The green paradox: a key catalyst for inter-governmental organizations' environmental assistance to North Korea

JeongWon Bourdais Park, Jacklin S. Lee

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review


Purpose—This article examines the mechanism of major IGOs’ (inter-govern mental environmental organizations) assistance and cooperation for the purpose of improving ecological conditions in North Korea (DRPK: Democratic People’s Republic of Korea).
Design, Methodology, Approach—This research delves into how certain IGOs have cooperated with North Korea in select environmental fields. It particularly investigates the relevant activities of prominent organizations that have been engaged in North Korea’s environment- related issues.
Findings—Contrary to the views of neo- functional green détentes or the hopeful outlooks of ecologists, and at odds with the general expectation for neutrality from IGOs, this article argues that immediate and prioritized material interests of North Korea as well as IGOs’ financial constraints cause only intermittent attention, and yet the consequences of such temporality and discontinuity resulted in some positive ecological initiatives. however, they have also largely marginalized sustained envi ronmental management in the country.
Practical Implications—Inter-Korean relations and U.S. policies influence IGO engagement, and when the political conditions are favorable, environmental coop eration with the DPRK increases, but it easily wanes when one of those elements, particularly the ROK’s policy toward the DPRK, changes.
Originality, Value—among international relations and political scientists, stud ies on contemporary North Korea are concentrated mainly in the field of denu clearization, DPRK–U.S. relations, and more recently, political economy linking marketization and development. Scholarly work on emerging environmental coop eration surrounding North Korea remains scarce.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-74
Number of pages26
JournalNorth Korean Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • DPRK (North Korea)
  • environmental assistance
  • environmental security
  • green structural adjustment
  • IGOs (international governmental organizations)
  • inter–Korean economic cooperation


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