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tuberculosis in North KoreaTuberculosis (TB) is a bacterial infection that mainly attacks the lungs, and can prove fatal without treatment. Tuberculosis spreads through the air via coughing or talking. It causes people to become sick because the immune system cannot prevent the bacteria from growing. The lengthy and specific nature of the treatment for TB means developing nations can struggle with treating tuberculosis epidemics. One of these nations is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), which labels TB as one of its most serious health problems. Here are eight facts about tuberculosis in North Korea.

8 Facts About Tuberculosis in North Korea

  1. Though the data on tuberculosis in North Korea is sparse, the rate of instances is estimated to be 442 out of 100,000 people. Furthermore, the WHO estimates that in 2017, the estimated mortality of TB per 100,000 people was 63%. While it had been slowly decreasing since the year 2000 (161%), estimated mortality has risen since 2015 (42%).
  2. North Korea is a poor country, which limits access to healthcare. According to a report by Amnesty International, the healthcare system has been collapsing, with barely-functioning hospitals devoid of medicine. Though the country claims to provide healthcare for all, estimates indicate it is spending under $1 per capita, less than any other nation in the world. Because it is unlikely that the regime will increase healthcare funding, TB patients often do not receive appropriate care.
  3. The inadequately funded healthcare system also means doctors are improperly trained. This results in maladaptive treatment strategies which are expensive and are prone to hijacking by the black market. Hence, many people turn to self-medicating and are unable to access crucial TB drugs. There have been efforts to train doctors through a program in the late 1990s. However, there have not been any in recent years, either from the government or from NGOs.
  4. The lack of documentation and data on tuberculosis in North Korea also causes more serious strains of TB such as multidrug-resistant (MDR)-TB to spread unchecked. Experts estimate that MDR-TB is an already growing problem. Disinformation surrounding TB in North Korea is so widespread. Many people regard TB as so common as to not require a trip to the doctors. Hence, education about the disease is critical. While there have been efforts to educate people about TB, only NGOs (rather than government-sponsored programs), like the Eugene Bell Foundation, have started initiatives to educate patients, though not the general public.
  5. North Korea’s poor track record on human rights also exacerbates its TB and MDR-TB crisis. According to the Health and Human Rights Journal, North Korea’s prison camps and migration across the China-Korea border heighten the risk of citizens contracting TB. Additionally, those migrating or detained are more likely than the average North Korean to receive little or no treatment.
  6. North Korea’s standing as an international pariah aggravates its struggle with tuberculosis. The regime’s totalitarian nature, cold war-era cult of personality, nuclear ambitions and disregard for human rights causes it to face sanctions, political antagonisms and limited medical exchange. International sanctions ban the export of minerals, agricultural products, technology, aviation fuel, metals and more. This results in limited resources, making testing and treatment nearly impossible.
  7. In 1998, the North Korean government began implementing a TB treatment system. Despite North Korea’s reluctance to accept international aid, the government did begin a TB treatment system in cooperation with the WHO. The TB treatment was named DOTS (Directly Observed Treatment, Short-Course). Though it reached the entire country in 2003, DOTS had problems. For example, hospitals turned patients away due to insufficient medicine. Additionally, some medication ended up on the black market.
  8. The only NGO to earn the trust of the North Korean government has been the Eugene Bell Foundation. The Eugene Bell Foundation has been offering support to treat cases of TB since 1996. Focusing on MDR-TB in particular, EBF is the only large scale provider of treatment in the country. Additionally, it has a unique 20-year relationship with the North Korean Ministry of Public Health. The foundation’s program cures an estimated 70% of patients in North Korea. However, despite EBF’s successes in opening clinics, bringing in medication and medical equipment and training doctors, a recent uptick in estimated mortality suggests that North Korea is still a long way away from effectively treating its tuberculosis epidemic.

In conclusion, North Korea faces structural and international challenges that prevent it from being able to treat its tuberculosis and multidrug-resistant tuberculosis epidemic. The regime’s neglect of the healthcare system and disregard for human rights has led to numerous international sanctions, causing it to rely on NGOs and the WHO to treat TB patients. For the situation to improve, wholesale reform of the country’s institutions is likely necessary, though international preventative measures could also help improve the situation.

