What a North Korea ‘crisis’ looks like to an aid group


Ever since international condemnation for a third North Korean nuclear test, the rhetoric on the Korean peninsula has been increasingly heated.  US Secretary of State John Kerry yesterday said the United States was willing to engage with North Korea so long as the regime gave up its nuclear arsenal.  He also said Washington wanted a peaceful solution to tensions in the region.  Within the back-and-forth of politicians, one perspective isn’t perhaps getting as much attention when it comes to North Korea, and that is the perspective of aid groups.

While international sanctions target the North Korean regime, they can also potentially strangle aid groups’ access to cash and supplies in the country, preventing help for North Korean citizens.

To learn more about what it’s like to work in North Korea through a crisis, WRS’s Tony Ganzer spoke with Katharina Zellweger.  She is a Pantech Fellow of Korea Studies at Stanford University, and was the country chief for North Korea for the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation from 2006-2011.

Stiglitz on economy: ‘terrible’

When things go wrong, everyone looks for someone to blame.  And when the economy goes wrong, eyes start falling on politicians and bankers.  At least in the case of bankers we should not have been surprised by their actions and inactions in the financial crisis—they just acted how they have always acted.  That is what Joseph Stiglitz thinks, anyway—a Nobel Laureate and former chief economist at the World Bank.  WRS’s Tony Ganzer reports.

Sometimes the simplest questions illicit the simplest, and clearest answers.  So when I asked Joseph Stiglitz how bad the economy is for the working-class all over the world, he kept it simple:

STIGLITZ:  “Terrible.”

Well, he added that unemployment numbers were high, and the poverty rate in the US is up, but even without those qualifiers his view was clear.  The financial crisis is still unsettling investors and markets worldwide, and at least some of the problems could have been solved earlier.  Stiglitz says bankers have acted and reacted more or less in predictable ways through many crises, the great depression being one, but learning from the past cannot always overcome arrogance.


Regulation seems to be a necessary factor in stable markets, according to Stiglitz—a view opposed by many of the policy makers and regulators in the US preceding and following the housing bubble’s burst.  Recent moves to add international regulatory measures, like those by the Basel committee, or talks of arbitration by the G20, hold promise, but are not enough to stem problems, especially when nations will ultimately write their own rules.


Regulatory reforms aside, Stiglitz does see promise in moving more into green technologies and green economies.  He agrees with the common line from politicians equating good environmental policy to good economic policy, because he says we don’t yet know how expensive damaging the environment really is.


Stiglitz has been a staunch critic of the handling of the financial crisis, saying central banks were using models and theories that had little or no basis in economic reality.  The best bet now, he says, is better and effective regulation.