Assistance to North Korea
Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress
Since 1995, the United States has provided North Korea with over $1.2 billion in assistance,
about 60% of which has paid for food aid and about 40% for energy assistance. U.S. aid fell
significantly in the mid-2000s, bottoming out at zero in 2006.
The Bush Administration resumed energy aid in the fall of 2007, after progress was made in the
Six-Party Talks over North Korea’s nuclear program. The Six-Party Talks involve North Korea,
the United States, China, South Korea, Japan, and Russia. The United States and other countries
began providing heavy fuel oil (HFO) in return for Pyongyang freezing and disabling its
plutonium-based nuclear facilities in Yongbyon. By the second week of December 2008, the
United States had provided all of the 200,000 MT of HFO it had promised under this “Phase
Two” of the Six-Party Talks process. The talks themselves came to a standstill in December over
disagreement on verification procedures. The other countries that agreed to provide HFO are
continuing their shipments, as they appear to be calibrating their assistance to North Korea’s
progress in disabling Yongbyon, which continued to take place as of mid-December 2008.
The United States also provides technical assistance to North Korea to help in the nuclear
disablement process, a role that could be expanded should North Korea move to dismantle its
nuclear facilities. In 2008, Congress took legislative steps to legally enable the President to give
For over a decade, North Korea has suffered from chronic, massive food deficits. Foreign
assistance – largely from China, the United States, and South Korea – has been essential in filling
the gap. Throughout 2008, United Nations officials issued increasingly urgent calls for
international donations of food to avert a “serious tragedy” in North Korea, as hunger has
deepened and expanded. In May 2008, the Bush Administration announced it would resume food
assistance to North Korea by providing 500,000 metric tons (MT) of food, 80% of which is to be
channeled through the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). The rest is to be sent
through a consortium of non-governmental organizations.
Food aid to the DPRK has been scrutinized because since the end of famine conditions of the
mid-1990s, Pyongyang has resisted taking the steps that many experts feel would help the country
distribute food more equitably and pay for food imports to make up for its domestic shortfall.
Additionally, the North Korean government restricts the ability of most donor agencies to operate
in the country, placing some areas off limits and restricting monitoring activities. In the past,
various sources have asserted that some—perhaps substantial amounts—of the food assistance
going to North Korea is routinely diverted for resale in private markets or other uses.
Compounding the problem, China, North Korea’s largest source of food aid, has little to no
monitoring systems in place. The Bush Administration’s latest food aid pledge came after
Pyongyang agreed to loosen its restrictions on access and monitoring. However, as of mid-
December 2008, the WFP portion of the program had been virtually suspended due to differences
between the U.S. and North Korean governments over implementing the agreement.
Finally, in 2008, the Bush Administration began a new, $4 million program to provide assistance
to several rural and provincial hospitals in North Korea.
This report will be updated periodically to track changes in U.S. provision of aid to North Korea.
Introduc tion ..................................................................................................................................... 1
Congress’ Role in U.S. Assistance to North Korea.........................................................................2
Congress and Energy Assistance...............................................................................................2
Congress and Food Assistance..................................................................................................3
Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO)...............................................4
Assistance Related to the Six-Party Talks.................................................................................4
Heavy Fuel Oil Shipments..................................................................................................5
U.S. Food Aid Policy..............................................................................................................10
Diversion, Triage, and North Korea’s “Aid-Seeking” Behavior........................................11
The Easing of Restrictions in 2008...................................................................................12
Developments in Late 2008..............................................................................................14
Chinese and South Korean Bilateral Food Assistance......................................................14
Other Forms of Assistance.............................................................................................................14
Figure 1. Food Aid to North Korea, WFP and Non-WFP..............................................................11
Table 1. U.S. Assistance to North Korea, 1995-2008......................................................................2
Table 2. Delivery of Heavy Fuel Oil to the DPRK, July 2007 – December 2008...........................6
Table 3. Comparing Past and Present WFP Food Aid Agreements with North Korea..................13
Author Contact Information..........................................................................................................15
For four decades after the end of the Korean War in 1953, U.S. strategy toward the Democratic
People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, commonly referred to as North Korea) was relatively simple:
deter an attack on South Korea. This included a freeze on virtually all forms of economic contact
between the United States and North Korea in an attempt to weaken and delegitimize the North
Korean government. In the 1990s, two developments led the United States to rethink its
relationship with the DPRK: North Korea’s progress in its nuclear weapons and missile programs
and massive, chronic food shortages there. In response, the United States in 1995 began providing
the DPRK with foreign assistance, which has totaled over $1.2 billion. This aid has consisted of 1
energy assistance, food aid, and a small amount of medical supplies. (See Table 1.)
U.S. aid fell significantly in the mid-2000s, bottoming out at zero in FY2006. The Bush
Administration halted energy assistance in the fall of 2002, following North Korea’s reported
admission that it had secretly been developing a uranium-based nuclear program. This energy
assistance, which primarily took the form of heavy fuel oil, was channeled through the Korean
Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO). After a decade of being one of the largest
providers of food aid to North Korea, the United States gave no food aid in FY2006 or 2007, in
large part due to new restrictions that the North Korean government imposed upon humanitarian
The Bush Administration resumed assistance to North Korea in 2007. In July of that year, after
initial progress in the Six-Party Talks over North Korea’s nuclear programs, the United States and
other countries began providing heavy fuel oil (HFO) in return for Pyongyang freezing and 2
disabling its plutonium-based nuclear facilities in Yongbyon. Then, in May 2008, the Bush
Administration announced it would resume food assistance to North Korea by providing 500,000
metric tons (MT) of food. The United States also provides technical assistance to North Korea to
help in the nuclear disabling processes, and is expected to continue to provide assistance for
nuclear dismantlement should that be undertaken.