– Mathilde Venet 
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in North Korea

North Korea, one of the most secretive and repressive countries in the world, has faced chronic food shortages since the mid-1990s when hundreds of thousands of people died due to severe famine. The international community responded by providing food assistance until 2009 when aid began to decrease significantly due to North Korea’s policy of “self-reliance.” These 10 facts about hunger in North Korea will reveal how dire the situation is and what government initiatives and NGOs are doing to help.

10 Facts About Hunger in North Korea

  1. North Korea’s climate ranges from temperate, with rainfall during the summer, to long, bitter winters. During the short growing season, drought, heatwaves and flooding have caused crop failure, creating widespread food shortages. North Korea’s total food crop production for 2018-2019 is estimated at 4.9 million metric tons, the lowest since the 2008-2009 season, according to a U.N. food security assessment.
  2. In addition to climate conditions unfavorable for agriculture, North Korea faces a shortage of farming products such as fuel, fertilizer and equipment. This has resulted in low food supply and limited dietary diversity, forcing families to eat less or cut meals.
  3. These unfavorable climatic conditions and the worst harvest in 10 years have resulted in a hunger crisis. More than 10 million North Koreans are suffering from severe food shortages and malnutrition, according to the U.N. This equates to about 40 percent of the total population.
  4. Young children are among the most vulnerable to malnutrition. One in five North Korean children are malnourished and about 20 percent experience stunted growth. Malnutrition, contaminated water and a shortage of drugs and medical supplies are the main causes behind stunting, or a failure to develop physically and cognitively, in North Korean children.
  5. According to Kee Park of the New York Times, sanctions on the capital city Pyongyang contribute to the hunger crisis. Under U.N. resolutions, North Korea is heavily sanctioned because of its nuclear weapons program. Park writes that these sanctions are “punishing the most vulnerable citizens and shackling the ability of humanitarian agencies to deliver aid to them.” Due to sanctions on iron, textiles, seafood, oil and coal, lost income and rising food prices will result in more North Koreans facing hunger.
  6. Despite U.N. sanctions, the U.N. is attempting to raise $111 million for health, water, sanitation and food security needs for 6 million North Koreans. Through donations from Sweden, Switzerland and Canada, about 10 percent has been raised thus far.
  7. The World Food Programme (WFP) has been providing food assistance to North Korea since 1995. Every month, the WFP provides foods fortified with protein, vitamins and minerals, such as cereals and biscuits, to around one million children, pregnant women and nursing mothers, all of whom are the most vulnerable to malnutrition.
  8. In 2018, UNICEF screened 90 percent of North Korean children for malnutrition and identified cases were later treated. Vitamin A supplements were provided to more than 1.5 million children and micronutrient tablets were distributed to more than 28,000 pregnant women.
  9. First Steps is a Vancouver-based nonprofit organization that is implementing innovative solutions for fighting hunger in North Korea, such as its Sprinkles program. The program’s aim is to prevent child malnutrition by delivering micronutrient powder to children, pregnant women and nursing mothers. The powder is packaged in sachets and then added to food. According to First Steps, Sprinkles is a proven and cost-efficient method of preventing and fighting vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
  10. These various forms of assistance have made significant progress in reducing levels of child malnutrition. The percent of children suffering from stunted growth has dropped notably from 28 percent in 2012 to 19 percent in 2017.

Although there has been recent progress, immense humanitarian challenges remain. Despite the fact that vast amounts of North Korean citizens are without basic necessities, the government has declined offers to renounce their nuclear weapons program in exchange for assistance. These 10 facts about hunger in North Korea reveal why a strengthened approach to solving food insecurity is required.

Adam Bentz
Photo: Flickr

 

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

korea sharing food
The end of World War II brought the division of North and South Korea. The fragmented region became occupied by the United States in the south and by the Soviet Union in the north. While both nations now hold sovereign status, they are still not on good terms. An area that spans the width of both countries and is roughly two and a half miles long separates the north from the south today. This zone, called the demilitarized zone (DMZ), is rarely crossed to travel from one country to another. That has changed recently, though.

