Famine in North Korea

Markets, Aid, and Reform

Stephan Haggard and Marcus Noland. Foreword by Amartya Sen

Columbia University Press

Famine in North Korea

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Pub Date: May 2009

ISBN: 9780231140010

368 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $30.00£25.00

Pub Date: February 2007

ISBN: 9780231140003

368 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $90.00£75.00

Pub Date: February 2007

ISBN: 9780231511520

368 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $29.99£25.00

Famine in North Korea

Markets, Aid, and Reform

Stephan Haggard and Marcus Noland. Foreword by Amartya Sen

Columbia University Press

In the mid-1990s, as many as one million North Koreans died in one of the worst famines of the twentieth century. The socialist food distribution system collapsed primarily because of a misguided push for self-reliance, but was compounded by the regime's failure to formulate a quick response-including the blocking of desperately needed humanitarian relief.

As households, enterprises, local party organs, and military units tried to cope with the economic collapse, a grassroots process of marketization took root. However, rather than embracing these changes, the North Korean regime opted for tentative economic reforms with ambiguous benefits and a self-destructive foreign policy. As a result, a chronic food shortage continues to plague North Korea today.

In their carefully researched book, Stephan Haggard and Marcus Noland present the most comprehensive and penetrating account of the famine to date, examining not only the origins and aftermath of the crisis but also the regime's response to outside aid and the effect of its current policies on the country's economic future. Their study begins by considering the root causes of the famine, weighing the effects of the decline in the availability of food against its poor distribution. Then it takes a close look at the aid effort, addressing the difficulty of monitoring assistance within the country, and concludes with an analysis of current economic reforms and strategies of engagement.

North Korea's famine exemplified the depredations that can arise from tyrannical rule and the dilemmas such regimes pose for the humanitarian community, as well as the obstacles inherent in achieving economic and political reform. To reveal the state's culpability in this tragic event is a vital project of historical recovery, one that is especially critical in light of our current engagement with the "North Korean question."

This is a book that must be read by people interested in the economics of poverty and hunger, or in the politics of authoritarianism, or in the role—and the difficulties—of international assistance in the miserable world in which we live. It is an admirable contribution on a truly important subject.

From the foreword by Amartya Sen, winner of the Nobel Prize in economics

Famine in North Korea is the authoritative account of the famine, examining its origins and impact from the level of the individual household to the high politics of international diplomacy. It is an extraordinary book, essential reading for anyone interested in the issues of famine, economic transition, and the future of the Korean peninsula.

Joseph E. Stiglitz, winner of the Nobel Prize in economics, and author of Making Globalization Work

The UN General Assembly resolutions on human rights in North Korea have underscored the failure of the North Korean government to protect its people from gross human rights abuses. In Famine in North Korea, Stephan Haggard and Marcus Noland compellingly outline the case with respect to food. This book is critical for any understanding of the humanitarian and human rights crisis on the Korean peninsula.

Vaclav Havel, former President of the Czech Republic

A rigorous study.

Anna Fifield, Financial Times

This book belongs on the list of required reading.

Claudia Rosett, New York Sun

This is a haunting, exasperating, sobering look at an ongoing tragedy.

Terry Hong, The Bloomsbury Review

The quality of analysis and prose is consistently high throughout.

Brian Myers, Acta Koreana

A comprehensive and penetrating account.

Swarthmore College Bulletin

A readable, well-researched, and insightful analysis... Highly recommended.


Famine in North Korea: Markets, Aid, and Reform offers a systematic bird's eye view of the fundamental causes and consequences of North Korea's famine.

Chung Min Lee, Asia Policy

Backed by data treated with appropriate caution, Haggard and Noland cogently present the sad North Korean story... [An] impressive work.

The Lancet

Famine in North Korea is as good as the best of its genre.

Raghav Gaiha, Development and Change

[An] essential book.

Stephen Devereux, Journal of Economic Literature

This book will be of interest to those in the Korean studies field as well as among humanitarian and public policy circles

Suzy Kim, The Journal of Asian Studies
List of Figures
List of Tables
List of Abbreviations
Foreword, by Amartya Sen
1. Introduction: Famine, Aid, and Markets in North Korea
Part I. Perspectives on the famine
2. The Origins of the Great Famine
3. The Distribution of Misery: Famine and the Breakdown of the Public Distribution System
Part II. The Dilemmas of Humanitarian Assistance
4. The Aid Regime: The Problem of Monitoring
5. Diversion
6. The Political Economy of Aid
Part III: Dealing with a Changing North Korea
7. Coping, Marketization, and Reform: New Sources of Vulnerability
8. Conclusion: North Korea in Comparative and International Perspective
Appendix 1: Illicit Activities
Appendix 2: The Scope of the Humanitarian Aid Effort
Appendix 3: The Marketization Balance Sheet
Web Features

About the Author

Stephan Haggard is the Lawrence and Sallye Krause Professor at the Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies at the University of California, San Diego. He is the author of Pathways from the Periphery; The Political Economy of Democratic Transitions (with Robert Kaufman); and The Political Economy of the Asian Financial Crisis.Marcus Noland is a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics and a senior fellow at the East-West Center. He has served as an occasional consultant to such organizations as the World Bank and the National Intelligence Council.