Aid to North Korea has been controversial since its inception, and the controversy is intricately
linked to the overall debate in the United States, South Korea, and other countries over the best
strategy for dealing with the DPRK. North Korea is deemed a threat to U.S. interests because it
possesses advanced nuclear and missile programs, has a history of proliferating missiles, may
have exported its nuclear technology, is suspected of possessing chemical and biological weapons
programs, and has large (albeit deteriorating) conventional forces on the border with South
Korea, a key U.S. ally. Instability inside North Korea could spill over into China, South Korea,
and possibly Japan and/or Russia. Additionally, Pyongyang also is characterized as one of the
world’s worst violators of human rights and religious freedom, a record that some Members of
Congress and interest groups say should assume greater importance in the formation of U.S.
priorities toward North Korea.
From 1995-2002, the energy assistance was provided through the Korean Peninsula Energy Development
Organization (KEDO), the multinational group established to provide energy aid to North Korea in exchange for
Pyongyang’s shutdown of its existing plutonium-based nuclear program.
2 The Six–Party Talks involve North Korea, the United States, China, South Korea, Japan, and Russia.
Table 1. U.S. Assistance to North Korea, 1995-2008
6-Party Talks-Related Assistance Medical
Food Aid (per FY) Assistance (per FY; $ (per
million) Calendar or Fiscal calendar Supplies & Other (per Total
Year (FY) yr; $ million) FY; $ ($ million)
Metric Tons Value Fuel Oil Disablement
1995 0 $0.00 $9.50 — — $0.20 $9.70
1996 19,500 $8.30 $22.00 — — $0.00 $30.30
1997 177,000 $52.40 $25.00 — — $5.00 $82.40
1998 200,000 $72.90 $50.00 — — $0.00 $122.90
1999 695,194 $222.10 $65.10 — — $0.00 $287.20
2000 265,000 $74.30 $64.40 — — $0.00 $138.70
2001 350,000 $58.07 $74.90 — — $0.00 $132.97
2002 207,000 $50.40 $90.50 — — $0.00 $140.90
2003 40,200 $25.48 $2.30 — — $0.00 $27.78
2004 110,000 $36.30 $0.00 — — $0.10 $36.40
2005 25,000 $5.70 — — — — $5.70
2006 0 $0.00 — — — $0.00 $0.00
2007 0 $0.00 — $25.00 $20.00 $0.00 $45.00
2008 158,000 $95.30 — $106.00 — $0.10 $201.30
2009 21,000a n.a.a — $15.00 — $4.00 $19.00
Total 2,267,894 $ 701.25 $ 403.70 $ 146.00 $ 20.00 $ 9.40 $1,280.35
Sources: Compiled by CRS from USAID; US Department of Agriculture; State Department; KEDO (Korean
Peninsula Energy Development Organization).
a. As of December 3, 2008. 342,000MT is expected to be procured and sent to North Korea in FY2009, at an
estimated cost of $185.5 million.
The provision of aid to North Korea has given Congress a vehicle to influence U.S. policy toward
the DPRK. From 1998 until the United States halted funding for KEDO in FY2003, Congress
included in each Foreign Operations Appropriation requirements that the President certify
progress in nuclear and missile negotiations with North Korea before allocating money to KEDO 3
operations. To support the Six-Party Talks, Congress provided funds for energy assistance in the
President Clinton was responding to Section 582(3) of P.L. 105-277, the Omnibus Consolidated and Emergency
Supplemental Appropriations Act, 1999. In response, Section 1211 of the John Warner National Defense Authorization
Act for Fiscal Year 2007 (P.L. 109-364; 120 Stat. 2420) required the Bush Administration to appoint a special envoy
FY2008 Supplemental Appropriations Act (P.L. 110-252). Also in this bill, Congress gave
authority to the executive branch to waive Arms Export Control Act sanctions on Pyongyang.
Congress has also encouraged continued funding for the denuclearization of North Korea, for
example in the FY2008 Defense Authorization Act (see “Denuclearization Assistance” section
below). Although this waiver has not yet been issued by the President, potential inclusion of
budget items for denuclearization in North Korea as part of a future Department of Energy budget
proposal could be an indicator of the incoming Administration’s intent to exercise this authority.
With regard to food aid, some Members have supported continued donations on humanitarian
grounds of helping the North Korean people, regardless of the actions of the North Korean
regime. Other Members have voiced their outright opposition to food aid to the DPRK, or have
called for food assistance to be conditioned upon North Korean cooperation on monitoring and
access. The congressional debate over food assistance to North Korea also has been colored by
the competing demands for other emergency situations that have stretched U.S. food aid funds
and commodities. The North Korean Human Rights Act (P.L. 108-333) included non-binding
language calling for “significant increases” above current levels of U.S. support for humanitarian
assistance to be conditioned upon “substantial improvements” in transparency, monitoring, and
access. The re-authorized act (P.L. 110-346) does not include this language, and drops the
extensive discussion of humanitarian assistance that was included in P.L. 108-333. Both the
original and the re-authorized act require annual reports to Congress on U.S. humanitarian 4
assistance to North Korea.
