Despite reporting no cases of the COVID-19 virus, North Korea remains especially vulnerable to the pandemic due to its poor health infrastructure and proximity to virus hotspots. An outbreak of COVID-19 in North Korea could have crippling political and socioeconomic consequences for the country, including reduced access to food and greater internal instability. Though the U.N. Sanctions Committee has provided some exemptions to help North Korea deal with the coronavirus, humanitarian workers are still limited by travel and financial barriers as they try to obtain medical equipment and other aid. Meanwhile, Pyongyang’s lack of transparency compounds the difficulty of obtaining accurate information.

You will be able to participate in the live Q&A using the YouTube chat box function on the YouTube page. You can also take part in the conversation on Twitter with #NorthKoreaCOVID.


Stalled denuclearization talks have hindered hopes of U.S. engagement with North Korea on the pandemic. But a COVID-19 outbreak in North Korea could have long-term implications for U.S. national security interests, including the U.S.-South Korea alliance and peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Join USIP for an online discussion with experts on the latest information regarding the COVID-19 situation in North Korea, the impact of COVID-19 on North Korea’s isolation vis-à-vis the international sanctions regime, the potential for instability in North Korean society, and the potential for sanctions relief to aid coronavirus response efforts.

Speakers

Jessica Lee
Senior Research Fellow, East Asia Program, Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft

Keith Luse
Executive Director, National Committee on North Korea

David Maxwell
Senior Fellow, The Foundation for Defense of Democracies

Dr. Kee Park
Lecturer on Global Health and Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School and Director of the North Korea program, Korean American Medical Association

Scott Snyder
Senior Fellow for Korea Studies and Director of the Program on U.S.-Korea Policy, Council on Foreign Relations

Frank Aum, moderator
Senior Expert, North Korea, United States Institute of Peace

Related Publications

Could U.S.-North Korea Talks Resume in 2020?

Could U.S.-North Korea Talks Resume in 2020?

Monday, May 18, 2020

By: Frank Aum

The coronavirus pandemic has put many U.S. foreign policy priorities on the back burner, including the North Korea dilemma. But this longstanding problem continues to deepen regardless of COVID-19’s trajectory. In March, Pyongyang conducted five short-range ballistic missile and rocket launches. In addition, North Korea is expanding existing rocket launch facilities and building new ones. The unexplained disappearance of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in April led to much speculation about the future of the North Korean regime. Meanwhile, the U.S. presidential elections looms large over North Korea’s calculations. What’s in store for the rest of the year?

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & Prevention

North Korea: Coronavirus, Missiles and Diplomacy

North Korea: Coronavirus, Missiles and Diplomacy

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

By: Ambassador Joseph Yun; Frank Aum; Paul Kyumin Lee

Despite reporting no cases of COVID-19, North Korea’s poor health infrastructure and proximity to coronavirus hotspots make it especially vulnerable to the deadly pandemic. Increasing the risks, humanitarian workers and medical supplies in the North Korea are limited by travel restrictions and sanctions even as the U.N. sanctions committee provided some exemptions to help deal with the virus. An outbreak of the disease in North Korea could have crippling political and socioeconomic consequences, even threatening its internal stability.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & Prevention; Global Health

A Peace Regime for the Korean Peninsula

A Peace Regime for the Korean Peninsula

Monday, February 3, 2020

By: Frank Aum; Jacob Stokes; Patricia M. Kim; Atman M. Trivedi; Rachel Vandenbrink; Jennifer Staats ; Ambassador Joseph Yun

A joint statement by the United States and North Korea in June 2018 declared that the two countries were committed to building “a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.” Such a peace regime will ultimately require the engagement and cooperation of not just North Korea and the United States, but also South Korea, China, Russia, and Japan. This report outlines the perspectives and interests of each of these countries as well as the diplomatic, security, and economic components necessary for a comprehensive peace.

Type: Peaceworks

Global Policy

View All Publications