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Department of Political Science


This article discusses North Korea as a case of state-induced famine, or faminogenesis. A famine from 1994 to 2000 killed 3–5% of North Korea’s population, and mass hunger reappeared in 2010–2012, despite reforms meant to address the shortage of food. In addition, a prison population of about 200,000 people is systematically deprived of food; this might be considered penal starvation. There seems little recourse under international law to punish the perpetrators of state-induced famine and penal starvation. State-induced famine does, however, fit some of the criteria of genocide in the United Nations Convention against Genocide, and could also be considered a crime against humanity under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. There would seem, then, to have been a case for referral of North Korea’s recently deceased leader, Kim Jong Il, to the International Criminal Court, and it is still a case for referral of Kim’s successors. However, strategic concerns about North Korea’s nuclear weapons outweigh humanitarian concerns about North Korea’s citizens.


Copyright © 2012 by Rhoda E. Howard-Hassmann. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the CC BY-NC-4.0 Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence, and is reproduced here with kind permission from Genocide Studies and Prevention. Originally published in Genocide Studies and Prevention, volume 7.2, DOIL 10.3138/gsp.7.2/3.147