Congress’ ability to direct the amounts, manner, and recipients of food aid is relatively limited.
The 500,000 MT of food that the U.S. pledged to North Korea in May 2008 is to come from the
Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust, a reserve of commodities and cash that is intended to provide
food aid when other statutory sources of aid are unavailable. The Secretary of Agriculture has
authority to release up to 500,000 metric tons of eligible commodities for urgent humanitarian
relief. Historically, P.L. 480 has been the main vehicle for providing U.S. agricultural
commodities as food aid overseas, and from FY2003-FY2005 was the program that funded nearly
all of the U.S. food commitments to North Korea. When commodities or cash are released from
the Emerson Trust, they are provided under the authority of P.L. 480 Title II. The Emerson Trust
statute essentially authorizes the use of commodities or cash in the Trust to be used as a backup to
Title II when there are unanticipated humanitarian needs. Congress directly appropriates P.L. 480
aid, and therefore could, although it rarely does, direct how the food should or should not be 5
for North Korea. Christopher Hill, the Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, was named to the post.
4 See CRS Report RS22973, Congress and U.S. Policy on North Korean Human Rights and Refugees: Recent
Legislation and Implementation, by Emma Chanlett-Avery.
5 P.L. 480 (originally P.L. 83-480) was reauthorized most recently by the 2008 farm bill (P.L. 110-246, 7 USC 1691).
From 1995 to 2002, the United States provided over $400 million in energy assistance to North
Korea under the terms of the U.S.-North Korean 1994 Agreed Framework, in which the DPRK
agreed to halt its existing plutonium-based nuclear program in exchange for energy aid from the 6
United States and other countries. After Washington and Pyongyang reached their agreement, the
United States, Japan, and the Republic of Korea formed an international consortium, the Korean 7
Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO) to manage the assistance. The planned aid
consisted of the construction of two light-water nuclear reactors (LWRs) and the provision of
key light-water reactors were to replace the DPRK’s graphite-moderated reactors that were shut
down under the agreement. The LWR plants would have had a generating capacity of 8
approximately 1,000 MW(e) each and were to be constructed by 2003. The United States’
contributions covered only heavy fuel oil shipments and KEDO administrative costs.
In October 2002, KEDO board members decided to halt fuel oil shipments following a dispute
over North Korea’s alleged clandestine uranium enrichment program. In December, North Korea
expelled inspectors from its Yongbyon nuclear site, withdrew from the Nuclear Nonproliferation
Treaty (NPT), and resumed operations at Yongbyon. The Bush Administration thereafter sought 9
to permanently end the KEDO program. In 2003 and 2004, KEDO’s Executive Board (the
United States, South Korea, Japan, and the European Union) decided to suspend construction on
the LWRs for one-year periods. In the fall of 2005, the KEDO program was formally terminated.
In January 2006, the last foreign KEDO workers left the LWR construction site at Kumho, North
As with KEDO, the Bush Administration and other members of the Six-Party Talks – South
Korea, Japan, China, and Russia – have promised energy assistance to North Korea as
inducement to end its nuclear program. In January 2003, President Bush said that he would
consider offering the DPRK a “bold initiative” including energy and agricultural development aid
if the country first verifiably dismantled its nuclear program and satisfied other U.S. security 1011
concerns. The Six-Party process began with talks in August 2003. In June 2004, the United
See “Total Financial Support by Country: March 1995 to December 2005,” Table B, Appendix 1, KEDO 2005
Annual Report. http://www.kedo.org/pdfs/KEDO_AR_2005.pdf.
7 Membership in KEDO expanded to include additional states and international organizations that contributed funds,
goods or services: Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, the Czech Republic, the European Union (as an executive board
member), Indonesia, New Zealand, Poland, and Uzbekistan. KEDO also received material and financial support from
nineteen other non-member states. Details at http://www.kedo.org/au_history.asp
8 Full text of the KEDO-DPRK supply agreement at http://www.kedo.org/pdfs/SupplyAgreement.pdf.
9 State Department Daily Press Briefing by Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman, November 5, 2003.
10 The Administration reportedly was preparing to offer this plan in 2002, but pulled it back after acquiring more details
of Pyongyang’s clandestine uranium nuclear weapons program. Testimony of Richard Armitage, State Department
Deputy Secretary, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, February 4, 2003.
States offered a proposal that envisioned a freeze of North Korea’s weapons program, followed
by a series of measures to ensure complete dismantlement and eventually a permanent security
guarantee, negotiations to resolve North Korea’s energy problems, and discussions on
normalizing U.S.-North Korean relations that would include lifting the remaining U.S. sanctions 12
and removing North Korea from the list of terrorist-supporting countries.
In September 2005, the six parties issued a joint statement agreeing to “promote economic
cooperation in the fields of energy, trade and investment, bilaterally and/or multilaterally.” The
United States, China, South Korea, Japan, and Russia also stated their “willingness to provide
energy assistance to the DPRK.” The agreement said that the parties would discuss the provision
of a light water nuclear power reactor to North Korea “at the appropriate time.” This document 13
serves as the foundation for subsequent agreements.
North Korea tested a nuclear device in October 2006, resulting in the swift passage of U.N.
