Agricultural production in North Korea collapsed between 1990 and 1996, leaving the country dependent on massive international food assistance. The causes of this agricultural decline are primarily found in the policy decisions which guided the development of DPRK farming, and which have not been adequately addressed either by the government or by international aid organizations. It is, however, feasible for the DPRK to produce enough food to satisfy basic domestic needs. A scenario is proposed in which the DPRK could increase food production, using sustainable farming methods. The cost of international assistance to facilitate such a restructuring would be similar to the current cost of food aid, and such assistance would strongly encourage increased technical and economic cooperation between DPRK organizations and their international counterparts.
Randall Ireson coordinates the American Friends Service Committee agriculture assistance program in North Korea. Over the last seven years he has made numerous trips to the DPRK, and accompanied nine agricultural study delegations from the DPRK to the US and other countries. Dr. Ireson has managed or evaluated many rural development projects, mostly in Southeast Asia. He has written extensively on social and development issues in Laos, and also taught sociology at Willamette University. He holds a Ph.D. in Development Sociology from Cornell University.