Letter urges modifications to Treasury and State Department regulations to battle hunger and disease in North Korea
Washington (November 8, 2021) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Congressman Andy Levin (MI-09) wrote to President Joe Biden today urging the Administration to ease restrictions on delivery of life-saving aid by non-governmental organizations to the people of North Korea. The letter calls on the Biden administration to revise Treasury Department regulations that limit humanitarian exports to North Korea and urges the State Department to expedite Special Validation Passports for U.S. humanitarian workers. An estimated 40 percent of North Koreans suffer from food insecurity. North Korea also has one of the highest Tuberculosis rates in the world, and an unknown number of COVID-19 cases and deaths, all of which have been exacerbated by the closure of North Korea’s border during the COVID-19 pandemic. 
“According to reports, since North Korea closed its borders in January 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, medical supplies in the country have run low or are nonexistent, and it may face a ‘food gap’ of as much as 860,000 tons of food, equivalent to more than two months of food use,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter. “The dire situation in North Korea warrants a reversal of U.S. policies that block private humanitarian aid shipments and prevent private aid workers from traveling there. Both will be urgently needed when North Korea reopens its borders.” 
A copy of the letter can be found HERE.
Specifically, the lawmakers requested the Administration:
1.   Modify the Treasury Department humanitarian exemption under section 510.512(a)(1) of the regulations governing North Korean sanctions to cover items in addition to “food and medicine” such as those for treating disease in addition to items such as laptops for humanitarian workers, which are currently prohibited. 
2.  Modify Treasury Department regulations to protect NGOs from the threat of sanctions if they enter into partnership agreements with the North Korean government provided they are conducting authorized humanitarian-aid-related services.
3.   Expand eligibility for special validation to travel to North Korea to repatriate the remains of U.S. veterans of the Korean War or for people-to-people exchanges supporting conflict reduction or family reunification as is permitted under existing law. 
4.  Expedite and simplify the process for obtaining a special permit to travel to North Korea to deliver or oversee humanitarian assistance 
5.   Direct the Treasury Department to issue clear guidance for financial institutions, shipping companies, foreign customs officials, and others involved in transactions related to humanitarian aid.  
Senator Markey and Congressman Levin reintroduced the Enhancing North Korea Humanitarian Assistance Act in April 2021 to require sanctions modifications at the Treasury Department, the State Department, and the United Nations Sanctions Committee on North Korea to ensure that assistance can reach those in need.  The Biden administration can take action on these items independent of the passage of the Enhancing North Korea Humanitarian Assistance Act.