Publication Date

2000

Abstract

Most people got their first glimpse of North Korea in 1995, when photographs of starving children began appearing in the media, following the North Korean Government's appeal to the international community for emergency assistance-the country was suffering from widespread famine. Humanitarian agencies mobilized quickly and shipped in food, medicines and clothing. When it became clear that the famine was deeply entrenched and that long-term interventions would be needed, United Nations (UN) agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) positioned themselves to open offices in the country, to facilitate the delivery of aid. Several UN agencies and a small number of European NGOs are resident. However, many others failed to get offices in-country or, of those that did, a number left after a few years. The main reasons for leaving were frustration due to the North Korean Government not honoring its agreements, and hindering NGOs from carrying out their work. This paper provides an overview of Korea since the Korean War (1950-53)-the period which has most shaped North Korea's relationships to foreigners and, thus, to NGOs. It examines issues and expectations of NGOs which have created problems and led to frustration on both sides. Contrasting case studies of two NGOs working in North Korea, World Vision International and Christian Friends of Korea, illustrate different experiences. World Vision closed its program in mid-2000, while Christian Friends of Korea continues to successfully carry out projects there.

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