On July 21 in Aspen, Colorado, Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA, told a press conference audience that the United States will be blocking all American travel to North Korea to prevent Americans from supporting the North Korean economy or being detained.
Over the past two decades, North Korean relations with western and other Asian nations have progressively worsened and have produced negative effects on the North Korean people. Already known as a nation ravaged by food shortages, where children and other vulnerable groups of people have been malnourished for many years, increased North Korean aggression has begun to produce worsening effects on the quality of life available to North Korean citizens.
This comes in the form of economic and trade sanctions preventing the North Koreans from receiving foreign aid and furthering the economic development needed to sustain the country’s 25 million citizens.
North Korea has long been known to have serious issues providing nutrition for all its citizens. The condition of North Korean farming in 2017, however, hit a particularly difficult point with severe droughts and record-low crop production.
According to The New York Times, North Korea’s stable crop production, which includes crops such as rice, corn, soybeans and potatoes, has been drastically damaged as the country is going through the worst drought it has seen in the past sixteen years. This is making it significantly more difficult for the country to feed its population and “threaten[s] food security for a large [portion of the] population,” according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
Under these dire circumstances, increased trade and foreign aid are critical to remedy the problems with producing crops. North Korea, however, is unable to receive foreign aid or increase trade with the U.S. or its allies due to numerous sanctions in place to dissuade nuclear threats and military aggression.
In part because of economic sanctions, North Korea holds one of the highest poverty rates in the world. Going hand-in-hand with the high poverty rate is the level of undernourishment seen among the population.
Since 1990, the rate of malnutrition in North Korea has risen from 21 percent to a staggering 32 percent. From a humanitarian perspective, this rate is astronomically high and must be reduced.
This places the U.S. in an uncomfortable position from a poverty-reduction standpoint. If the U.S. provides aid to North Korea, all funds will likely be diverted from reaching the people. However, if inaction is chosen, millions of people will lack the resources necessary to survive. While it may be a long and difficult process, the first step in solving North Korea’s issues with poverty may be in reopening negotiations.
In exchange for lessened hostility and improved North Korean relations with the west, the United States and its allies could agree to help provide foreign aid to a country in desperate need of it.
Poverty reduction in North Korea is tremendously difficult to gauge due to the government’s desire for secrecy. If a distinct effort is made to try and coordinate with the North Korean government to decrease hostility and improve North Korean relations with the west, poverty reduction measures can certainly be implemented for a country whose people desperately need help.
– Garrett Keyes