Security Council Resolution 1718, which imposed international sanctions banning trade of 14
military goods, WMD and missile-related goods, and luxury items to North Korea. In the Six-
Party Talks held in December 2006, as well as in meetings held earlier that month with North
Korean negotiators, U.S. officials reportedly spelled out a detailed package of humanitarian,
economic, and energy aid that would be available to Pyongyang if it gave up nuclear weapons 15
The resulting Denuclearization Action Plan of February 2007 called for a first phase to include
the shut-down of key nuclear facilities and initial provision of 50,000 metric tons of heavy fuel
oil to North Korea. In the second-phase, the parties agreed to provide North Korea with
“economic, energy and humanitarian assistance up to the equivalent of 1 million tons of heavy
fuel oil, including the initial shipment of 50,000 tons of heavy oil.” Concurrently, North Korea
promised to provide a declaration of its nuclear programs and to disable its nuclear facilities at
Yongbyon. A future Phase Three envisioned under the agreement would involve assistance for the
permanent dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear facilities, the removal of spent fuel rods from
the country, and eventual dismantlement of its weapons and weapon sites as part of
The shipments of fuel oil or equivalent (i.e., steel products to renovate aging power plants)
assistance were to happen on an “action for action” basis, as North Korea made progress on the
second phase steps (nuclear disablement at Yongbyon and declaration of nuclear facilities and
activities). An October 2007 joint statement on “Second-Phase Actions” confirmed these
11 See CRS Report RL33590, North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons Development and Diplomacy, by Larry A. Niksch, and
CRS Report RL34256, North Korea's Nuclear Weapons: Latest Developments, by Mary Beth Nikitin.
12 See CRS Report RL30613, North Korea: Terrorism List Removal?, by Larry A. Niksch.
13 Joint Statement of the Fourth Round of the Six-Party Talks Beijing, September 19, 2005.
15 Helene Cooper and David Sanger, “U.S. Offers North Korea Aid for Dropping Nuclear Plans,” New York Times,
December 6, 2006.
commitments.16 The shipments of 1 million tons (MT) of heavy fuel oil or equivalent were to be
divided equally by the five parties – i.e., 200,000 MT each. As of December 2008, the DPRK had
received 450,000 MT of heavy fuel oil and equipment and 147,000 MT of fuel equivalent
assistance. Of this, the United States has contributed its promised share of 200,000 MT of heavy
fuel oil. Russia shipped its third shipment in mid-December 2008, and has provided a total of
months,” according to the Russian Six-Party negotiator. China and South Korea have each
contributed 50,000 MT of heavy fuel oil. The remainder of China and South Korea’s contribution
is to be fuel oil equivalent.
South Korea provided the initial shipment of 50,000 metric tons of heavy fuel oil in July 2007
under Phase One of the February 2007 Six-Party agreement. Subsequently, South Korea has 18
delivered assistance worth 124,000 metric tons of HFO according to press reports.
Japan has said it would not provide its share of energy assistance to Pyongyang until North Korea 19
had satisfactorily resolved the issue of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea. However,
press reports have said that the United States was arranging for other countries such as Australia,
New Zealand and European states to provide the HFO aid in its stead. Australia and New Zealand
have each reportedly agreed to donate $10 million, approximately equal to 30,000 metric tons of 20
heavy fuel oil. Japan may instead contribute the equivalent of 200,000 metric tons of HFO
(approximately 16 billion yen or $164 million) as technical assistance related to North Korea’s 21
Table 2. Delivery of Heavy Fuel Oil to the DPRK, July 2007 – December 2008
Shipment Date Donor Country Delivered (MT)
July 2007 ROK 50,000
September 2007 China 50,000
November 2007 USA 46,000
January 2008 Russia 50,000
March 2008 USA 54,000
These commitments were reaffirmed in the October 3, 2007 Agreement on “Second-Phase Actions for the
Implementation of the Joint Statement.” http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2007/oct/93223.htm
17“Russia Vows to Fulfill Pledge to Supply Fuel Oil For N. Korea,” Russia & CIS Diplomatic Panorama, December
12, 2008; “Russia to make N Korea Fuel Shipment,” United Press International, December 14, 2008.
18 “Seoul Delivers Energy Aid Under Six Party Deal,” Asia Pulse, August 11, 2008.
19 See CRS Report RS22845, North Korea's Abduction of Japanese Citizens and the Six-Party Talks, by Emma
20 “Japan mulls funding N. Korea denuclearization, others to give oil aid,” Japan Economic Newswire, October 21,
21 “Japan may pay cash for North Korea’s denuclearization, says report,” BBC Monitoring Asia Pacific, October 22,
Shipment Date Donor Country Delivered (MT)
May 2008 Russia 50,000
July 2008 USA 34,000
August 2008 USA 16,000
November 2008 USA 50,000
December 2008 Russia 50,000
Source: Compiled by the Congressional Research Service.
North Korea has said it would predicate its actions on disablement on the pace of energy
assistance shipments. Pyongyang several times slowed down removal of the spent fuel rods at
Yongbyon, saying, for example, in June 2008 that while 80% of the disablement steps had been 22
completed, only 36% of energy aid had been delivered. Responding to this, the five parties
agreed in July to work out a binding agreement for the provision of their remaining share of non-23
HFO assistance by the end of October 2008, but this has been delayed. North Korea again
delayed disablement work in August, September, and October, although those instances appear to
be linked to disputes over when the U.S. would remove the DPRK from its State Sponsors of
Terrorism List and negotiations over verification measures.
