Since the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) closed its borders in January 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been limited international and inter-Korean engagement. Valuable people-focused work inside the country, including in the realms of agriculture, health, environmental cooperation, and peace dialogue, has since ground to a near standstill.
At the same time, reports of ongoing food insecurity, health concerns, outbreaks of COVID-19, and other threats to the wellbeing of people in North Korea suggest that such engagement could continue to have a positive impact on their lives.
Now, as the borders slowly begin reopening, the time has come for a reevaluation and a (re)engagement that centres North Korean people's wellbeing.
This paper draws on the experiences of a group of individuals who have significant experience working as foreigners in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in varied people-focused fields.
The brief presents nine principles for engagement – not aimed at prescribing what to do or how exactly to act, but instead providing frames for approaching problem-solving and building relationships in the country. It also presents a set of ‘micro-scenarios’, which practitioners and policy makers can use in exercises to apply the principles.
The paper is also available in Korean.
The authors hope that this brief and the nine principles it outlines can help further relationship-building that supports North Korean wellbeing, both inside and outside the Korean peninsula.