France and Estonia are the only European countries to have no diplomatic relations with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Following the decision of the President of the French Republic in late 2009 to open a permanent office for cultural and humanitarian cooperation in the DPRK, a French Cooperation Office was opened in Pyongyang on 10 October 2011. Its primary focus is humanitarian and cultural work.
Any development in the relationship between France and the DPRK will take into account, in particular, improvements with regard to the nuclear issue, inter-Korean relations, and the humanitarian and human rights situation.
Trade between France and North Korea is limited (€6.4 million in 2014). One French company is represented in the country, where it operates a cement factory as a joint venture. Our main exports to North Korea are industrial products (medical, optical and dental instruments, various machines and pharmaceutical products). Our imports from North Korea mainly consist of electronic and manufactured products (machines, plastic and rubber, car parts, etc.).
North Korea owes France debt of around €400 million including interest, contracted during the 1970s. North Korea stopped all repayments in 1984.
Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation
Our cooperation in North Korea focuses on three areas:
Promoting French: a cooperation attaché and French language assistant is posted in Pyongyang and teaches at Kim Il-sung University and Pyongyang University of Foreign Languages. France also organizes short language courses for North Korean French teachers.
Science: a cooperation project was set up between the French School of Asian Studies (EFEO) and the North Korean office for the conservation of cultural property, in the field of research, expertise and archaeological excavation in 2003 on the site of Kaesong, former capital of the Koryo kingdom (918-1392).
Humanitarian assistance (see below).
France helps the North Korean people through humanitarian assistance (€700,000 in 2014) to two French NGOs that have been active in the country since the start of the millennium (Triangle Génération Humanitaire and Première Urgence Internationale). France also makes a significant contribution through the European Union (17% of the total budget).
France is particularly attentive to the working conditions, access conditions and monitoring of humanitarian organizations in North Korea.