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Foreign Aid and International Norms: The Case of North Korea
Published May 25, 2011
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Should the United States or other governments (or international organizations) provide foreign aid to the government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)? North Korea is an extremely poor country with periodic bouts of severe famine and widespread human suffering. But it is governed by what is arguably the most repressive and secretive government in the world with one of the most mismanaged economies and, despite its poverty, one of the largest expenditures on its military relative to the size of its gross national product of any country on the face of the Earth. What is to be done?

There are no binding international rules of eligibility for receiving foreign aid. The decision to provide or withhold aid rests with the governments and international institutions giving it. But over the half century of aid giving a set of international norms has arisen that has guided who receives aid and who does not. This paper examines those norms, applies them to the case of North Korea, and suggests conditions under which aid should be given or withheld from that peculiar and troubling regime.

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