The United States had delayed its fuel shipments while these issues were being negotiated. After
an informal agreement on verification had been reached bilaterally, the United States removed 24
North Korea from the SST List and resumed HFO shipments. However, Pyongyang in
November 2008 denied having agreed to the verification measures the United States sought, and
once again slowed disablement work, saying that energy shipments were not proceeding as 25
planned. The United States announced its fourth shipment of 50,000 metric tons HFO on
The six parties met on December 8 to discuss verification issues, and were also expected to
finalize a schedule for future HFO shipments and disablement steps. Since no agreement was
reached on verification measures at the December meeting, no HFO delivery schedule was set.
However, some announcements followed on provision of energy assistance. China announced it
would deliver 99,000 tons of HFO equivalent by the end of January 2009 to complete its 26
promised share of assistance. As stated above, Russia announced its plans to go forward with
remaining HFO assistance, and the United States had already completed its share in November.
Lee Chi-dong, “N Korea Complains About Slow Provision of Energy Aid,” Yonhap News, June 5, 2008.
23 Press Communique of the Heads of Delegation Meeting of the Sixth Round of the Six-Party Talks, Beijing, July 12,
25 “N. Korea slows nuclear disablement to snail’s pace,” Japan Economic Newswire, November 8, 2008.
26 “SKorea Says Energy Aid to NKorea to Continue,” Agence France Presse, December 15, 2008.
However, State Department spokespersons said that future HFO shipments from other countries 27
would not be sent because North Korea had not agreed to verification measures. This does not
appear to have been coordinated or agreed to by the other parties. Russia and China, for example,
appear to link the provision of energy assistance with progress on Yongbyon disablement, not
with progress on verification. South Korea, on the other hand, is reviewing its next shipment of
of progress on disablement and other matters. The North Korean negotiator responded by saying 29
that disablement would be slowed if fuel shipments were not forthcoming. South Korea, as chair
of the Six-Party Energy and Economy Cooperation Working Group, is charged with coordinating
the provision of energy assistance going forward.
Heavy fuel oil provided by the United States was paid for through the FY2008 Supplemental
Appropriations Act (P.L. 110-252), passed in May 2008. The FY2008 supplemental allocated $53
million for energy assistance to North Korea in support of the Six-Party Talks, “after the
Secretary of State determines and reports to the Committees on Appropriations that North Korea
is continuing to fulfill its commitments under such agreements,” and notwithstanding any other
provision of law. The Supplemental also gives notwithstanding authority for an additional $15
million of energy-related assistance for North Korea, under the State Department’s Economic
As part of Phase Two under the Six-Party agreements, the Departments of State and Energy have 30
been working to disable the nuclear facilities at the Yongbyon complex in North Korea. This
effort is funded through the State Department’s Nonproliferation and Disarmament Fund (NDF).
The State Department is paying the North Korean government for the labor costs of disablement
activities, and also paying for related equipment and fuel. Approximately $20 million has been
approved for this purpose to date. NDF funds may be used “notwithstanding any other provision
of law” and therefore may be used to pay North Korea. DOE’s National Nuclear Security
Administration (NNSA) has been contributing its personnel as technical advisors to the U.S. Six-
Party delegation and as technical teams on the ground at Yongbyon overseeing disablement
measures. NNSA has estimated it has spent approximately $15 million in support of Phase Two 31
(Yongbyon disablement) implementation.
North Korea’s nuclear test triggered sanctions under Section 102 (b) (the “Glenn Amendment” 22
U.S.C. 2799aa-1) of the Arms Export Control Act, which prohibits assistance to a non-nuclear
weapon state under the NPT that has detonated a nuclear explosive device. Due to this restriction,
DOE funds cannot be spent in North Korea without a waiver. Congress passed language in the
FY2008 Supplemental Appropriations Act (P.L. 110-252) that would allow the President to waive
the Glenn Amendment restrictions and that stipulates that funds may only be used for the purpose
December 12 and 15, 2008 State Department Daily Press Briefings.
28 “Six Party Confusion,” The Korea Herald, December 18, 2008.
29 “N. Korea envoy warns halt in aid would slow disablement work,” Japan Economic Newswire, December 13, 2008.
30 Nuclear disablement should be distinguished from nuclear dismantlement, the former referring to a process that
could be reversed.
31 Statement of William H. Tobey, National Nuclear Security Administration, U.S. Department of Energy, to the Senate
Committee on Armed Services, July 31, 2008.
of eliminating North Korea’s WMD and missile-related programs.32 If the President does exercise
the Glenn Amendment waiver authority, then DOE “will be able to procure, ship to North Korea,
and use equipment required to support the full range of disablement, dismantlement, verification, 33
and material packaging and removal activities that Phase Three will likely entail.” NNSA has
estimated that this could cost over $360 million in FY2009 if verification proceeds and North
Korea agrees to the packaging and disposition of separated plutonium and spent fuel at
Yongbyon. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that nuclear dismantlement in North 34
Korea will cost approximately $575 million and take about four years to complete.
Department of Defense funds must be specifically appropriated for use in North Korea. Section
8045 of the FY2008 Defense Appropriations Act (P.L. 110-116) says that “none of the funds
appropriated or otherwise made available in this act may be obligated or expended for assistance
to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea unless specifically appropriated for that purpose.”
Section 8044 of the FY2009 Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance, and Continuing
Appropriations Act, 2009 (P.L. 110-329) also contains this language. However, authorization was
given for Department of Defense’s Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) funds to be used
globally in the FY2008 Defense Authorization Act (P.L. 110-181, see Section 1305) and expressly
encourages “activities relating to the denuclearization of the Democratic People’s Republic of
Korea” as a potential new initiative for CTR work. Senator Richard Lugar has proposed that the 35
CTR program be granted “notwithstanding authority” for this work since the Defense
Department’s experience in the former Soviet Union, expertise and resources could make it well-
positioned to conduct threat reduction work in North Korea and elsewhere.
