N. Korea Sanctions Could Hurt Millions as Winter Bites

N. Korea Sanctions Could Hurt Millions as Winter BitesN. Korea Sanctions Could Hurt Millions as Winter Bites

As frigid winter weather sweeps over the Korean Peninsula, the United Nations has warned that punitive sanctions on North Korea could have unintended consequences for the country’s long-suffering civilian population.

“The humanitarian assistance provided by the UN agencies and others is literally a lifeline for some 13 million acutely vulnerable individuals, but sanctions may be adversely affecting this essential help,” said Zeid Raad Al Hussein, the UN’s top human rights official, CNN reported.

Speaking Monday via teleconference before a UN Security Council meeting on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), North Korea’s official name, Zeid said heightened tensions over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs have led to worsening conditions for those living under North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

North Korea has for years been accused of ignoring the plight of its citizens. A famine in the 1990s —which historians attribute to agronomic issues and poor central planning, among other factors— took the lives of an estimated 2.5 million people.

Today, 70% of North Korea’s 25.1 million people are considered “food insecure” by the World Food Program. Recent flooding and the potential for a historic drought, which the UN warned of this year, could further imperil food supplies.

A failing public distribution system, corruption and the diversion of Pyongyang’s limited resources to its military have made life particularly difficult for those outside the showcase capital of Pyongyang, Zeid said.

“Every effort must be made to ensure the government of the DPRK makes urgent changes to the country’s laws and policies to enable greater freedom and enable access to fundamental services and goods,” he said.

Zeid also noted that the recent sanctions have caused difficulty for aid agencies on the ground, specifically the stringent banking restrictions, and asked the Security Council investigate the human rights impact of sanctions.



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