North Korea Essay

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The problem of the division of the Korean Peninsula into two separate states still exists, and the issue of the entry of North Korea into the international community is one of the most actual in contemporary international relations. The nuclear and rocket programs of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the militarization of the country, as well as the growing gap between the development of North and South Koreas represent the challenges for the peaceful coexistence of both nations and intimidate the political balance in the Asia-Pacific region (Armstrong, 2017). Nowadays, the threats to the security of the entire world community are concentrated on the Korean Peninsula. Moreover, the world community still experiences the consequences of the Korean War of 1950-1953 in the form of a demarcation line that divides Korea into the northern and southern parts. The security issues on the Korean Peninsula affect the interests of not only the nearby nations but also many other countries in the world (Bar-Yam, 2017). Therefore, North Korea’s policy is aimed at isolationism while the basis of its strategy is the development of nuclear weapons. The North Korea’s foreign policy course is one of the most dangerous in the world; thus, the world community should implement measures to stop that threat and help the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to transform into a reliable partner on the global map.

Development of Relations Between the DPRK and the USA

The most acute issue in relations between North Korea and the United States is the situation around the nuclear status of the former. Nowadays, there are a number of problems that both countries face; thus, they cannot come to mutually beneficial cooperation. One of them is the possession of the nuclear weapons contributes to the destruction of the regime of non-proliferation of nuclear threat in the world (Lawson, 2012). Accordingly, to solve the global task of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, it is possible to make certain compromises in regards to North Korea (Lawson, 2012). The messianic approach can be used, as North Korea does not correspond to American ideas about the ideal state; therefore, it is inadmissible to enter into dialogue with it and make compromises (Lawson, 2012). The North Korea’s political regime should either be transformed on the basis of liberal values or overthrown at all (Haggard & Noland, 2017). The adherents of the isolationist approach believe that the United States should not spend too much efforts to solve the problems of North Korea, as it ought to be the main task of the countries that are in the immediate geographic proximity to the DPRK (Pettitt & Bahn, 2015). Finally, there are quite a few supporters of maintaining the status quo on the peninsula, as this would allow the US to maintain the military presence in South and North Koreas, thus fully controlling the region.

It should be noted that there are developed options on measures that should be implemented in the event of the acquisition of the latest nuclear weapons by the DPRK. The first option envisages the acquisition of similar weapons by South Korea, which would provide a deterrent mechanism (Pettitt & Bahn, 2015). The second option considers the international economic sanctions as an important instrument of pressure on the DPRK (Pettitt & Bahn, 2015). According to the third option, the military proceedings could be taken in opposition to North Korean nuclear services. The United States of America recognizes only one state on the Korean Peninsula, namely the Republic of Korea. North Korea, in the minds of most Americans, is an ideological opponent that constitutes a constant threat to both the United States and the entire world community. The most acceptable option for the development of events for the US on the Korean Peninsula is the absorption made by South Korea of its neighbor. In turn, it is worth to note that North Korea, namely its leadership, may refuse to curtail and dismantle all nuclear programs (Haggard & Noland, 2017). Over the past few years, the plutonium as well as uranium enrichment programs have helped ensure the sovereignty of the country and non-interference in its internal affairs by other states. For the Republic of Korea, the United States of America has been the major ally and political associate.

North and South Korea: The Cooperation and Co-Existence

Major relations between the states over the past decades have gone through several stages, each of which can be traced to two main trends: cooperation and confrontation. The history of confrontation is conditioned by the initial conditions for the creation of two antagonistic Korean states. At the same time, the history of cooperation is shorter; it is constantly dependent on domestic and foreign policy conjuncture. The rivalry between the two states is declared on the legal level. At the declarative stage, both countries seek to unite and work together (Hewitt, 2017). Nowadays, the development of a military conflict between the two nations is very unlikely since the new policy of both states is aimed at rapprochement, cooperation, as well as unification. Uniting by peaceful means is an important slogan that is used in the rhetoric of politicians and public figures in both North and South Koreas. In the late 20th century and at the early 21th century, this goal played an important role in the formation of bilateral cooperation between the RK and the DPRK. At the same time, each side seeks and tends to dominate the process. In South Korea, in the mid-1980s, a strategy was chosen that relied on the use of “soft power” in the formation of the foreign policy line. Over the past 20 years, the RK has managed to achieve impressive results in this direction (Kim & Cohen, 2017). At the same time, the country is actively continuing to develop and strengthen its armed forces (the Republic of Korea is among the world’s top ten in terms of the costs that are spent on the procurement of weapons). In the conditions of the collapse of the global system, the North Korea’s social leaders chose the strategy that is associated with the use of “hard power” (Roy, 2017). As part of the development of this strategy, its nuclear missile program should also be considered.

