What Has The Un Done About North Korea

Political Activity

The United Nations has been actively engaged in North Korea for many years, providing both diplomatic and economic assistance as well as monitoring and conflict mediation. The UN was one of the first international bodies to recognize North Korea when it joined in 1991, and the UN Security Council has since passed numerous resolutions on the country, addressing issues from sanctions to nuclear non-proliferation. In addition to its diplomatic efforts, the UN has dispatched aid teams regularly to assist with medical and other humanitarian aid operations in North Korea.

In 2003 the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO) to oversee the implementation of economic aid to North Korea. Under this organization, the UN launched several large-scale development projects, including rebuilding roads and bridges, providing educational services, and setting up telecommunications infrastructure. KEDO funds have also been used to build new housing, create jobs, and stimulate the North Korean economy.

In 2006, following a nuclear test in North Korea, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1718, which imposed economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation on the country. The resolution aimed to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and also prohibited the import of luxury goods. In response, the UN began to restrict shipments and travel to and from North Korea and curtailed economic aid countries. The sanctions have since remained in place and have been regularly updated by the UN, in an attempt to deter the North Korean government from further nuclear activities.

Economic Assistance

The United Nations has also provided economic assistance to North Korea in the form of food aid and humanitarian aid projects. In response to severe food shortages in North Korea in the late 1990s, the World Food Programme (WFP) began delivering large-scale food supplies, with the support of the UN. Since then, the WFP has implemented several large-scale projects, providing food and other aid to the thousands of North Koreans affected by the country’s economic crisis.

The UN has also provided technical and financial aid for North Korean development projects. Several programs have been launched by the UN, such as the WFP’s Productive
Safety Net Project, which aimed to increase food security by providing employment, basic services, and food assistance to vulnerable populations. The UN has also implemented health and nutrition programs in North Korea, in addition to offering educational resources and guidance.

In 2018, it was reported that the UN was leading the development of a large-scale electricity infrastructure in North Korea. The project, funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), is intended to improve access to electricity in the country and has been ongoing since the 1990s. The project has seen the installation of large power plants and the construction of transmission lines throughout North Korea.

Human Rights

The United Nations has long sought to address the human rights situation in North Korea, urging the government to take action and comply with international standards. The UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights has documented the country’s violations of civil, political, economic, and cultural rights and noted the existence of a pervasive culture of fear in the country.

In 2012, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution which called on North Korea to comply with its human rights obligations and requested special procedures be established to investigate human rights violations in the country. The UN has also called for an independent investigation into the human rights situation in North Korea, and for North Korean authorities to be held accountable for their actions.

In 2017, the United Nations Commission of Inquiry (COI) issued a report strongly condemning the North Korean government for widespread and systematic human rights abuses, including torture and arbitrary detentions. The COI report highlighted the urgent need for North Korea to take urgent action to comply with its international obligations and to bring its legal system in line with international standards. It also emphasized the need for accountability of those responsible for human rights abuses. There have been several subsequent UN reports which have echoed these findings.

Conflict Mediation

The UN has been involved in ongoing attempts to facilitate talks and negotiations between the North and South Korean governments. In 2007, the UN facilitated the Six-Party Talks, an international platform which aimed to reach a peaceful resolution to the North Korean nuclear crisis. The talks included representatives from North Korea, South Korea, China, Japan, Russia, and the United States and lasted for several years, but ultimately failed to reach an agreement.

Since then, the UN has actively supported peace process initiatives, particularly through its office in South Korea. In 2018, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visited the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, where he expressed his willingness to support potential talks between the two sides. This visit followed a historic summit between the North and South Korean leaders in April 2018, which was largely mediated and facilitated by the UN.

The UN has been consistently engaged in trying to promote peace, stability, and economic cooperation in the Korean peninsula. In 2019, the UN Security Council passed a new resolution which reaffirmed its commitment to peace and stability and reiterated its support for the Joint Declaration signed between North and South Korea.


The United Nations has imposed sanctions on North Korea in an effort to deter the country from further development of nuclear weapons and to discourage other forms of proliferation. In 2006, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1718, which imposed economic sanctions, disrupting foreign investments and financial activity. Since then, sanctions have been regularly updated and reinforced by the UN in an attempt to control and limit trade with North Korea.

In addition to economic sanctions, the UN has imposed an arms embargo on North Korea since 2006. This embargo prohibits the import and export of various military goods and technology to and from the country. The UN also implemented a travel ban on North Korean officials in 2017, in an effort to pressure the government to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

The UN has also placed restrictions on North Korean exports, such as coal and seafood, in order to raise revenue for the country and limit its ability to fund weapons development. In 2017, the UN Security Council also tightened restrictions on North Korea’s oil imports, in order to put further pressure on the government.

International Support

The United Nations has also provided support for North Korea in other ways, such as encouraging dialogue and cooperation between North Korea and other UN member countries. In 2016, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited Pyongyang to encourage North Korean participation in international forums. During the visit, he expressed his hopes that North Korea would take part in the UN’s efforts to build a more prosperous and stable region.

The UN has also supported other initiatives aimed at increasing cooperation between North Korea and its neighbors. In 2017, the UN led an economic development project to improve infrastructure in North Korea, bringing international technology and resources to the country. The project included the construction of roads, railways, and power plants, as well as the establishment of economic dialogues between North Korean and other local and international businesses.

The UN has also provided support to North Korean refugees, offering assistance and protection to individuals who have fled the country. The UN Refugee Agency has provided aid and financial support to refugees and has also helped facilitate resettlement and integration into other countries.

Cassie Grissom is an American journalist and author living in Seoul, South Korea. She has been studying the Korean peninsula since 2011, and her work focuses on understanding human rights issues in North Korea. In addition to her work as an author, Cassie is an active advocate for human rights in North Korea. She regularly shares stories about life in North Korea with international audiences to raise awareness of the plight of its citizens.

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