The United States has provided $1.8 million to the IAEA to support its monitoring activities at 36
Yongbyon. Japan has provided the agency with $500,000 for this purpose. The European Union
contributed approximately $2.2 million (1.78 million euros) to the IAEA for Yongbyon shut-down
Since 1996, the United States has sent over 2.2 million metric tons (MT) of food assistance,
worth nearly $800 million, to help North Korea alleviate chronic, massive food shortages that
began in the early 1990s. A severe famine in the mid-1990s killed an estimated 600,000 to three
Similar language appeared in the Senate version of the FY2009 Duncan Hunter National Defense Authorization Act
(P.L. 110-417), but was not included in the House version. The final act includes it under “legislative provisions not
adopted” under Title XII, since the waiver authority was passed earlier in the FY2008 Supplemental. See joint
33 Tobey testimony, ibid.
34 The CBO’s cost estimate takes into account the dismantling of the reactor and three associated plants at Yongbyon as
well as the transport and reprocessing of the spent fuel outside North Korea. Congressional Budget Office, “Cost
Estimate: S. 3001 National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009,” June 13, 2008.
35 So that funds may be used “nothwithstanding any other provision of law.” Senator Richard Lugar, Remarks to
National Defense University, October 2, 2008. http://lugar.senate.gov/record.cfm?id=304026&&
36 Christopher R. Hill, Assistant Secretary for Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs Testimony before House
Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and the Global Environment and Subcommittee on
Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade Washington, DC October 25, 2007.
million North Koreans.37 Over 90% of U.S. food assistance to Pyongyang has been channeled
through the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP), which has sent over 4.2 million MT of food—
an amount that includes U.S. contributions—to the DPRK since 1996. The United States has been
by far the largest cumulative contributor to the WFP’s North Korea appeals. The second largest
donor of food aid to North Korea through WFP is South Korea. As discussed below, North
Korea’s largest sources of food assistance have come from bilateral donations (i.e., those not
channeled through the WFP) from China and South Korea.
U.S. official policy in recent times has de-linked food and humanitarian aid from strategic
interests, including the Six-Party talks. Since June 2002, the Bush Administration officially linked
the level of U.S. food aid to three factors: the need in North Korea, competing needs on U.S. food
assistance, and “verifiable progress” in North Korea allowing the humanitarian community 38
improved access and monitoring. In practice, some argue that the timing for U.S. pledges
sometimes appears to be motivated also by a desire to influence talks over North Korea’s nuclear
program, and that the linkage between U.S. donations and improvements in North Korea’s 39
cooperation with the WFP occasionally has been tenuous.
There is conflicting evidence on this front. For instance, in February 2003, the Bush
Administration announced it would provide 40,000 MT of food and would make an additional
60,000 MT contingent upon the DPRK allowing greater access and monitoring. In December
2003, the Administration announced that it would donate the additional 60,000 MT because of the
continued poor humanitarian situation in North Korea and improvements in North Korea’s
cooperation with the WFP. Those improvements, however, were widely thought to be marginal.
Administration officials denied the decisions were motivated by a desire to influence the Six-
Party Talks on North Korea’s nuclear programs, which at the time had reached an impasse. On the
other hand, in late 2005, despite another impasse in the Six-Party Talks, the United States halted
its food aid shipments in response to North Korea’s tightening of restrictions on the WFP’s
operations. The cessation included the second half of a 50,000 MT pledge that the United States
had made in June 2005.
For a short review of the estimates of the famine’s death toll, see Stephan Haggard and Marcus Noland, Famine in
North Korea. Markets, Aid, and Reform, (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007), p. 73-76.
38 USAID Press Release, June 7, 2002.
39 Andrew S. Natsios, The Great North Korean Famine, United States Institute of Peace Press, Washington, DC, 2001,
pp. 135, 143-148. Mark Noland, Avoiding the Apocalypse: The Future of the Two Koreas, Peterson Institute of
International Economics, June 2000, pp. 159, 186, 189. Stephen Haggard, Marcus Noland, and Erik Weeks “Markets
and Famine in North Korea,” Global Asia, Vol. 3, No.2, August 2008.
Figure 1. Food Aid to North Korea, WFP and Non-WFP
199 6 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007
Non- W F P WFP
Source: Interfais database.
As shown in Figure 1, after peaking at over 900,000 MT in 2001, assistance provided by the
WFP fell dramatically. There were two primary reasons for the decline in WFP assistance. The
first was “donor fatigue,” as contributing nations objected to the North Korean government’s
continued development of its nuclear and missile programs as well as tightened restrictions on the
ability of donor agencies to monitor food shipments to ensure that food is received by the
neediest. The emergence of other emergency food situations around the globe also has stretched
the food aid resources of the United States and other donors. Whatever the causes, the WFP was
unable to fill its goal of 150,000 MT for the 2006-2008 period. During this time, increased
bilateral assistance—outside the WFP’s program—that China and South Korea shipped directly
to North Korea, as well as improved harvests in North Korea, appear to have made up much of
the gap, which generally is estimated to be in the range of one million MT per year.
