Opening Doors in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea


  • James Banfill Kyungnam University, South Korea
  • Jasmine Barrett University of Melbourne, Australia
  • Carla Vitantonio CARE International, Havana, Cuba
  • Nazanin Zadeh-Cummings Centre for Humanitarian Leadership, Deakin University, Australia



Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, international humanitarian aid, social enterprise, education, tourism, emergency response and preparedness


This paper considers the opportunities for effective humanitarian collaboration in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). It brings together perspectives from three individuals with extensive lived experience working in the DPRK. Collectively, these authors have worked in various sectors of international humanitarian aid and other areas of engagement such as emergency response and preparedness, education, social enterprise and tourism. The paper draws from these experiences to present lessons on overcoming obstacles and harnessing opportunities in the DPRK.


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Author Biographies

  • James Banfill, Kyungnam University, South Korea

    James Banfill is a visiting research fellow at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies at Kyungnam University in Seoul, Korea. He has previously worked in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) on cultural projects, sports exchange, tourism, agricultural training and humanitarian aid monitoring. He holds a master’s in soil science from Pennsylvania State University, United States. 

  • Jasmine Barrett, University of Melbourne, Australia

    Jasmine Barrett is a PhD candidate at the Asia Institute, University of Melbourne. Her research focuses on the development of the disability sector in the DPRK. Her dissertation is tentatively titled ‘Disability in the DPRK: identity, social inclusion, and changing perceptions of disability’. Prior to joining the University of Melbourne, Jasmine was an entrepreneur partnering with the Korean Federation for the Protection of the Disabled to create employment for people with disability in the DPRK. 

  • Carla Vitantonio, CARE International, Havana, Cuba

    Humanitarian professional, author and activist Carla Vitantonio is a feminist and an advocate for human rights. In the past ten years, she has worked with governmental and non-governmental organisations in the DPRK, China, Myanmar, Thailand and Cuba. In each of those places, she stood beside the most vulnerable, being persons with disabilities, women and persons belonging to ethnic minorities. Carla believes in inclusive processes and the art of political negotiation. She has published two books with ADD Editore, Myanmar Swing (2021) and Pyongyang Blues (2019).

  • Nazanin Zadeh-Cummings, Centre for Humanitarian Leadership, Deakin University, Australia

    Nazanin Zadeh-Cummings has been researching humanitarian issues in the DPRK since 2014. She is both a lecturer in humanitarian studies and a graduate of a humanitarian studies master’s program, informing her interests in humanitarian pedagogy and the role of higher education and critical perspectives in the humanitarian sector. Nazanin received her PhD from the City University of Hong Kong in 2019. 


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Two officers in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea







How to Cite

“Opening Doors in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea ” (2021) The Humanitarian Leader, p. Working Paper 015, June 2021. doi:10.21153/thl2021volno0art1314.