France and North Korea


Political relations

France does not have diplomatic relations with the DPRK. The missions of the French Cooperation Office, opened on 10 October 2011, are mainly humanitarian and cultural.

Economic relations

Trade between France and North Korea is not very significant (€8.2 million in 2016). There are no French companies working in the country. French exports amount to €2 million and North Korea ranks 200 among France’s customers (0.004% of our exports). French exports mainly consist of goods for direct use by the people (food products and organic substances, dental and medical appliances). North Korea, France’s 153th ranking supplier, accounts for 0.002% of our imports (€10 million in mechanical and electrical appliances, plastic and rubber).

Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation

France is conducting two cooperation programmes in North Korea:

  • Promoting French: a French language assistant teaches at Kim Il-sung University and Pyongyang University of Foreign Languages. Short-term language courses are also held for North Korean French students and teachers;
  • Archaeological cooperation: France supports the programme established in 2003 between the French School of Asian Studies (EFEO) and the North Korea’s National Bureau for Cultural Properties Conservation, in the field of research, expertise and archaeological excavation on the site of Kaesong, former capital of the Koryo Kingdom (918-1392).

Other types of cooperation: humanitarian assistance

France helps the North Korean people with the humanitarian assistance it provides to two French NGOs that have been working in North Korea since the start of the millennium (Triangle Génération Humanitaire and Première Urgence Internationale) as well as to the World Food Programme (WFP). France also makes a significant contribution through the European Union (17% of the total budget).

Relations with the European Union

The European Union has maintained diplomatic relations with North Korea since 2001. A bilateral EU-North Korea political dialogue was held from 1998 to 2011. No session has been held since June 2015 in the context of the fresh nuclear weapons testing.

All of the Member States except for France and Estonia maintain diplomatic relations with North Korea. Seven of them have embassies in Pyongyang (Germany, Bulgaria, Poland, Czech Republic, Romania, the United Kingdom, Sweden) and represent the European Union, which does not have a delegation on site, via a rotating presidency. Germany held the rotating EU presidency in North Korea for the first six months of 2017.

The European Union’s policy in North Korea is based on the “critical engagement” approach. It involves providing humanitarian aid and maintaining diplomatic contact while remaining firm on such issues as non-proliferation (EU sanctions regime) and human rights (sponsoring UN resolutions).

North Korea does not benefit from traditional EU financial instruments for development nor from the Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP). The European Union has been taking humanitarian action in North Korea since 1995 in the form of food aid, medical and health assistance and agricultural aid (approximately €6 million a year). EU humanitarian aid totalled €135.3 million for 130 projects for the period 1995-2015. It also provided some €300,000 in funds to capacity building efforts directed at North Korea via the Finnish Red Cross in the area of disaster prevention for the 2017-2018 period.

Economic relations between the European Union and North Korea are limited. Bilateral trade totalled €27 million in 2016 (€6 million in North Korean imports to the EU and €22 million in EU exports to North Korea, down 3.3% versus 2015) and North Korea ranking 184 among EU trade partners. The main North Korean imports are chemicals and metals. Conversely, the EU mainly exports chemicals, pharmaceuticals and food products.

In 2006, the EU began implementing autonomous sanctions measures. They were strengthened in May 2016, on 6 April and 16 October 2017 (sectoral sanctions and individual designations).

For further information, please consult:

Updated: 26 October 2017