Home Opening Doors in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

Outdated concepts of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) as being ‘crazy’ or ‘unpredictable’ must be rejected to recognise opportunities for effective humanitarian collaboration and foster international solidarity with the citizens of the DPRK.

This paper brings together the perspectives of three individuals who have extensive lived experience working in the DPRK. Collectively, these authors have worked in various sectors of international humanitarian aid and other areas of engagement such as emergency response and preparedness, education, social enterprise and tourism.

In this paper, the authors draw from their experiences to present lessons on overcoming obstacles and harnessing opportunities in the DPRK. Carla Vitantonio challenges the concept of the DPRK as a place unlike any other, Jasmine Barrett considers how to actually begin working in the DPRK, demystifying the process and showing the options humanitarians can consider, and James Banfill asks how we can better prepare to work in North Korea. A conclusion collates the key messages.

We do not deny the challenges or specific considerations of working in the DPRK, but ask readers to continue to imagine possibilities and explore ways to open doors.

Prior to writing this paper, the authors shared these lessons and insights at an online panel at the 2021 Humanitarian Leadership Conference. The panel was not borne of a desire to showcase the well-documented and well-known challenges of working in the DPRK, but to highlight the opportunities for rewarding collaboration, effective partnership and impactful cooperation.

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