What North Korea's 1990s famine reveals about its likely COVID-19 response

Marcus Noland (PIIE)

North Korea’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic is reminiscent of its response to the famine of the 1990s, according to PIIE executive vice president Marcus Noland. The North Korean government initially underreported the scale of the famine, then exaggerated it to maximize aid. Noland argues that the government could respond similarly to the COVID-19 pandemic. Once it decides to seek aid, the North Korean government will prioritize material assistance and play donors against each other. Noland predicts it will also likely benefit from weakened diplomatic support for sanctions.

Video excerpt from the Korea Press Foundation and the East-West Center’s event, “One Pandemic, Two Koreas: Coronavirus and the Korean Peninsula Standoff.” Watch the full virtual event here.