The Challenges of Humanitarian Aid in Times of Crises: the Case Study of North Korean Famine : 위급시 인도주의적 지원 도전:북한 기근 사례를 중심으로

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국제대학원 국제학과
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서울대학교 대학원
famineNorth Koreahumanitarian aidpublic distribution systementitlements
학위논문 (석사)-- 서울대학교 대학원 : 국제대학원 국제학과, 2018. 2. 김태균.
From the early 1990s till 1998 the famine-plagued North Korea lost the lives of hundreds of thousands of its citizens. The regime blamed the natural calamities – floods and droughts – that hit the country in 1995 and left the agriculture that had been experiencing problems before in ruin. The humanitarian operations that followed saw little success as the most vulnerable categories of the population continued to die. In this paper we use Amartya Sens entitlement approach to analyze the reasons of the failure from both within and without the Democratic Peoples Republic of North Korea.

The socialist nature of the DPRK explains the existence of the Public Distribution System, which is the main source of food for many groups of the North Korean population. It served as a powerful tool of control over the country, and, as we argue, its collapse became one of the main reasons for wide-spread starvation as many had no other channels to get food. The failure of the government consisted in its inability to respond timely and adequately to the approaching crisis by producing enough grain domestically as well as purchasing and importing food from abroad by using its foreign reserves.

The system of social entitlement predetermined who had access to food in those dire times and who did not, which put some in direct risk of starvation and death. One of the groups that was hit hardest was the urban working class, who did not have any personal household plots of land and were unable to buy or get food out of the PDS. The geographic factor was also important, with the provinces in the northeast being cut off of humanitarian aid and experiencing acute shortages of food.

The humanitarian assistance to North Korea began in 1995 with the World Food Programme, NGOs and bilateral sector actively participating in relief efforts. However, humanitarians faced constant problems with targeting, monitoring and assessing the effectiveness of operations due to the lack of cooperation on the North Korean side. The monitoring was restricted to certain areas at first, and only gradually did the government allow foreigners to visit far-away provinces. Inspections of institutions for the malnourished were often staged and could not provide precise information on the progress in the country. Besides, there is evidence that massive amounts of food aid were diverted by the military, party cadres and the undeserving for the purposes of self-enrichment or trade in the market.
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Graduate School of International Studies (국제대학원)Dept. of International Studies (국제학과)Theses (Master's Degree_국제학과)
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