Potential for Change

On Wednesday, the South Korean government announced that they will give North Korea 50,000 tons of rice to offset rising malnutrition rates in the region. South Korea sharing food with its neighbor marks the first humanitarian venture across the DMZ to provide food aid in North Korea.

Historically, North Korea has faced numerous issues providing the proper nourishment to their population. Here are a few quick facts on North Korean malnourishment:

The Bleak Facts

  1. Roughly half of North Korea’s population of 24 million live in extreme poverty. North Korea holds the lowest spot on world personal freedom rankings. Poverty, coupled with a lack of freedom, has led to very poor living conditions for its citizens.
  2. One-third of children in North Korea have stunted growth because of malnourishment.
  3. The Global Hunger Index ranked North Korea tenth from last, stating the hunger levels seen in this country are a serious health threat. One-third of children are thought to have their growth permanently stunted due to malnourishment. The lack of food not only affects children, it has also dropped life expectancies by five years.
  4. North Korea has lost hundreds of thousands of people to malnourishment due to historical famines. The largest, which occurred in the 1990s, had a disputed death toll that varied widely from 800,000 people to 3.5 million. This famine, although it killed several hundred thousand, if not millions, has never been acknowledged by the North Korean government.
  5. Currently, the country is facing the worst drought in a decade, which led to a 1.36 million ton shortage of grain. This shortage forced the North Korean government to reduce rations to only 11 ounces per person daily. If nothing is done to counterbalance the food shortage caused by this drought, up to 40 percent of the population is at risk of needing food aid in the next few months.

A New Precedent

These facts paint a bleak picture of life in North Korea, yet South Korea is trying to offset this growing problem by offering food aid. South Korea sharing food is an act of good faith aimed at improving relations between the two countries. The possibility of South Korea sharing food in the future with its estranged neighbor depends on North Korea ending its nuclear weapons program and improving ties between the two countries.

An act of humanitarian aid between two divided countries gives hope that someday food, not fences, will be shared between the two countries and that the world will see a unified Korea sharing food.

-Kathryn Moffet
Photo: Flickr

Education in North Korea

Formal education in Korea began during the Three Kingdoms period, influenced by the Chinese educational system. In 1882, King Kojong issued an edict upholding education as a “pillar” of Korea. Thus formal education in Korea opened its doors to both men and women of all classes.

In the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, commonly referred to as North Korea, education is entirely government-controlled. Education is required of all citizens for 11 years until the secondary level. Moreover, the education system in North Korea is based around socialistic ideals. Classes focus on the Korean language, mathematics, literature and government. These are the top 10 facts about education in North Korea.

