North Korea

North Korea

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CRS in North Korea

Residents of North Korea (also known as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea) have been struggling to survive since the end of the Cold War. The loss of trading partners and stalled economic growth has resulted in numerous problems, the most well-known being the famine that attracted worldwide attention in the mid-1990s.

Although international humanitarian aid has helped address the food crisis, North Korea is not out of danger yet. Food supplies and hunger continue to be problems, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases are a major health concern, and poverty continues to grip the population. North Korea has taken modest steps toward economic reforms through more market-oriented price adjustments and some corresponding wage increases, yet there needs to be greater focus on local small business to gain greater momentum.  

CRS has been supporting North Korea with food aid, as well as health and agriculture programming since 1995.


People Served: 70,000

Population: 24,983,205 (July 2015 est.)

Size: 120,538 sq km ; slightly larger than Virginia

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CRS' History in North Korea

CRS worked in Korea from 1945-1975. Activities in North Korea began in 1995 after the North Korean Government appealed to the international community for humanitarian assistance following a series of major natural disasters. The devastation caused by the floods and droughts that struck North Korea in the mid-1990s, coupled with the environmental degradation and economic problems caused by the end of the Cold War, touched off a famine in the country.

In response, CRS helped the Caritas Network provide food and other humanitarian aid to North Korea. By 2000, CRS had turned its attention to supporting health programming with the understanding that the key challenges facing North Korea would be rehabilitation and long-term development assistance, in addition to emergency relief.  In 2015, as part of the CRS network, CRS provided 258 tons of direct food aid (wheat flour) to nurseries and kindergartens and raw material to produce nutritionally fortified food powder distributed to nurseries in Whang-ju. 

CRS does not currently have an office in North Korea but supports Caritas Korea International to implement activities in the country.