"A number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs)--non-profit, charitable institutions--have been active in North Korea since the mid-1990s. Although their work is relatively limited in scope, it is of interest to U.S. policy-makers because of the deep isolation of the regime in Pyongyang. Several American and international NGOs have provided assistance to North Korea in humanitarian relief, development, health, informal diplomacy, science, communication and education. A relatively recent trend is that a growing number of NGOs, particularly in South Korea, are run by or have North Korean defectors on staff. Non-governmental organizations' activities in North Korea have stirred some controversy. Some observers believe that NGOs' projects represent one of the few ways to improve the lives of ordinary North Koreans, and that their work provides first-hand accounts about social conditions in North Korea. Some NGOs have a comparative advantage in dealing with North Korea, with over a decade's experience working with North Korean officials and institutions. However, others argue that NGOs' programs aid North Korea's regime, and that given the lack of transparency and tight restrictions imposed on them by the regime, their funds are vulnerable to diversion by North Korean officials."
CRS Report for Congress, R41749