Top 10 Facts About Education in North Korea

  1. Both primary and secondary schooling are required and free in North Korea. First, children go through one year of kindergarten. Then, they attend primary school, known as the “People’s Schools,” from the ages of six to nine. Afterward, they attend a secondary school which depends on their specialties. Secondary schooling continues from the ages of 10 to 16.
  2. North Korea is one of the most literate countries in the world. According to UNESCO, North Korea’s literacy rate is 98-100 percent. However, a self-reported number like this is questionable, considering the amped statistics coming out of North Korea.
  3. The literature read by North Korean students is carefully censored. Most writers remain obscure and their biographical details are concealed. Stories usually revolve around upholding socialism and the care the Kims have given the literary world. For example, “The Fifth Photograph,” by Lim Hwa-won, is told from the perspective of a woman who visits post-Soviet Russia in the early 1990s, only to witness a country failed by western influence.
  4. Women’s education is one of the more progressive aspects of North Korean schools. Secondary education and beyond is equally accessible to both men and women. In the late 1950s, the government initiated the “Chollima” campaign, which worked to more efficiently mobilize the population. As such, women were taught that emancipation came through labor, socialized childrearing and helping to build a socialist North Korea through productive work. Women make up over 80 percent of elementary teachers and 15 percent of college professors. There is no available information regarding the wage scale between men and women. However, one source from a Michigan State study states the wage is usually fixed making men earn more. Women also tend to quit their jobs after marriage.
  5. The curriculum in North Korean schools focuses on the Kims. A study by the Korea Institute for Curriculum Evaluation finds students spend 684 hours learning about the current leader Kim Jong-Un, his father Kim Jong-il, his grandfather Kim Il-sung and his grandmother Kim Jong-suk. North Korea states its education system is for “students to acquire the concept of revolution and endless loyalty toward the party and the supreme leader.”
  6. Many students who go into higher education come from royal family backgrounds. Higher education in North Korea is divided into colleges, universities and vocational schools. One of the most prestigious schools in North Korea, Kim Il-Sung University, is extremely hard to get into. Only students who are related to higher government officials and have good grades can sit for entrance exams. If a student is gifted in science or mathematics, they often go to the University of National Defense.
  7. Military service is required for both North Korean men and women at the age of 17. Before 2017, military service was optional for women. Now they must serve until age 23, and men must serve 10 years. However, exceptionally gifted students from special schools may be exempt from service altogether.
  8. A lot of the education in North Korea is propaganda meant to indoctrinate students into the system as early as kindergarten. For example, when children learn about time, they learn it is based on Kim Il-sung’s birth year, 1912, also known as Year 1 in North Korea. Every classroom in North Korea must have a picture of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-Il. Children learn about “revolutionary history,” involving music, storybooks, novels and artwork related to the Kims. A report published by the United Nations’ Commission of Inquiry states North Korea’s education program has two goals: to instill the utmost loyalty and commitment toward the supreme leader and to instill hostility and deep hatred toward the United States, Japan and South Korea.
  9. The education system violates international law by restricting freedom of thought and expression in its people. The December 2018 U.N. report concludes North Korea is committing “systematic, widespread and gross violations of human rights.” Their findings cite torture, “inhuman conditions of detention,” rape, public executions, the death penalty for political and religious reasons, and political prison camps. In addition, it cites pervasive restrictions on freedom of thought, religion, expression, assembly and movement. Consequently, North Korea “totally rejects” the U.N. resolution.
  10. North Korean “reeducation camps” are where prisoners go to perform hard labor. The Ministry of People’s Security runs the reeducation camps. Most of these crimes are political, from border-crossings to slight disturbances in order. Prisoners are often forced into hunger and severe circumstances. Most prisoners do not make it out of their sentence alive. Recently, in January 2019, a North Korean denuclearization diplomat was sent to a reeducation camp. This was likely due to being labeled a spy due to his job, serving as the United States’ contact point with North Korea.

These top 10 facts about education in North Korea show the most important role of education is upholding socialistic conformity. Overall, the country doesn’t seem to be raising unique individuals who are given true freedom of expression. Instead, education, like many other aspects of life in North Korea, is political.

Isadora Savage
Photo: Pixabay

memoirs
The problems in developing countries are often viewed as too big to find solutions. Because of this, many people are deterred from putting in seemingly futile efforts to alleviate a problem. But, they are more likely to join the fight when they learn the individual names and faces of those living under such conditions. These five memoirs about overcoming poverty highlight success stories and seek to mobilize people with a renewed sense of hope.

