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Working Paper 08-9

Famine in North Korea Redux?

by Stephan Haggard, University of California, San Diego
and Marcus Noland, Peterson Institute for International Economics

October 2008

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North Korea is once again on the brink of famine. It is a complex humanitarian emergency characterized by highly imperfect information and lack of trustworthy data on both the supply and demand of grain. Haggard and Noland assess current food insecurity there by looking at three sources of information: grain quantity balances, price data, and direct observation by outside observers. They criticize the widely cited United Nations figures as not credible and present original data on grain quantities and prices, demonstrating that for the first time since the 1990s famine, the aggregate grain balance has gone into deficit. Prices have also risen steeply. The paper also documents the reemergence of pathologies from the famine era. Both external and internal shocks have exacerbated the food situation in North Korea, including floods and the country's domestic and foreign policies.


Book: Witness to Transformation: Refugee Insights into North Korea January 2011

Peterson Perspective: North Korea's Immunity to Outside Pressure: Part I December 12, 2012

Policy Brief 10-1: The Winter of Their Discontent: Pyongyang Attacks the Market January 2010

Working Paper 10-2: Economic Crime and Punishment in North Korea March 2010

Paper: FTAs and the Future of US-Korean Trade Relations November 2009

Paper: Implementing the KORUS FTA: Key Challenges and Policy Proposals February 2008

Policy Brief 08-6: North Korea on the Precipice of Famine May 2008

Policy Brief 07-7: The Korea-US Free Trade Agreement: A Summary Assessment August 2007

Policy Brief 06-4: Negotiating the Korea–United States Free Trade Agreement June 2006

Working Paper 07-7: North Korea’s External Economic Relations August 2007

Book: Avoiding the Apocalypse: The Future of the Two Koreas June 2000

Book: Free Trade Between Korea and the United States? April 2001

Working Paper 08-4: Migration Experiences of North Korean Refugees: Survey Evidence from China March 2008