In contemporary conditions, there are several models of the possible unification of both nations. The first variant of the development of events is the unification by force as a result of the war. The second choice is the incorporation of North Korea by South Korea. The first scenario, which means another war on the peninsula, is extremely undesirable for both the DPRK and the RK. Due to the existence of allied treaties between the RK and the US on the one hand, and the PRC and DPRK on the other, the conflict can grow from local to regional one (Kim & Cohen, 2017). The probability of implementing this scenario is extremely low since the DPRK and the RK understand that with the current military potential, the consequences of the war can be catastrophic for both states, thus leading to the disintegration of the Korean states of their current forms. The second variant of the development of events is the “absorption” of North Korea by South Korea. The process can occur in two cases: the collapse of the North Korean regime or its gradual transformation and “embedding” in the South Korean state system. It should also be noted that for almost sixty years, two Koreas are actually in complete isolation from each other. After the end of the Korean War, there are practically no contacts between them (Kong, 2018). During this time, two generations have grown up, and they live in conditions of division of the peninsula.

The Current Military Policy of North Korea

North Korea has its own policy, which differs from many international policies in general. Due to its isolation and sovereign behavior, most countries consider North Korea to be one of the most dangerous countries in the world, as the state actively creates and tests nuclear weapons. North Korea has a unique domestic and foreign policy that allows it to enter into conflict, including a military one, with any state in the world (Lee, 2018). Nowadays, the DPRK is developing two trends in foreign and domestic policies.

On the one hand, the authorities are trying to revive economic processes with traditional methods for the “socialist” economy. Understanding the need of the current administration to reconsider at least the extremes of socio-economic policy that have led North Korea to a deadlock makes the country’s leadership think about the possibility of feeding and providing a minimum of the population’s needs through the redistribution of budgetary funds and the introduction of “material incentives” in production. The chances of success of such a policy are based on the experience of the countries of Eastern Europe as well as pre-reforms in China and Vietnam.

On the other hand, the process of forming market relations is spontaneously developing: the shadow economy is growing, a big amount of food is sold through private trade, as well as the country lacks a strong currency (Lee & English, 2016). The actions of the authorities are contradictory. For example, they partially allow its citizens to perform the commercial activity, but the government seeks to take control of it. Apart from that, the state authorities introduce restrictive measures, thus relying on administrative prohibitions. As a result, the uncertainty of strategic priorities remains, while the corruption and disorganization of production at state-owned enterprises are growing.

The absence of fundamental changes is compensated by changes in external manifestations that are submitted by the new government, as it is evidence through the implementation of the innovative approaches in socio-economic policy, which is typical for totalitarian regime during the change of leaders. For the moment, the internal stability cannot be achieved without improving the social and economic situation (Loo, 2017). It should be noted that there are many reasons why one can note the unconventional political activity of North Korea; thus, due to that, its military conflicts with other states are possible. First, the fears are growing with every year due to the actions of the DPRK, as its leadership conducts an irrational and destructive policy on the Korean Peninsula and in the Asia region. Secondly, the military and political tension is intensifying owing to the actions of the North Korean leadership as well as due to the military and political countermeasures on the part of South Korea, the United States, and a number of other states that want to protect their safety. Thirdly, the opportunities for resolving the pressing problems of North Korea by peaceful political and diplomatic means, such as denuclearization and the establishment of the peace regime instead of the 1953 armistice agreement, are significantly reduced. Fourthly, the chance for the withdrawal of inter-Korean relations from the impasse is lost, and for Pyongyang, the possibility for the search for compromise has sharply narrowed (Loo, 2017). Finally, the most important in this whole situation is the qualitative deterioration of the foreign policy situation for North Korea against the backdrop of a further decline in the prestige of the nation and its leadership in the eyes of its neighbors, thus toughening the attitude towards it from the outside world. North Korea does not seek to build economic and political cooperation with other states. The political and provocative actions of Pyongyang not only strengthened the rejection of Western countries but also translated the algorithm of relations with them from the plane of trying to achieve mutual understanding to maintaining limited contacts for this purpose in the direction of wider use of political pressure and various sanctions (Ong-Webb & Liang Tuang, 2017). On the other hand, the possibility for the foreign policy maneuver is significantly decreased. To date, North Korea’s policy is considered aggressive and dangerous for other states in the world.