5 Memoirs About Overcoming Poverty

  1. Masaji Ishikawa recalls escaping from North Korea in “A River in Darkness.” With Japanese heritage from his mother and Korean from his father, he found himself caught between two worlds. When his father realized he could no longer tolerate the discrimination he faced in Japan, the family moved to North Korea. They arrived with the promise of paradise and found, simply put, quite the opposite. Ishikawa was only thirteen years old.In this memoir, he describes atrocious living conditions with graphic detail, unparalleled by any other nation in the world. The regime controls every aspect of its citizens’ lives, and Ishikawa tells readers that “the penalty for thinking was death.” More than any of the five memoirs about overcoming poverty, “A River in Darkness” highlights an ongoing crisis.Since North Korea remains untouched by the rest of the world, it’s difficult to extend support to those still living under the dictatorship. But Ishikawa’s story is one of many that prove North Koreans are waking up to the reality of their oppression. Gradually, more people are choosing to gain control over their destinies.
  2. When Jacqueline Novogratz donated a sweater to Goodwill, she never expected to encounter a young boy wearing it on the streets of Rwanda. It ended up being the namesake for her book entitled “The Blue Sweater.” She holds onto this memory as an important message of interconnectivity and the responsibility to help people in need.Her travels to various countries revealed economic injustice along with a lack of credit access for those with low incomes. This led her to help open the first bank in Rwanda available to women. Along with numerous other initiatives through The Acumen Fund, Novogratz learned that charity is fleeting compared to the sustainability of helping innovators launch businesses to benefit millions of people.
  3. Several reporters sought to overcome poverty by being a voice for untold stories in developing countries. Maya Ajmera, joined by co-authors Sarah Strunk and Olateju Omolodun, wrote “Extraordinary Girls” about what girlhood looks like across the world. Despite cultural differences, the authors work to prove that all girls can find common ground in the desire to make their dreams come true.Their book showcases girls such as Alexandra Nechita from Romania, an exceptional painter whose work was published in a collection by the age of eleven. Through this and many other success stories, the book’s purpose is to encourage girls to be active in their communities rather than feel as if their only option is to fulfill traditional gender roles.
  4. Katherine Boo sheds light on the ramshackle town of Annawadi in “Behind the Beautiful Forevers.”. This book illustrates how members of this community responded to India’s promise for renewed economic prosperity amid a global recession. A young man named Abdul discovered the value of reselling possessions thrown out by the wealthy. Others sought to change the course of politics by climbing the social ranks, like the Annawadi community member who became the first woman in that settlement to be a college graduate. These stories are about relying on pure grit to succeed in life when the economic system favors only the rich.
  5. The last of these five memoirs about overcoming poverty is “Teach a Woman to Fish” by Ritu Sharma. It’s a reinterpretation of the gendered language in this saying: “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.” She argues that if women are taught the same thing, everyone will be fed too.Sharma helped found a business run by women in Honduras, giving them a chance to break free from the household sphere and gain financial independence. Other countries she visited include Sri Lanka, Nicaragua and Burkina Faso. In the book, readers can also find tips for shopping in ways that support female entrepreneurs and email templates if they feel inspired to speak with their members of Congress about this important cause.

All the authors in these five memoirs about overcoming poverty have discovered important lessons about global issues through real-life experiences. They write about them in the hopes that people will no longer be complacent in the face of a problem that, contrary to what some might believe, can be solved.

Sabrina Dubbert
Photo: Flickr

In August of 2016, Typhoon Lionrock struck the northeast region of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea). The massive flooding washed away over 30,000 homes, took the lives of hundreds of people and destroyed thousands more lives. The aftermath of the typhoon also left food sources more depleted than they already were. Humanitarian aid to North Korea came in truck-loads, providing shelter relief, food, non-food items and health care supplies to residents.

According to the 2016 Global Hunger Index, 41 percent of North Korea’s residents are undernourished. Along with that, 70 percent of the population relies on food aid. The communist country, unfortunately, has a recurring issue with hunger. In the 1990s, North Korea faced its most deadly famine that resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths.

Since the decade-long famine, the United Nations has reported that humanitarian aid to North Korea has been able to relieve some of the hunger problems, yet natural disasters continue to jeopardize the progress. The flooding North Korea faced from Typhoon Lionrock was declared “the worst disaster” the country had seen since World War II. Without humanitarian aid, the affected parts of the country would be left in ruins.

The United Nations World Food Program was one of the first organizations to enter the country on an emergency food assistance operation. They delivered food to more than 140,000 survivors. The Red Cross also joined in the efforts by providing water purification supplies along with tools and tents to build shelters.

Altogether, the U.N. and NGOs contributed $43.78 million in funding in 2016. Almost $35 million was spent on nutrition and food while the remainder was spent on sanitation services and various other aid-functions.

