First Comprehensive Assessment of the Impact of Sanctions Against North Korea Shows Adverse Consequences for Civilians, Especially Women

NEW YORK—As talks between the United States and North Korea remain at an impasse, a new report shows that sanctions imposed on North Korea are having adverse consequences on humanitarian aid and economic development in the country, with a disproportionate impact on women.

The Human Costs and Gendered Impact of Sanctions on North Korea (PDF), which was produced by an international and multidisciplinary panel of independent experts, is the first comprehensive assessment of the human impact of sanctions against North Korea. Drawing on often neglected information from UN agencies on the ground as well as the authors’ combined expertise in public health, law, economics, history, and gender studies, the report also shows that existing UN mechanisms to exempt humanitarian-related items are insufficient to prevent these negative impacts, and, in fact, delays and funding shortfalls may have resulted in the deaths of thousands of people.

“As one of the few American physicians who has worked to deliver humanitarian aid and improve health care in North Korea, I have seen how sanctions have restricted the access to the most basic medicines and medical equipment in the isolated country,” said Kee Park, a lecturer at Harvard Medical School, the director of the DPRK Program at the Korean American Medical Association, and one of seven authors of the report. “This has made treating infectious diseases, chronic diseases, and injuries much more difficult.”

“Sanctions delayed the delivery of life-saving treatment for children with disabilities due to the ban on importing metal in medical and rehabilitation equipment,” added Joy Yoon, a co-author of the report and co-founder of the nonprofit organization Ignis Community, which treats children with developmental disabilities such as cerebral palsy and autism at its Pyongyang Spine Rehabilitation Center. “Without immediate and timely medical intervention, many North Korean children with cerebral palsy and other developmental disabilities do not survive.”

Henri Feron, a co-author of the report and a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy, said, “The findings in this report raise concerns that sanctions in their current form may be contrary to international law, in particular humanitarian and human rights norms. Sanctions also raise moral questions, as they effectively take the entire country’s population hostage.”

The Human Costs and Gendered Impact of Sanctions on North Korea was commissioned by Korea Peace Now! Women Mobilizing to End the War, a global campaign to educate, organize, and advocate for a Korea peace agreement, led by Women Cross DMZ, Nobel Women’s Initiative, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), and Korean Women’s Movement for Peace.

To schedule an in-person interview with report authors, or to get more information, contact Kathleen Richards.

WHAT: Press conference featuring several authors of The Human Costs and Gendered Impact of Sanctions on North Korea

WHEN: Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2019, 10:30 a.m.-noon

WHERE: UN Church Center, 2nd Floor, 777 United Nations Plaza, New York