Canada–North Korea relations

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Canada–North Korea relations
Map indicating locations of Canada and North Korea


North Korea

Canada and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea or North Korea arrange very little trade due to Canada's current strong support of US foreign policy directions in the Asia Pacific and Canada's perspective that DPR Korea plays a destabilizing role in the region. Although diplomatic relations between the two countries were established in February 2001, they were suspended in May 2010, and there have been no official embassies built in the two nations.

Activities between the two are restricted to humanitarian aid only. Travel and commerce with North Korea is discouraged. Nevertheless, Canadians are still able to contact the British embassy in Pyongyang if they want to visit DPR Korea.

Canada is represented by The Canadian Ambassador resident in Seoul, and North Korea is represented through their permanent representative to the UN in New York.

According to a 2013 BBC World Service Poll, only 7% of Canadians view North Korea's influence positively, with 79% expressing a negative view.[1]


Contact between Canada and Korea dates back to the 19th century when Canadians were among the first Westerners to arrive on the Korean peninsula. Most of them were Christian missionaries, though they branched out into other fields of work. Reverend James S. Gale created the Korean-English Dictionary which became the first and most essential tool for the scholarly study of Korea in the West. His translation of the Bible into Korean constituted the foundation of Korean Christianity. Another Canadian, Dr. Oliver R. Avison, was the personal physician to King Kojong and is considered the founder of modern medical knowledge in Korea. Official contact began in 1947 when Canada participated in the United Nations Commission overseeing election in Korea. Canada formally recognized the Republic of Korea in 1949 and the Democratic People's Republic in 2000.

When the war broke out between North and South Korea in 1950, Canada sent 26,971 military personnel to Korea as part of United Nations Command, the third largest contingent behind the United States and the United Kingdom; 516 Canadians died in the war.

On 25 May 2010, Canada suspended diplomatic relations with North Korea over its alleged role in the sinking of ROKS Cheonan.[2]

Canadian NGOs[edit]

CanKor is one organization contributing to the dialogue over Canada's role with DPR Korea.[3]

Humanitarian aid[edit]

There is a small number of organizations providing aid to DPR Korea. First Steps [4] is a Vancouver-based Christian development organization.

Canadian Foodgrains Bank [5] is a partnership of Canadian churches and church-based agencies.

Mennonite Central Committee is also a well known organization that provides aid to the impoverished Korean nation.[6]

Advocacy organizations[edit]

HanVoice is a Canadian non-profit organization that was first established to support the resettlement of DPR Korean refugees in Canada and has grown over the years to become the largest Canadian organization advocating for improved human rights in North Korea. Today, the organization supports DPRK refugees resettle in the Greater Toronto Area, finances on-the-ground humanitarian initiatives in DPR Korea and works with leading politicians and policy experts to promote the human rights agenda.

Canadian academic institutions[edit]

UBC's Institute of Asian Research [7] houses the Centre for Korean Research.[8] In 1993, the Centre was established as a constituent part of the Institute of Asian Research. It was established to facilitate multidisciplinary research on Korea.

York University provides a focus on North Korea through its York Centre for Asian Research,[9] Korean Studies Group.[10] This group brings the study of South Korea, DPR Korea, and the Korean diaspora together, investigating the formation of the national division and shifting boundaries of the nation. Drawing scholars together from different disciplines, it seeks to develop a comparative perspective that places Korean affairs in dialogue with historical, global and theoretical changes.

The University of Toronto houses the Centre for the Study of Korea, Asian Institute, Munk School of Global Affairs.[11] The Centre was established in the fall of 2006 with the goal of promoting critical approaches to the research of Korea.