In September of 2016, as a response to the recent catastrophe, the U.N. and the North Korean government came to an agreement called the United Nations Strategic Framework (UNSF). This framework’s strategy, which was officially put into place in January 2017, is to reduce the need for humanitarian aid by solidifying investments into communities to better prepare them in responding to disasters such as Typhoon Lionrock. This is a five-year plan prioritizing food and nutrition security, social development services, resilience and sustainability and data and development management.

The framework’s overall strategy theme is “sustainable and resilient human development.” It will develop a new kind of approach to recovery and rehabilitation of North Korea. Within the four priorities, UNSF seeks to pursue environmental sustainability, increase the resilience of North Korean people and localize new Sustainable Development Goals in accordance with what is currently happening in North Korea.

For example, there will be plans put in place to know how to respond if another typhoon strikes. As North Korean residents will be more prepared for future disasters, they will rely less on humanitarian aid.

According to the framework, humanitarian aid to North Korea will reduce by 2021. In the meantime, as the country now faces a serious drought jeopardizing its renewing crops, humanitarian aid to North Korea will continually be a hopeful source.

– Brianna Summ

Photo: Flickr

Causes of Poverty in North KoreaNorth Korea, the only country in the world which still adopts Stalinist principles, has long been one of the most impoverished countries in the world. Recently, it scored 28.6 in the 2016 Global Hunger Index, a level which the International Food Policy Research Institute classified as “serious.” A report published by the Korea Institute for National Unification (KINU) in 2013 estimated that about half of North Korea’s 24 million lives in “extreme poverty,” who are “severely restricted in access to fuel for cooking and heating.”

The two primary causes of poverty in North Korea are as follows:

Climate and geography
North Korea’s climate is less suitable for agricultural production than that of South Korea. Northern and northwestern winds that blow from Siberia cause the winters in North Korea to be bitterly cold, often involving heavy snow storms. This type of weather is particularly harsh in the mountainous regions in the north, contributing to the relative lack of arable land in North Korea. Due to the cold temperatures, single cropping is usually practiced in the north, while double cropping is possible in the south where winters are less severe.

Because of the country’s mountainous terrain, the regime has sought to increase agricultural production mainly through double cropping, rather than through expanding the cultivable area. However, due to factors such as short cropping season, prolonged and harsh winter, and uncertainty of the spring weather, the results have often been disappointing.

Despotic regime
Another one of the causes of poverty in North Korea is the despotic regime succeeded by the Kim family. During the 1980s, the North Korean regime embarked on a radical economic policy of self-sufficiency known as “juche.” This policy wreaked havoc on the country’s economy, especially after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, after which the country could not import cheap fuel, its industrial base was fractured and its production of fertilizer decreased.

North Korea’s provocations on the international stage, such as the shelling of the South Korean island in 2010 and repeated nuclear tests, also resulted in numerous sanctions by the U.N., which restricted the amount of humanitarian aid going into North Korea.

These are the main causes of poverty in North Korea. Whether North Korea will be able to escape from poverty will heavily depend on the international community’s efforts, as well as the regime’s willingness to adopt open-market reforms, just as China did in the late 1970s.

Minh Joo Yi

Photo: Flickr

Help People in North KoreaNorth Korea is in the news often lately—from the comatose American student Otto Warmbier dying after his release from the country, to dictator Kim Jong Un testing missiles capable of reaching the United States. What is less mainstream knowledge, however, is the plight of 25 million North Koreans who face chronic food shortages, poverty and a repressive regime. Focus is not often on how to help people in North Korea.

North Korea’s government spends more than 20 percent of its GDP on defense while more than half of its population lives in extreme poverty. As a result, one-third of children have stunted growth and thousands, if not millions, die of preventable starvation.

North Korea represses its citizens by censoring and restricting any information from outside the closed-off country. State propaganda leads North Koreans to believe the rest of the world is threatening and inferior. For crimes against the regime — real or perceived — an estimated 200,000 people work in abusive prison camps where torture and rape abound.