The Songun Policy: North Korea's Military-First Ideology

The Songun policy, also known as the Military-First policy, is a core tenet of North Korea's political ideology. It was introduced by Kim Jong-il, the former leader of North Korea, in the late 1990s and has since become a cornerstone of the country's governance. The policy prioritizes the needs of the military above all else, including the country's economy and civilian population. This section will explore the origins and implications of the Songun policy in North Korea.

Origins of the Songun Policy

The Songun policy emerged in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union, which had been a key ally and source of economic support for North Korea. In the 1990s, North Korea faced a severe economic crisis that led to widespread food shortages and economic hardship. Kim Jong-il responded to this crisis by shifting the focus of the country's resources towards the military. He believed that a strong military was essential for North Korea's survival in the face of external threats, particularly from the United States.

Implications of the Songun Policy

The Songun policy has had significant implications for North Korea's economy and society. By prioritizing military spending over other sectors, the government has been able to maintain a large and well-equipped army. However, this has come at the cost of neglecting other areas of the economy, including agriculture, industry, and infrastructure. As a result, North Korea remains one of the poorest countries in the world, with a per capita GDP of less than $2,000.

The Songun policy has also had a profound impact on North Korean society. The military is highly respected in North Korea, and many young people aspire to join its ranks. Military service is mandatory for all men, and those who serve are often given preferential treatment in terms of access to education and employment. However, the focus on the military has also meant that other sectors, such as education and healthcare, have suffered from a lack of resources.

Criticism of the Songun Policy

The Songun policy has been criticized by many in the international community, who see it as a threat to regional stability. North Korea's nuclear weapons program, which is closely tied to the Songun policy, has been a particular source of concern. The government's focus on military spending has also been criticized for exacerbating poverty and neglecting the needs of the civilian population.

Analysis of the Case Study: Obstacles to the Solution of Military and Political Problems

The rivalry for influence on the Korean Peninsula was one of the factors of the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905. After Russia’s defeat in this conflict, Japan began to realize its colonial plans in Korea (Bolton, 2017). In 1910, the Korean-Japanese Treaty on the unification was signed, which legally secured the annexation of the Korean Peninsula by Japan. Korea disappeared from the political map of the world. According to the agreements reached at the end of the Second World War, north of the 38th parallel of the Korean Peninsula was occupied by the Soviet troops, while the south was introduced to American troops (Chartrand, Harvey, Tremblay, & Ouellet, 2017). At the same time, the slow increase in tensions between previous allies in the anti-Hitler coalition, the recounting of the Cold War in the worldwide arena, and the specifics of domestic political processes led to the formation of two separate countries on the Korean Peninsula, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the north and the Republic of Korea in the south, in 1948 (Chartrand et al., 2017). The Korean War of 1950-1953 became a manifestation of the global confrontation of the two systems that characterized the initial period of the Cold War, after its completion and until the mid of the 1980s (Gilley, 2014). The situation around the Korean Peninsula was determined by the realities of the international relations of that era.

