since grown farther apart, culturally and politically. Though South Korea has improved vastly, North Korea remains elusive with minimal information publicized by an oppressive government. As international policy with North Korea enters a new era, the country comes further and further into the light. Even knowing 10 facts of life expectancy in North Korea may provide insight into the quality and direction of life in the nation.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Korea

  1. The life expectancy of North Koreans is 71 years. As a result, North Korea has the 157th longest life expectancy of the 224 nations in the CIA Factbook. The average for men is 67.2 years and 75 years for women. Life expectancy had been gradually rising since the country’s formation until the 1990s when it faced a sharp downturn due to a severe famine. The country’s life expectancy began to improve later in the decade and has since slowly continued to rise.
  2. North Koreans live shorter lives than South Koreans. South Korea has a life expectancy of 82.5 years, standing at 11th longest in the world. Both countries’ expectancies grew at similar rates in the late 1970s to early 80s with the North Korean growth rate slowing before and after due to food shortages. Food shortages continue to be a bane on North Korean health. High infant death rates in North Korea further causes the gap between South and North Korean life expectancy. North Korea suffers an infant mortality rate of 21.4 deaths per thousand births. South Korea’s birth rate averages three deaths per thousand. The South Korean National Statistical Office predicts that North Korea’s infant mortality rate will drop to 7.1 in 40 years.
  3. Forty percent of the 24 million in Korea live in poverty. The average GDP per capita is $1,700, leaving North Korean citizens standing at 214th wealthiest in the world. These civilians have severely restricted access to food and heating, leaving their health at risk. Many use wood fire to heat their homes or live without flushing toilets.
  4. North Korea does not guarantee health. Though North Korea claims to offer free health care, many die due to an inability to pay medical expenses, as patients must pay for their own heating, food and medicine. Though there are a greater number of doctors in North Korea than South Korea, they do not receive payment. Due to food insecurity, digestive issues and anemia are rampant across the country. Additionally, sufferers often cannot obtain the necessary treatment since underfunded hospitals have to ration or reuse medicine.
  5. North Korea suffers regular blackouts. Though coal experts largely support the country’s economy, North Korean power is far from reliable. Hospitals suffer from regular blackouts and loss of heat, limiting working hours to daylight and making for poor recovery conditions.
  6. North Korea has been fighting a tuberculosis epidemic for decades. Medical professionals diagnose 82,000 new tuberculosis cases per year and 15,000 people die from it. While the country had an anti-TB campaign launched in the 1970s, it lost traction with the 1990s famine. The Eugene Bell Foundation has been providing large-scale multi-drug resistant TB treatment throughout North Korea, curing over 70 percent of those it offers treatment to, compared to the world treatment success rate of 50 percent.
  7. North Korea suffers from severe food shortages. This fact about life expectancy in North Korea may be the most defining. On average, North Koreans consume only 2,094 kilocalories per day, well below the Food and Agriculture Organization’s recommended 2,500 kilocalories and the world’s average of 2,870 kilocalories. Meat is a luxury for most of the population, who subsist on kimchi—a fermented lettuce dish—corn, rice and porridge. In 2015, Ghulam Isaczai, the U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for North Korea, said that two million children, pregnant women and elderly North Koreans suffered from malnourishment.
  8. The North Korean government maintains one of the largest militaries in the world. North Korea has the 52nd largest population and fourth-largest national military in the world. The country spends one-fourth of its $40 billion GDP on its military. Men and women must serve in the military after turning seventeen, with a 10-year minimum for men. During this service, soldiers maintain exhaustive conditions, serving 15-hour days with only 750-800 grams of food.
  9. The North Korean government expresses a desire to improve its quality of life. In 2016, the nation launched a five-year plan to promote growth across all sectors of the nation. North Korea has passed several pieces of human rights legislation, such as the Convention on the Rights of a Child—which eliminates the worst of child labor, among other protections—and has permitted for U.N. supervisors to enter the country. However, the government does not fully oblige to promises made in these treaties.
  10. North Korea continues to be a focus of international rights policy. The Human Rights Council has been in unanimous agreement that North Korea must cease its human rights offenses. In addition to the Convention on the Rights of a Child, North Korea recently passed four other human rights bills to protect women and the disabled, two groups especially affected by North Korean living conditions. These bills will also focus on protecting general citizen rights. While no one can make a clear quantification of progress, as North Korea has not released a state report, Yoon Yoo-sang of South Korea’s Database Centre for North Korean Human Rights says that they have seen improvements in health care and food supply in the last two decades.

The 10 facts about life expectancy in North Korea are distressing, but not hopeless. North Korean life expectancy falls short for a vast array of causes such as natural causes, famine and insufficient medical program funding. Still, life expectancy rises. People should not ignore the gains by the populace—instead, these accomplishments may provide a glimmer of insight to the people behind the heavy veil of government.