Various sources assert that some—perhaps substantial amounts—of the food assistance going to 40
North Korea is routinely diverted for resale in private markets or other uses. Although there has
See, for instance, Stephan Haggard and Marcus Noland, Hunger and Human Rights: The Politics of Famine in North
Korea (Washington, DC: U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, 2005), in which the authors argue that up
to half of the WFP’s aid deliveries did not reach their intended recipients.
been much public concern about diversion to the North Korean military, WFP officials and other
experts have say they have seen little to no evidence that the military is systemically diverting
U.N. food donations, and further, that the North Korean military has no need for WFP food, since
it receives the first cut of North Korea’s national harvest. Even if the military is not directly
siphoning off food aid, however, such assistance is fungible; funds that otherwise would have
been spent on food can be spent on other items, such as the military.
The North Korean government’s desire to maintain control over the country is inextricably linked
to the food crisis and its chronic reliance on food aid. Residency in North Korea is tightly
controlled and highly politicized, with the elite permitted to live in or around Pyongyang, where
food shortages are less acute than in the country’s more remote areas, where politically less
desirable families live. For this reason, the United States generally has shipped its food aid to the
northern provinces. Additionally, North Korea is believed to expend little of its foreign currency
to import food, relying instead upon the international community. Moreover, since 2007, the 41
government has taken many steps to reimpose state controls over farmers and markets.
In 2006 the WFP drastically scaled down its program after the North Korean government imposed
new restrictions on the WFP, constraining the organization’s size and ability to distribute and
monitor its shipments. The WFP and Pyongyang then negotiated a new agreement that would
feed 1.9 million people, less than a third of the 6.4 million people the WFP previously had
targeted. North Korea’s total population is approximately 22 million. In the deal, the WFP
expatriate staff was cut by 75%, to 10 people, all of whom were based in Pyongyang. Before
thousands of monitoring trips every year. The North Korean government did not allow any
Korean speakers to serve on the WFP’s in-country staff.
In 2008, the WFP warned that food shortages and hunger had worsened to levels not seen since
the late 1990s. Not only was the country confronting the results of decades of poor agricultural
planning and large-scale floods in 2007, but also shipments declined significantly from the two
largest bilateral food providers, China and South Korea. According to the WFP, as of the end of
June 2008, bilateral food imports and aid totaled 110,000 MT, compared to 738,000 MT for the 43
same period in 2007. In April 2008, the WFP agency issued a call for more international 44
donations and for the North Korean government to relax its restrictions on donor activities.
The following month, the United States Agency for International Development announced that
the United States would resume food assistance to North Korea by providing 500,000 MT for one
Stephen Haggard, Marcus Noland, and Erik Weeks “Markets and Famine in North Korea,” Global Asia, Vol. 3,
No.2, August 2008.
42 WFP Press Release, “WFP Set to Resume Operations in North Korea,” 11 May 2006; undated WFP document,
Projected 2007 Needs for WFP Projects and Operations, Korea, DPR.
43 World Food Programme, “Emergency Operation Democratic People’s Republic of Korea: 10757.0- Emergency
Assistance to Population Groups Affected by Floods and Rising Food and Fuel Prices,” Undated Document.
44 WFP Press Releases: “WFP Warns of Potential Humanitarian Food Crisis in DPRK Following Critically Low
Harvest, April 16, 2008; “DPRK Survey Confirms Deepening Hunger for Millions, July 30, 2008.
year beginning in June 2008. Of this amount, 400,000 MT is to be channeled through the WFP.
Approximately 100,000 tons would be funneled through non-governmental organizations
(NGOs), including World Vision, Mercy Corps, Samaritan’s Purse, Global Resource Services and
Christian Friends of Korea. The announcement stated that the resumption was made possible by
an agreement reached with Pyongyang that allowed for “substantial improvement in monitoring 45
and access in order to allow for confirmation of receipt by the intended recipients.” The U.S.
move came not long after a breakthrough was reached in the Six-Party Talks. Bush
Administration officials have repeatedly stated their policy that decisions on food assistance are
unrelated to the nuclear negotiations.
On June 27, 2008, an agreement was signed with Pyongyang that stipulated terms for increased
WFP personnel and access for monitoring the delivery of the food aid. It allows WFP to expand 46
its operations into 131 counties, versus an earlier 50, in regions at particular risk of famine.
NGOs have access to an additional 25 counties (see Table 3.) In 2005, the WFP had access to 158 47
of 203 counties and districts, representing approximately 83% of the population. The agreement
allowed the WFP to issue a new emergency appeal for over 600,000 MT for 6.2 million North
Koreans. The agreement also expanded the WFP’s rights and ability to monitor the shipments of
food aid, in order to better ensure that the food was not diverted from its target recipients.
The NGO portion of the distribution is to be done in the two northwestern provinces of Chagang
and North Pyongan. The NGO partnership, which has a staff of 16 people based in North Korea, 48
plans to reach 895,000 people.
Table 3. Comparing Past and Present WFP Food Aid Agreements with North Korea
Number of Accessed (% of Korean
Tons of Food People Total Permanent Speakers
pledged/planned Targeted Population) Staff Allowed
2005 WFP 504,000 MT 6.4 million 158 40 No
2006-08 WFP 150,000 MT 1.9 million 50 10 No
2008 Total 730,000 MT 7.1 million 156 75 Yes
- of which:
- WFP 630,000 MT 6.2 million 131 59 Yes
- U.S. NGOs 100,000 MT 0.9 million 25 16 Yes
Sources: WFP and NGO press releases; CRS interviews with aid officials.
