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Country analysis

DPRK


Political and economic factors, as well as climate hazards, drive the humanitarian situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Movement restrictions, chronic food insecurity, and limited access to goods and basic services, such as healthcare and clean water, have left more than ten million people in need of humanitarian assistance. The country is likely facing a food crisis since at least 2021, with 10.7 million people undernourished. The DPRK reopened its borders in August 2023, but strict restrictions remain, including orders for border guards to use lethal force against any unauthorised crossings. These restrictive measures are severely affecting people’s access to food, livelihoods, medicine, and other essentials.

Information gaps on the general situation within the country and limited humanitarian access make it difficult to carry out regular assessments of humanitarian needs and key priorities, particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite humanitarian aid exemptions, international sanctions have resulted in shortages of humanitarian funding, supplies, and personnel, delaying project implementation.

The country often faces climate hazards, including severe droughts, prolonged rainy seasons, and typhoon-induced flooding, leading to significant agricultural disruptions and heightened food insecurity. In August 2023, heavy rainfall from Tropical Storm Khanun resulted in flooding, leading to localised crop damage in central parts of the country.

(HRW 11/01/2024, WFP accessed 01/02/2024, FSIN/GNAFC 02/05/2023, ECHO 03/03/2023, HRW accessed 01/02/2024)

Political and economic factors, as well as climate hazards, drive the humanitarian situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Movement restrictions, chronic food insecurity, and limited access to goods and basic services, such as healthcare and clean water, have left more than ten million people in need of humanitarian assistance. The country is likely facing a food crisis since at least 2021, with 10.7 million people undernourished. The DPRK reopened its borders in August 2023, but strict restrictions remain, including orders for border guards to use lethal force against any unauthorised crossings. These restrictive measures are severely affecting people’s access to food, livelihoods, medicine, and other essentials.

Information gaps on the general situation within the country and limited humanitarian access make it difficult to carry out regular assessments of humanitarian needs and key priorities, particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite humanitarian aid exemptions, international sanctions have resulted in shortages of humanitarian funding, supplies, and personnel, delaying project implementation.

The country often faces climate hazards, including severe droughts, prolonged rainy seasons, and typhoon-induced flooding, leading to significant agricultural disruptions and heightened food insecurity. In August 2023, heavy rainfall from Tropical Storm Khanun resulted in flooding, leading to localised crop damage in central parts of the country.

(HRW 11/01/2024, WFP accessed 01/02/2024, FSIN/GNAFC 02/05/2023, ECHO 03/03/2023, HRW accessed 01/02/2024)

Latest updates on country situation

23 May 2023

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is likely facing a food crisis caused by worsening shortages resulting from long-term border closures, adverse weather, and economic sanctions. In March 2023, the country requested assistance from WFP, which could not be provided given disagreements around access. Before the COVID-19 border closures (2019–2021), approximately 42% of the population were malnourished, and an estimated 11–16 million people (40–60% of the population) were food-insecure. In 2022, the number of food-insecure people was estimated to increase to 60% of the population. In the same year, agricultural output declined by 3.8%, with adverse weather significantly affecting crops, especially rice production (which declined by 4.2%). Trade with China decreased by up to 90% in 2021 compared to 2019. The current situation is likely dire, as the lack of imports, including agricultural inputs, and the decline in food production have created significant price increases and food scarcity. Continued access restrictions make assessment data difficult to obtain.
(RFA 23/05/2023,
RDA South Korea 15/12/2022,
GRFC 2023)

current crises
in DPRK


These crises have been identified through the INFORM Severity Index, a tool for measuring and comparing the severity of humanitarian crises globally.

Read more about the Index

PRK001 - Complex crisis

Last updated 23/06/2024


Drivers

Socio-political
Floods
Other seasonal event
Food Security

Crisis level

Country

Severity level

3.7 High

Access constraints

3.0

Analysis products
on DPRK

DPRK: Humanitarian needs in the context of COVID-19

15 June 2022

DPRK: Humanitarian needs in the context of COVID-19

DOCUMENT / PDF / 714 KB

This report aims to provide an overview of the complex humanitarian crisis in the DPRK. It also reports on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the population, the humanitarian response in the country, and ensuing needs.

COVID-19
DPRK: floods

13 September 2016

DPRK: floods

DOCUMENT / PDF / 336 KB

Major flooding in northeastern DPRK, primarily in North Hamgyong province, has affected 600,000 people, left 140,000 in urgent need of assistance, and displaced 107,000. 395 people are missing, and 133 have died. Considerable damage to vital health, water, and transport infrastructure leaves much of the affected population without shelter and vulnerable to waterborne diseases and food insecurity.

Natural hazards
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