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April 22, 2016
A disastrous famine struck the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in 1997. Dubbed “The March of Suffering” by the North Korean government, hundreds of thousands of people in the countryside starved. The famine arose after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Pyongyang’s former patron, and was exacerbated by a series of floods. It also came in the midst of efforts to implement and verify a 1994 agreement between Washington and Pyongyang on steps toward denuclearizing the Korean peninsula.
With little background in North Korea, USAID was asked to assess the famine and help coordinate a U.S. response. Leonard Rogers headed USAID’s Bureau of Humanitarian Response at the time. He traveled to North Korea and helped organize a coordinated international program of famine assistance. And along the way, he and the agency had to make some tough calls. How to avoid humanitarian assistance being used, or seen, as a political tool? Some of the most struggling states are also the most tyrannical. How can we ensure that humanitarian assistance does not shore up a tyrannical regime that continues to violate the human rights of their own citizens? In his oral history, Rogers describes how he tackled these issues.
Leonard Roger’s interview was conducted by Mark Tauber on April 18, 2017.
Read Leonard Rogers’s full oral history here at: https://adst.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Rogers-Leonard-1.pdf
Drafted by Hunter Matthews and Christina Krisberg
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