What Percentage Of North Korea Lives In Poverty


The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, more commonly known as North Korea, is a nation located in East Asia. It is a one-party state led by the Worker’s Party of Korea. North Korea has been in an economically turbulent situation over the past few decades; the country has been under sanctions for exhibiting behaviour deemed as nuclear threats. In 2018, North Korea’s nominal GDP was estimated to be around $17.9 billion, making it one of the poorest countries in the world.

Roots Of Poverty

One of the main factors contributing to poverty in North Korea is the mismanagement of State-owned enterprises which has led to the death of citizens due to malnutrition, regular blackouts, and fuel shortages. Moreover, the country spent too much money on defence, compared to the amount invested public welfare programmes. Furthermore, remittances from overseas Korean who send money to their family members in North Korea has experienced a sharp decline due to economic sanctions on the country.

What Percentage Of North Koreans Live In Poverty?

According to a recent study by South Korea’s Institute for National Unification (KINU), an estimated 41.5% of North Koreans live in poverty. This is based on surveys of North Korean citizens who, when polled, indicated that the average income per capita was $\$546.09\ per month but the average cost of living is $\$767.04\ per month. This statistic was further reinforced by the World Bank, who conducted a study in 2019 and concluded that 44.7% of North Koreans were living in Extreme Poverty which is defined as living on $\$1.25\ per day or less.

Effects Of Poverty

The dire economic situation has had a significant effect on many sectors in the country. According to the World Food Programme, around 10.2 million North Koreans, or 40% of the population, suffer from an acute lack of food. This has caused a rise in the prevalence of malnutrition, with an estimated 2 million children below five years of age who are severely malnourished. Poverty has also led to an increase in disease prevalence with outbreaks of tuberculosis, cholera and diarrhoeal diseases.

Role Of The International Community In Curbing Poverty

The international community has responded to the urgent situation in North Korea with a series of relief and assistance programmes for the country. Recently, the European Union approved a multi-million aid package for North Korea which will focus on food aid, economic growth and health services. The United Nations has also been working in collaboration with the North Korean government to address the issue of poverty and has launched a five-year programme which is expected to reach around 700,000 of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the country.

The Kim Regime And Poverty In North Korea

The Kim regime has long been a source of concern among the international community due to its oppressive and hostile policies. These policies have been largely responsible for the current economic situation in the country. The Kim regime has refused to improve the economy by enacting reforms as it is believed that any form of reform could lead to the downfall of the regime.

Reforms For Fighting Poverty

In order to fight poverty in North Korea, there must be a radical shift in the way the country is governed. The Kim regime must be willing to introduce reforms such as economic liberalization which will allow for private investment in the country and create more opportunities for North Koreans to have stable jobs and better livelihoods. Additionally, the regime must be willing to cooperate with foreign countries in order to foster more diplomatic relationships and obtain the much-needed aid and assistance to combat the crippling poverty.

Aid and Cooperation For Reducing Poverty In North Korea

International Aid

Foreign aid has been essential in helping to reduce the rate of poverty in North Korea. The international community has contributed to efforts to address poverty in the country, such as donating food and medical supplies and providing financial assistance. Furthermore, development projects, such as the construction of roads, bridges and other infrastructure, have been funded by international aid organisations. These efforts have been beneficial, but they are not enough to tackle the deeper poverty problem.

Improving Inter-Korean Relations

The inter-Korean relationship must also be improved in order to effectively combat poverty in North Korea. South Korea has taken the initiative to lead many of these efforts, such as providing humanitarian aid and building infrastructure. However, there has been limited progress due to the reluctance of the North Korean leadership to cooperate. In recent years, the two countries have made strides towards improving the relationship, but there is still more work to be done to allow for more aid and assistance to be provided to North Korea.

Increasing Trade With Other Countries

North Korea should also make strides to increase its trade with other countries in order to stimulate its economy and create more jobs, thereby reducing the number of people living in poverty. The country has only recently started to open up its economy to foreign investment, but this is still not enough. North Korea must continue to actively seek partnerships with other countries to expand its trade and better integrate with the global economy.

Improving Domestic Economic Policies

The North Korean government must also focus on improving domestic economic policies in order to reduce poverty. These could include increasing wages, creating better job opportunities, improving access to education and healthcare, and reforming outdated and inefficient government institutions. These policies, if implemented properly, can help reduce poverty in North Korea and improve the lives of many.

Challenges To Reducing Poverty in North Korea

Sanctions Hindering Aid and Development

Sanctions imposed by the international community on North Korea have hampered the country’s efforts to reduce poverty. These sanctions have curtailed the access of aid and assistance to the country, denying much-needed assistance to many of its citizens. The international community must be willing to lift or waive some of the sanctions in order to provide more aid and assistance to North Korea.

Lack Of Resources

North Korea has limited resources which have hindered its efforts to combat poverty. This includes the lack of access to technology, skills and expertise, as well as financial resources. The country also lacks access to markets, both domestic and international, which limits the ability of businesses to create job opportunities. Moreover, government corruption and poor financial management have further weakened North Korea’s ability to reduce poverty.

Ineffective Government Policies

The North Korean government has long been criticised for its ineffective policies which have contributed to the country’s poverty. These policies include outdated economic models, limited access to basic public services, restrictions on the media and other freedom of speech, and the lack of economic freedom. These policies must be addressed in order to reduce poverty in North Korea.

Lack Of Respect For Human Rights

North Korea has been condemned by the international community for its lack of respect for human rights, including the right to freedom of expression, access to information, and freedom of assembly. These restrictions are antithetical to progress and have been a major factor in North Korea’s economic instability and high rate of poverty. The North Korean government must ensure that its citizens are provided with basic rights and freedoms in order for the country to move forward.


Poverty is a major problem in North Korea and the country has yet to make significant progress in reducing it. The country’s dire economic situation is a result of several factors, such as mismanagement of State-owned enterprises, reliance on international aid and assistance, lack of respect for human rights, and ineffective economic policies. The Kim regime must be willing to introduce reforms and cooperate with other countries to allow for economic growth and prosperity, and the international community should be willing to help by providing aid, assistance and lifting economic sanctions. By doing so, North Korea can move forward and start to address the issue of poverty.

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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