The vast amount of suffering in North Korea seems daunting, but there is hope. Here is how to help people in North Korea:

  1. Mail in old flash drives
    The North Korean government brainwashes residents to think it is doing a wonderful job protecting it from the outside world, despite struggling to feed, house and employ its people. It is possible to help free North Koreans from this manipulation by sending old flash drives to Flash Drives for Freedom. The nonprofit will erase what is on them and fill them with films, internet content and books. It works with South Korean partners to smuggle the drives into North Korea.According to Wired, these glimpses of outside information have the power to change North Koreans’ view of the U.S. and other nations the dictatorship has labeled as evil. Recognizing the regime’s lies can empower citizens to question the legitimacy of the regime and encourage others to do the same.
  2. Support organizations
    Multiple agencies worked for years to relieve suffering in North Korea. One of them, the Defense Forum Foundation, began working for human rights in the country in 1996. The Defense Forum Foundation helped establish Free North Korea Radio, a radio program broadcast into North Korea with messages from defectors. The organization also rescued hundreds of North Korean refugees and created annual events to spread awareness and encourage people to act.Another organization, Liberty in North Korea, rescued more than 600 refugees by providing safe passage over thousands of miles of China and Southeast Asia. According to its website, $3,000 is all it takes to rescue and resettle one refugee.The North Korea Freedom Coalition could also use donor support. It coordinates with its many partners to get food aid to North Koreans, pressure the government to release abductees and more. It helped establish North Korea Freedom Day in 2004, which garnered public and political support for the North Korea Human Rights Act, signed into law that year.
  3. Contact representatives
    The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives each has a bill reauthorizing and strengthening the North Korean Human Rights Act. Passage of these bills would ensure the U.S. continues working to help people in North Korea — both those who stay and those who flee the country.The Senate bill, for example, wants the U.S. government to expand private broadcasting inside North Korea to disseminate news and information contradictory to what citizens hear from propagandizing, state-controlled broadcasts.Another facet of both bills calls for the United States to urge China to stop returning North Korean defectors where they and their families face several forms of persecution, like sexual abuse and forced labor. They also mention that the United States should cooperate with countries that border North Korea to develop long-term plans of “humanitarian assistance and human rights promotion and to effectively assimilate North Korean defectors.”Also included in the bills is a section for the continuation of supporting North Korean refugees with resettlement in the United States, if that is their choice. Only around 200 North Koreans resettled in the United States. An estimated 100,000 to 300,000 North Koreans have defected since 1953. Several thousand live in China in fear of deportation.

Many people call North Korea the most miserable and repressed society in the world. But there are ways to help people in North Korea.

Kristen Reesor

Photo: Flickr

Facts and Figures of North Korea

Hidden behind the tensions of military bluster between the U.S. and North Korea lies a sad and often overlooked reality: North Korea is an incredibly impoverished country.

The conflict on the Korean peninsula can be traced back to when Japan controlled Korea till 1910. After the Japanese lost in World War II, the peninsula was divided between a communist northern half and a democratic southern half.

Tensions between the north and south erupted into war in 1950. The U.S. led a United Nations coalition to support the south; China was the principal ally of the north. The war ended in a stalemate with the current division becoming a demilitarized zone. North Korea has languished since, relying heavily on outside aid.

Most of the developed world stopped sending monetary aid to North Korea in 2009. South Korea ended aid in 2010 due to conflicts with the incoming government of Kim Jong Un.

Much of North Korea’s poverty problem stems from government spending, or the lack thereof. Most of the country’s budget is allocated to military and defense spending. This means that most of North Korea’s budget is not invested in its people.

This lack of aid has impacted North Korea’s investment in education, health services and infrastructure.

The average education level for a North Korean is only 11 years. The average annual income is only $1300. These disparities stem from the government’s sole interest in military spending, and its lack of interest in its people. These facts and figures of North Korea illustrate that the impoverished Asian nations strongly needs foreign aid, as well as restructuring its own budget, to combat its extreme poverty.

In the interest of its citizens, North Korea could decrease spending on its military and defense program. This could increase international confidence in the country’s financial and political system, therefore increasing foreign aid that could be used for basic services for its populace.

Until the North Korean government focuses on its people instead of its military, and makes serious efforts to combat these disastrous poverty-related facts and figures of North Korea, it will continue to be an impoverished nation.

Raymond Terry

Photo: Google