– Katie Hwang
Photo: Flickr

Food Shortages in North Korea

Currently, food shortages in North Korea are severe. Over the last year, serious droughts, low crop yield and economic sanctions have pushed hunger levels in North Korea to crisis levels. The UN recently estimated that approximately 10 million North Koreans are in urgent need of food aid.

Last month, South Korea pledged to aid in reducing these food shortages, through a donation of 50,000 tons of rice and 4.5 million dollars to the World Food Programme. Once the World Food Programme can guarantee high standards of access and monitoring for this donation, they will oversee its delivery and distribution in North Korea.

Food Shortages in North Korea

Several factors have contributed to the severe food scarcity in North Korea, according to a UN report from May 2019. Conditions over the past year have been terrible for crop production. Prolonged dry spells, serious droughts, flooding and high temperatures prevented crops from growing normally. On top of this, UN experts expect post-harvest losses to be high as well. This is due to shortages of fuel and electricity. This will complicate the transport and storage of crops.

At the beginning of this year, food rations in North Korea fell to a mere 300 grams per person per day. The UN predicts these rations may fall even further in the coming months. The decreasing size of rations is important since the majority of North Koreans require these rations. The UN report estimates that 40 percent of North Koreans are in urgent need of food, while 70 percent of North Koreans depend on rations.

North Korea hasn’t experienced food scarcity of this magnitude, since a nationwide famine in the 1990s. While there is no definitive data for the 1990s famine, experts believe it caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of North Koreans. These food shortages could cause similar fatalities if food aid isn’t provided quickly.

South Korea’s Food Donation

On June 19, the World Food Programme officially accepted the donation from the Republic of Korea. South Korea has pledged 4.5 million dollars, as well as a direct donation of 50,000 tons of rice. These donations will help approximately 1.5 to 2 million children, pregnant women and nursing mothers.

This donation represents South Korea’s largest donation to food aid in North Korea since 2008. That donation was when South Korea contributed 5,000 tons of rice to relieve food scarcities in North Korea. South Korea’s unification minister, Kim Yeon-Chul, stressed that the South Korean government couldn’t ignore the struggles of its northern neighbor. For South Korea, this donation represents a step forward in the relationship between the two countries.

Looking Forward

Despite the monumental donation from South Korea, the World Food Programme estimates food shortages in North Korea will require more aid. It estimates a need of approximately 300,000 metric tons of food and the equivalent of 275 million dollars of supplies. Though UN sanctions do not limit humanitarian aid to North Korea, the international political situation has made it difficult to reliably distribute aid in the area. However, South Korea’s government believes its donation will cross the border. Overall, the country hopes it will bolster efforts towards reconciliation on the Korean peninsula.

– Morgan Harden
Photo: Flickr

5 Organizations Helping to Resettle North Koreans

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has committed numerous human rights violations throughout modern history. Many North Koreans who have managed to escape the country reveal the horrific conditions in which they lived. These conditions include generational incarceration in concentration camps, the public execution of dissidents and mass famine.

As such, many North Koreans have attempted the escape their country through secret escape routes and brokers. To escape, North Koreans must traverse forests, cross the Yalu River and navigate heavily patrolled areas. Unfortunately, many don’t make it. Those who survive must then adapt to and resettle in modern society, a complicated and tedious process.

Resettlement is difficult because North Korea lacks technological, social and economic progress. Additionally, many North Korean refugees face discrimination due to stigma. North Korea is so technologically behind, many North Koreans have never touched a computer. This makes it near impossible to find a job or receive an education when they resettle in new countries, like South Korea.

Luckily, many institutions help North Korean refugees resettle in these new cultures and societies. To do so, they provide North Korean refugees with essential skills to find a job, proper housing, education and more. Here are five organizations helping to resettle North Koreans.

