In a presentation hosted by the Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (REITI) in Tokyo, Marcus Noland, executive vice president and director of studies at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, argued that at its core, North Korea is a complex humanitarian emergency struggling with food insecurity.
North Korea was already struggling with food insecurity when it was hit with broad sanctions in 2017, but the country’s pandemic measures further exacerbated the problem. As of July 2023, according to data on grain quantities and prices, food availability is at its worst since North Korea’s famine in the 1990s. Yet, despite this situation, North Korea continues to invest in its military, financed in significant part by illegal activities. Moving forward to address this humanitarian emergency, Noland says the country is likely to muddle through but at a major cost to the population.