USAID Press Release, “Resumption of U.S. Food Assistance to the North Korean People,” May 16, 2008.
46 WFP, “Operational Priorities, September 2008, D.P.R. Korea,” EMOP 10757.0 – Emergency Assistance to
Population Groups Affected by Floods and Rising Food and Fuel Prices.
47 USAID, Report on U.S. Humanitarian Assistance to North Koreans, April 25, 2005; March and April 2005 e-mail
exchanges and phone conversations with WFP and USAID.
48 “Aid Agencies Send Fourth U.S. Food Shipment to North Korea,” Mercy Corps and World Vision press release,
October 16, 2008.
Since the late summer of 2008, operating conditions for the WFP appear to have worsened. The
North Korean government reportedly has not allowed the U.N. agency to fully implement parts of
its WFP agreement. In particular, the Bush Administration has had disagreements with
Pyongyang over the number of Korean speakers and Americans allowed in the country. Due in
part to these difficulties, the United States has not sent a shipment of food to the WFP’s North
Korea appeal since August. In remarks reported in the Washington Post, WFP Asia director Tony
Banbury said that North Koreans “are fulfilling their obligations,” but that the WFP’s North
Korea program was running short of food. The NGO program reportedly continues to operate 49
Meanwhile, in December 2008, the WFP and U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
issued a report summarizing a food security survey taken in October. The agencies estimated that
the number of “hungry” has jumped from 6.2 million to 8.7 million, more than a third of North 50
China is widely believed to be North Korea’s single-largest cumulative provider of food (and
energy). All Chinese food shipments are given bilaterally, that is, directly to the North Korean
government. It is believed that China does not have any systems for monitoring its food
shipments to North Korea. As mentioned above, Chinese bilateral food shipments reportedly were
down significantly in the first half of 2008.
For much of the past decade, South Korea’s yearly shipments of food made it North Korea’s
largest or second-largest annual provider. Most of this was provided bilaterally, and South Korea
had few monitoring systems in place. Seoul also provided 300,000 MT in fertilizer every year.
However, in 2008, South Korea sent no food or fertilizer to North Korea. Earlier in the year, the
newly inaugurated government of Lee Myung-bak indicated that it would provide humanitarian
aid upon North Korea’s request (the previous government had simply offered the assistance). The
move coincided with the Lee government’s announcement that new forms of North-South
cooperation would be conditioned upon progress in denuclearizing North Korea. In response to
the new policy from Seoul, North Korea has not requested humanitarian assistance from the
In 2008, the Bush Administration allocated $4 million in assistance to U.S. NGOs to help several
North Korean rural and provincial hospitals by improving their electrical supplies and by
providing medical equipment and training. The four recipient NGOs are Mercy Corps, The 51
Eugene Bell Foundation, Global Resource Services, and Samaritan’s Purse.
Blaine Harden and Glenn Kessler, “Dispute Stalls U.S. Food Aid To N. Korea,” Washington Post, December 9,
50 “8.7 Million North Koreans Need Food Assistance,” FAO/WFP News Release, December 8, 2008.
51 “U.S. Spends $4 Million On Medical Aid For N.Korea In 2008,” Korea Herald, December 21, 2008; December 2008
During the Bush Administration, various officials, including the President, issued vague pledges
of more extensive U.S. assistance that might be forthcoming if North Korea dismantled its
nuclear programs and satisfied other U.S. security concerns dealing with missiles and the 52
deployment of conventional forces. The Administration reportedly was preparing to offer a
version of this “bold initiative” to North Korea in the summer of 2002, but pulled it back after 53
acquiring more details of Pyongyang’s clandestine uranium nuclear weapons program.
Similarly, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak has adopted a “3000 Policy,” whereby South
Korea would help North Korea raise its per capita income to $3,000 over the next ten years by
providing a massive aid package if North Korea dismantles its nuclear program.
With regard to U.S. development assistance programs, in the near term, the President has
considerable flexibility to offer some forms of development assistance. The Foreign Assistance
Act of 1961, for instance, allows the President annually to provide up to $50 million per country 54
for any purpose. Longer-term initiatives, however, would likely require changes in U.S. law and
thereby require congressional action. For instance, the FY2005 Consolidated Appropriations Act 55
specifically bans many forms of direct aid to North Korea, along with several other countries.
Many health and emergency disaster relief aid programs are exempt from such legislative
restrictions because they have “notwithstanding” clauses in their enacting legislation.
Additionally, if the Administration were to designate North Korea as a country involved in drug
production and trafficking – as some have advocated – then by law North Korea would be 56
ineligible for receiving most forms of U.S. development assistance.
Mark E. Manyin Mary Beth Nikitin
Specialist in Asian Affairs Analyst in Nonproliferation
firstname.lastname@example.org, 7-7653 email@example.com, 7-7745
communication with U.S. State Department.
52 Testimony of Richard Armitage, State Department Deputy Secretary, before the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee, February 4, 2003.
53 Testimony of Richard Armitage, State Department Deputy Secretary, before the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee, February 4, 2003.
54 Section 614 of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, P.L. 87-195.
55 Section 607 of P.L. 110-161, the FY2008 Consolidated Appropriations Act, which also bans direct aid to Cuba, Iran,
56 See CRS Report RL32167, Drug Trafficking and North Korea: Issues for U.S. Policy, by Raphael F. Perl.