Korea, Democratic People's Republic (DPRK)

WFP Activities


The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) continues to face regular, significant food shortages.  WFP has been providing food assistance in DPRK since 1995, saving lives and making significant inroads in lowering levels of child malnutrition.

While malnutrition rates among children have decreased in the past decade, according to the recent national nutrition survey, almost one in every three children remains chronically malnourished or ‘stunted’, meaning they are too short for their age.  Twenty percent of all pregnant and breast-feeding women are also malnourished.

Through regular visits to households, WFP has observed a marginal improvement in food security over the last few years. However, the annual lean season, which begins in May and continues up to the main harvest in October, makes life significantly tougher.

Assessments during the last few years have shown that more than 82 percent of households do not have acceptable household food consumption during the lean season. Many have poor dietary diversity, meaning their meals comprise ingredients from fewer than four food groups. Most people struggle to make up the deficit through alternative means as they do not have the necessary purchasing power.

WFP Activities

WFP’s operation “Nutrition Support for Children and Women” in DPRK targets the 2.4 million people most at risk of serious damage to their health as a result of food shortages. Working in 87 counties across the country, the operation concentrates on three areas -

• Reducing hunger and under-nutrition among children and women by providing nutrition support to improve dietary diversity through school and preschool meals and targeted nutrition support;

• Restoring and rebuilding livelihoods to enhance food security through food-for-community development (FFCD) projects;
      • Supporting the Government in reducing hunger and undernutrition through local production of fortified food.

WFP distributes Super Cereal and nutritious biscuits (fortified and blended foods enriched with vitamins and other micronutrients). If funding allows, WFP also seeks to distribute commodities such as pulses and vegetable oil to promote a more balanced diet.

Food rations are served as cooked meals through institutions for children (such as orphanages, kindergartens, nurseries, primary and boarding schools) and hospitals. The food is produced in partnership with the Government of DPRK in 14 factories across the country.  Through the partnership the DPRK government covers all manpower and running costs, while WFP provides the food commodities, spare parts and packaging materials.

Food Security

A WFP review, conducted in July 2012, found that household food consumption had improved compared to 2011. However, food consumption indicators remain worse than in 2009 and 2010. At the time of the review, 57 per cent of households had ‘borderline’ food consumption. Most of these households may be at risk of slipping into the ‘poor’ consumption category should they face reduced agricultural production or a reduction in food ration levels.

Household dietary diversity remains a problem, with 82 per cent having poor dietary diversity (fewer than 4.5 food groups). Some 60 percent of households limit food portions and/or add more water to food, which can lead to insufficient nutrient intake. In June 2012, the government reported a significant drop in estimated production of early crops (wheat, barley, potato), which was assessed at 207,000 tons, well below the estimated return of 500,000 tons.

Every year in September-October, WFP and FAO conduct a Crop and Food Security Assessment (CFSAM) to estimate the national food security levels for the coming year. 

WFP conducts yearly impact assessment aiming at understanding how household food security has changed, which coping strategies are being used and the extent to which WFP’s nutritional assistance has achieved an impact.

WFP Offices
Threats to food security
  • Late spring droughts
  • Summer flooding
  • Occasional typhoons in early autumn
  • Deforestation and consequent silting of rivers
  • Economic downturn
  • Lack of agricultural inputs such as fertilizers
  • Limited capacity to access international capital markets and import food