In the early 1990s, just after the collapse of the Soviet Union and communist regimes in Eastern Europe, it seemed that the days of the Kim Il Sung regime in North Korea were numbered (Sang-Hun, 2017). Therefore, the unification of the Korean Peninsula, which would solve many of the problems existing in international relations, could happen soon (Sang-Hun, 2017). However, this did not happen. Even in conditions of deep social and economic crisis, the DPRK has stood up (Valladas et al., 2013). Moreover, the global changes took place in the world during the 1980s and 1990s, thus contributing to even greater isolation of the DPRK (Sang-Hun, 2017). In the years since the split in Korea, the two new states have followed their own way of development, and by the end of the 20th century, they were in completely different domestic political, economic, and international conditions (Luckhardt, 2014). In the late 1980s, the RK as well as the DPRK were perceived as third world states. However, at the beginning of the 21st century, the situation radically changed (Haggard & Noland, 2017). Nowadays, the Republic of Korea is the dynamic and stable member of the worldwide community; it is one of the most cost-effectively developed states in the world (Guibert, Brodard, Quiles, Geneste, Baffier, Debard, & Ferrier, 2015). While the DPRK, owing to its internal economic difficulties as well as special foreign and domestic policies that were aimed at preserving the existing realities, has turned into one of the so-called “rogue” states.

Historically, North Korea has been carrying the autonomous political and economic activities, thus relying on its own interests. To a greater extent, North Korea is a country that develops its own internal policy as well as economy by using its own economic assets. The growth of the foreign policy and economy in the country is on the second place (Delannoy, David, Geneste, Katherine, Barker, Whear, & Gunn, 2013). The lack of support of long-term relations between North Korea and other world powers narrows the circle of allies of the country and leads to its isolated status (Nishiura, Lee, Yuan, Endo, Akhmetzhanov, & Chowell, 2018). In this way, the growth of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and potential military conflicts are upsetting worldwide organizations and its members.

It is worth noting that the position of North Korea is not clear to most countries, but military operations in the state are considered a threat. The leadership of North Korea does not try to unleash a military conflict with other countries but aims it actions to minimize international cooperation with them (Valladas et al., 2013). One of the most central obstacles that can ruin all efforts to make North Korea a true member of the world community is the fact that the North Korean political government has gradually acquired those exclusive features that characterize it to this day: the particular role of the nationwide leader, a specific system of social mobilization and control, appeal to national uniqueness and personality, as well as a policy of the isolationism (Delannoy et al., 2013). Apart from that, the inability of the North Korean regime to change its socialist system does not lead to any significant domestic changes within its borders.

At the same time, the end of the Cold War resulted in the transformation of the system of international relations to a fundamental change in the conditions in which the North Korean regime developed for a long time (Baker &Tackett, 2018). Against this backdrop, the isolation of the DPRK is visibly increasing. It was caused not only by the traditional features of political culture as well as the change in the foreign policy course of the USSR and the PRC but also by internal political reasons (Pollack, 2017). The North Korean leadership implemented those changes that occurred in the countries of the countries from the socialist camp with great caution. The conclusion was that the only way to survive the regime under the new conditions was the absence of any political concessions, liberalization, and ideological indulgences.


The Korean Peninsula was and remains one of the key points in the world politics. North Korea seeks not to lose its sovereignty but achieve external guarantees for the preservation of the existing political regime. For today, despite the isolated policy, North Korea develops economic relations with such countries as South Korea and the United States of America. First of all, this refers to attempts to develop its own nuclear and missile programs. Nowadays, for the North Korean regime, the main task is to get official recognition and establish the direct dialogue with the United States. For bilateral inter-Korean relations, the last decades are characterized by both open confrontation and declarative calls for unification. The concepts of the unification that developed in the south and the north of the Korean Peninsula have much in common. In fact, these are utopian projects inspired by nationalistic sentiments, and they are both strong in the RK and in the DPRK.

In inter-Korean relations and in the situation around the Korean Peninsula, the new opportunities appear, and they are to be used to strengthen peace and stability in the region. For many years, North Korea adheres to the policy of isolation and develops its military potential as the main strategy of the nation. At the same time, the country is producing the nuclear weapons, which is contrary to all international safety standards. Due to the development of nuclear weapons, the country is considered one of the most dangerous states in the world. The reason why North Korea has the nuclear weapons is due to its enemies. Apart from that, it gives it the opportunity to avoid military contradictions with such great countries as the US and South Korea. In this way, the world community should make efforts to help North Korea transform into the democratic state, thus preserving peace and safety on the global map. As for the DPRK’s leadership, it should also show the world that it wants to change by implementing the required policies and following the recommendations.


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