5 Organizations Helping to Resettle North Koreans

  1. Teach North Korean Refugees is a nonprofit organization focused on changing the lives of North Koreans through English education. Learning fluent English can open doors to many job opportunities, especially for this globalized world. In 2013, Casie Lartigue Jr. and Eunkoo Lee founded the organization after they witnessed the obstacles North Korean refugees face. The organization began as a small assembly and before growing into a larger nonprofit. Currently, Teach North Korean Refugees has helped 411 North Korean refugees learn English. The organization boasts 914 tutors. Of these, North Korean refugees may a tutor according to their teaching style. They may then choose one of two courses: “Finding My Way,” which covers English basics, and “Telling My Own Story,” which focuses on writing and public speaking. Volunteers can donate and even apply to tutor on their site.
  2. Crossing Borders is a Christian-based organization that primarily focuses on assisting North Koreans refugees trapped in China. The Chinese government considers North Korean refugees to be unlawful economic migrants and returns them to North Korea upon capture. As a result, many North Korean refugees face persecution and exploitation. Accordingly, Crossing Borders provides counseling, medical assistance, safety, and job training to North Korean refugees. It also offers community building and Christian counseling. While the organization does not require North Korean refugees to be Christian, they provide optional mass services. The organization also takes care of underage North Korean refugees who are without parents. It provides safe housing and education for children until they are either adopted or reunited with family members.
  3. The Mulmangcho Foundation is probably one of the most essential resettlement organizations in South Korea. It offers direct training to North Korean refugees, enabling a smoother resettlement process. The organization has several programs for different needs. For instance, Open School helps North Korean refugees with everyday tasks, such as opening a bank account. The publishing programs provide North Korean refugees with a variety of writing tools. These tools are designed to enable North Korean refugees to publish their own stories and learn public speaking. Currently, six children’s books, based on actual experiences, and two nonfiction books have been published through The Mulmangcho Foundation. Furthermore, the organization helps South Korean prisoners-of-war escape North Korean camps.
  4. The North Korea Refugee Aid is the American-based organization of the aforementioned Mulmangcho Foundation. It provides North Korean refugees with the necessary tools for everyday life, as well as physiological treatment and job training. The programs give North Koreans refugees the chance to study in the United States through scholarships, academic tutors and host families.
  5. HanVoice is a Canadian resettlement organization with seven chapters spread throughout universities. The organization helps resettle refugees, as well as advocates against North Korea and their human rights violations. HanVoice seeks to engage Canadians in speaking against these violations and supporting North Korean refugees. The organization’s program, HanVoice Pioneers Program, offers a six-month training course to North Korean refugees. This program provides public speaking and leadership courses, along with an internship for the Canadian Parliament.

Overall, it is essential to remember that the fight for human rights is not only dependent on politics. The conflict surrounding North Korea is complicated and cannot be solved in one summit. However, ordinary people can help North Koreans by supporting these organizations and raising awareness of the human rights violations happening in North Korea. These 5 organizations helping to resettle North Koreans provide hope and assistance that make it possible for North Koreans to achieve real freedom.

Adriana Ruiz
Photo: Flickr

North KoreansThe West is never lacking digital information about world news. E-books, the radio and news media keep people informed about current world events. However, the people of North Korea do not have access to such resources. In North Korea, information regarding the outside world is limited or, in some cases, non-existent. Although the citizens of North Korea are largely unaware of global current events, people around the world are working together to provide them with digital information.

Providing Digital Information to North Koreans

The state of North Korea regulates almost all content that its citizens can view, denying nearly 25 million residents access to information about the rest of the world. While millions of people worldwide can search current news via the internet, North Koreans cannot. Most of their internet content is restricted to information related to the government and their leader, Kim Jong-Un. Luckily, many organizations are uniting to provide information to those in North Korea.

Flash Drives for Freedom is an organization dedicated to uniting North Koreans and multiple organizations to grant access to digital information. The Human Rights Foundation, Forum 280 and USB Memory Direct have worked diligently to provide flash drives to those in North Korea. These devices contain media content such as Hollywood movies, books and other information denied to North Koreans. The organizations load the drives with information and smuggle them into the country. In 2018, more than 125,000 flash drives were donated and distributed.

Activists in South Korea have also taken action to help. The small group of activists has been informally smuggling food and information in bottles to people in North Korea. These bottles often contain rice, worm medication, U.S. currency and USB drives. Twice a month, with conducive tides, activists toss these bottles into the Han River, and the groups gather together in prayer. This method is a safe and ingenious way of providing digital information to North Koreans.

Hope for North Korea

Activist groups and non-profit organizations are coming together for the overall benefit of North Koreans. Their creative methods have provided key information about the outside world to civilians who have been denied internet access and important news. Techniques as simple as flash drives and plastic water bottles can mean all the difference to someone living in North Korea. By providing digital information to North Koreans, they can gain not just information but hope for a better future.

Emme Chadwick
Photo: Pixabay

Girls' Education in North Korea

Article 43 of the constitution accentuates the importance of socialist pedagogy as a means of raising younger generations. These are generations who will contribute to society in the future. Conversely, the attitude towards girls’ education in North Korea is rather different from the perceived authoritarian nature of the regime.

The state of girls’ education in North Korea is a great insight into the country’s public education system. It also unveils North Korean society as a whole. Additionally, it sheds light on its government policies. Like any another child, all young girls in North Korean children have personal goals and ambitions.

