On North Korea: why sanctions matter

The North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act was signed into law by President Obama on February 18, 2016. While the act has many facets, it remains to be seen how the new sanctions might impact humanitarian organizations working in North Korea.

Did you know?

Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) has worked in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK/North Korea) since the mid-1990s. Over two decades, MCC has sent approximately $20 million in food and other material resources to the DPRK.

Maybe you are wondering…

If DPRK is considered an enemy of the United States, why should MCC assist North Koreans with food and material resources?

Our Anabaptist Christian values compel us to follow the way of Jesus, who called his followers to love our enemies and neighbors while responding to human need in its many forms (Matthew 5:44; Matt. 22:39; Matt. 25:35–40). Moreover, we hold that peace can never be fully realized without reconciliation. This reconciling work is needed among the people who inhabit the Korean peninsula, as well as between two “enemy” countries like the U.S. and North Korea. MCC’s work demonstrates that we as U.S. Christians care about the well-being of North Korean people. 

I’ve heard of “tightening sanctions” toward North Korea. Why are sanctions used by the U.S. government?

Sanctions are generally viewed as an alternative to military action. They are lower in cost and risk, and are often seen as a middle ground between diplomacy and war. But as “neutral” as they might appear, they are not without repercussions. One critique of using sanctions is that they are frequently more detrimental to civilian populations than they are to the more insulated and prosperous governing elites.

These are excerpts of the full Frequently Asked Questions document we put together to help answer these and other pressing questions, such as:

How can we give assistance to the North Korean people with sanctions in place?

Why don’t sanctions make sense for the U.S. relationship with North Korea?




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