10 Facts About Girls’ Education in North Korea

  1. North Korea also has one of the highest literacy rates in the world at 99 percent. This is particularly due to the fact that girls’ education in North Korea is mandatory as the state stresses the compulsory secondary education for both genders.
  2. The official North Korean newspaper, Pyongyang Times, encourages the participation of women and encourages education opportunities. A 1991 article showcased Kim Hwa Suk, a woman who completed compulsory education and worked as a farmer. Soon after, she attended university and chaired her cooperative’s management board. She eventually attained a position as a deputy to the Supreme People’s assembly.
  3. Apart from a core curriculum, most children receive their education from the Kim Il, Sung Socialist Alliance. Idolization education begins from the early stages of education for both boys and girls.
  4. The high school curriculum includes classes like “Kim Jong Un’s Revolutionary History”. The middle school curriculum teaches subjects such as “Kim Jung Un’s Revolutionary Acts.”
  5. The government has established over 11 schools for disabled children in the country for both girls and boys. This provides access to equal opportunities in life by providing a strong educational foundation.
  6. There seems to be a certain parity in girls’ education in North Korea. Both genders are to take ideology classes at the university level like “Juche Political Economy”, “History of the Revolution” and the “Philosophy of the Juche Ideology,” along with their declared majors.
  7. Girls’ education in North Korea has helped change gender roles over the years. Many women are now getting opportunities to major in fields like medicine, biology, literature and foreign languages
  8. However, ‘Confucian Patriarchy’, is unfortunately a part of society and is an impediment to girls’ education in North Korea. These tend to adversely impact women particularly during admissions into higher education institutions.
  9. Even though women are allowed to train for military service, sexual violence remains rampant among women who join the army. Furthermore, many women continue to be denied access to education according to Human Rights Watch and don’t receive the social credit or papers for household registration.
  10. Moreover, most women are expected to actively take part in the labor force and the government endorses this commitment equally between both men and women which is also attributed, in part, to the country’s dire labour shortages.

To conclude, contrary to popular opinion, societal attitudes toward women and girls continue to advance. Further progress for girls’ education in North Korea is of great historical and social significance. This is especially significant given the repressive nature of the government. It will remain an important foundation toward making further strides in the realm of gender equality and tackling other related issues.

-Shivani Ekkanath
Photo: Flickr

Top Five Facts About Girls Education in North Korea

North Korea is known for limiting its citizens’ access to government information and news around the globe. One topic in North Korea that may not be as well known is their education system, more specifically, girls’ access to education. These five facts on girls’ education in North Korea highlight both the positives as well as what needs to be improved.

Top Five Facts About Girls’ Education in North Korea

  1. Primary education in North Korea is free and mandatory. This is especially great for families who are suffering in poverty and cannot afford an education for their children. Young girls around the world are more likely to be denied access to an education due to monetary restrictions, so this is a great achievement for the country of North Korea.

  1. Gender discrimination makes it difficult for women in North Korea to attend universities. In 2017, 26 North Koreans spoke with Human Rights Watch and explained how life in their country is challenging, especially for young girls and women. Due to their patriarchal culture, young girls and women are excluded from opportunities ranging from improving their education, joining the military and being involved in politics. They are instead encouraged to stay at home and take care of children and household chores.

  2. In North Korea, social status affects where children go to school. Based on the father’s wealth, education and social status, this determines where the child can go to university, where they can live and where they can work. The five social statuses of these children include the special, nucleus, basic, complex and hostile. If a young girl has a father with poor social status, this not only limits their educational opportunities but virtually every other major decision in their lifetime.

  3. North Korea’s only private university, Pyongyang University for Science and Technology, previously only allowed men to attend. However, it has been reported in recent years that women are now allowed to attend. This is a great victory for young women in North Korea. Careers in science and technology are notoriously lacking women. Women taking these courses and potentially working in a science or technological field would be quite progressive for this country.

  4. Education in North Korea focuses on nationalist propaganda. Information that includes propaganda for the country starts in nursery school, children are exposed to current and previous political leaders in North Korea who are only shown in a positive light, even if it’s false information. Many children’s first words are political leaders names. Several political courses about the Kim dynasty are required, and if students do not perform well in their courses, physical punishment is sometimes enforced. When young girls are not receiving a well-rounded education, especially when it starts at such a young age, it prevents them from being aware of what’s actually occurring in their own country and around the world.

It is very difficult to know exactly what conditions are like for young girls getting an education in North Korea. There is limited information on most topics concerning North Korea and their human rights violations. What is known to the general public is that the country needs to improve its patriarchy culture that affects women and their general education standards.

Although young girls in North Korea have access to basic and free education, many other factors that they cannot control affect what kind of education they receive. The education that young girls do receive is not always historically accurate and aims to influence students in the country to approve of their political leaders. These five facts about girls’ education in North Korea proves that the country’s education system is far from perfect.

Maddison Hines

Photo: Unsplash