This research is about the reasons why there is continued survival of the North Korean Country despite the harsh domestic and International conditions that have affected it over the years. The paper highlights the various problems that the country has gone through over the years especially as a communist country. The paper then focuses on the different survival strategies that the country has relied on in an attempt to survive. First, the paper looks at the conventional military brinkmanship strategy. The paper then focuses on the use of diplomacy as used by North Korea as a survival strategy. Here the paper looks at how the country has engaged with countries such as the USA and South Korea and how it has managed to maintain its allies such as China. The paper then looks at the aspect of the use and threat of use of the nuclear weapons and its role in the continued survival of the country.
North Korea was set up as an independent nation in 1948 under the UN Observation. Its inception was, however, characterized by many political, economic and military challenges. The country also decided to adopt the communist system in regard to economic policies. This has been attributed to be the main cause of the economic challenges facing the country. However, the country has recently been seen to be taking initiatives that cannot qualify to be termed as strictly economist (Andrei, et al)
North Korea has been known to have gone through innumerable number of challenges. Many communist countries collapsed in the 1990s. Such countries included the Soviet Union. It was expected that, the North Korean country would collapse just like the rest of the communist countries. However, the country has survived since 1948 to date amidst the serious challenges that have faced it. The country has been rocked by the authoritarian hereditary regimes, basic needs shortages and many more. Question then is, how has North Korea been able to survive these?
Various reasons have been postulated in trying to explain why the country has survived. This includes the use of the military to enforce its policies however outrageous, Use of diplomacy whenever necessary and appropriate and the use and threat of use of nuclear weapons.
This paper discusses in details how these could have led to the survival of the country despite the hard waters that rocked it at different stages.
According to Paik Haksoon, North Korea made four critical decisions during its extremely challenging times. It is these four decisions that have led to the continued survival of the country. They are deciding to open to the outside world to improve the economy of the state where the Rajin-Sonbong strip was turned into a free economic and trade zone to increase the rate of economic activities between itself and the outside world. Another decision that it made that led to its continued survival in finally agreeing to have talks with the USA and South Korea in 2000. This improved the relations between the countries a factor that prevented USA and South Korea from attacking it. Another critical decision was made in 2002 when North Korea decided to introduce into its economy elements of marketing. This was to improve the economy and trade with the other countries. Lastly, its decision to denuclearize in 2005 is also attributed for its continued survival as USA and other countries promised not to attack it on these grounds.
According to William Hobart, North Korea has always maintained a strategy that has enabled its continued survival. These strategies are maintaining conventional military brinkmanship which forced the locals into obedience, diplomacy with conflicting states and the use of nuclear weapons. All these have enabled it to have a bargaining power in the international realm which has led to its continued survival. According to Steven Grunau, North Korea evidently depends on the nuclear weapons for its survival. Otherwise countries such as USA would have invaded it.
The use of diplomacy has enabled North Korea survive as certain countries such as China have been known to support the diplomacy initiatives of North Korea due to the economic gains it gets from the Peninsula region. Indeed China has played a major role in the diplomacy initiatives undertaken by the country in order to maintain peace and stability in the country and region as a whole. (Sukhee Han)
Another aspect of diplomacy in regard to survival is obtaining aid from USA and other international bodies such as the World Food Program. North Korea has received a significant amount of aid as a result of its decision to engage in diplomatic arrangements with other countries. (Central Intelligence Agency) However, after the missile launch, USA withdrew its food aid to the country.
The military of North Korean government has been used in several instances to subdue the people into obeying the totalitarian government. For example, the military was to in the implementation on the policy outlawing the use of mobile phones and sale of grains in the market. (Jae Jean Suh)
The Research design of this study involved the use of secondary sources to analyze the concept of survival of the North Korean state. The secondary resources used include books, Journals and Academic articles got from the internet. The Research theory was based on the theory of self-defense. The theory postulates that North Korea has survived mainly because of its self-defense strategies which have entailed the use of denial and projection. Here, the research attempts to show that the country’s survival has been based on denying all the aspects of problems that have been happening in the country hence preventing international interventions. The denial has also included the use of the military to enforce the acceptance of its policies. It also includes the use of nuclear weapons and diplomacy only where it best suits them to enable it survive.
Reasons behind the continued survival of North Korea
North Korea was listed among the 20 failed states in a survey that was conducted between 2005 and 2011. North Korea is known to be a dictatorial regime that practices communism. It is also known as the most secular country as religion is officially banned in that state. Unike many communist countries in Europe that collapsed during the 1990s, Korea has continued to survive. This then leads to the question of what are the reasons behind North korea's continued survival despite unfavorable domestic and International conditions?
The reason behind North Korea’s continued survival is the continued use of self-defense mechanisms. This aspect of self defense consists of two major branches. These are denial and projection. These are marked by the use of force through the military and diplomacy. (Park Sang-seek, Page 1) North Korea has its own strategy of continued survival. This strategy consists of both internal and external inputs, which include history and perception, as well. In order to survive, North Korea has used the conventional military brinkmanship to achieve its objective. The resources of the country have been majorly advanced towards the military to enable the President Kim II Sung to continue having the military control. This has enabled the totalitarian regime to rely on the use of force to make its population submit to the regime. (William Hobart)
Indeed the North Korean government has been seen to be going beyond lengths to ensure the population is subject to the dictatorial regimes. One of the ways was banning mobile phones in the country. Only a few individuals were allowed to own the gadget, and this was enforced by the military. Another way that the military has been used was in 2005 when the state outlawed the sale of grain in the market. It was the military that was used to enforce such policies. It then prevents any form of uprising against the government as when it arises, the military is ready to control it.
Another aspect of self-defense in light of survival is the use of diplomacy. During the times when North Korea experienced extreme poor economic challenges, they decided to enter into diplomatic talks with other countries including USA and South Korea. It is also because of diplomacy that the country decided to Rajin-Sonbong strip was turned into a free economic and trade zone to increase the rate of economic activities between itself and the outside world. Diplomacy is what has led to the unification of the people of North Korea and is what led to the six parties talks where the country had the support of China which is known for its economic powers (Haksoon). Indeed China has been seen at the forefront in trying to stabilize the region. Since 2003, it has been noted that China has played a major role in regard to try to restore the six party talks over and again.
Another aspect of self-defense with respect to the survival strategy is the use of nuclear weapons. In 2009, North Korea tested a nuclear device, and this was what led to international sanctions against it. This has been one of its major strategies to survive as there are fears that if countries such as USA try to invade it, then there would be nuclear weapons use in the wars. North Korea depends on these weapons for survival as it fears that if it doesn’t possess these weapons then it is highly likely to be subdued by USA (Grunau). Indeed the nuclear weapons possession has been viewed as posing threats to the entire Northeast Asian region. This is especially after North Korea was witnessed to have caused bombings in Cheonan and the South’s Yeonpyong Island without any declaration of war (Han) It is thus felt that if they have nuclear weapons, they can use them without any declaration of war.
One of the reasons that have led to the fears of the eventual downfall of North Korea is the continually declining economy. The government has been accused of insisting on heavy military expenditure where the resources are directed to the military, and other sectors of the economy are ignored. The country has particularly suffered from electricity shortages where the people have been forced to resort to the use of firewood to generate heat as opposed to electricity. There have also been extreme cases of food shortages where between 1995 and 1998 more than 3 million people are estimated to have died as a result of food scarcity. Due to these problems, the government has been on a continued struggle to survive and be the legitimately recognized as the government in force. This is what causes the element of force.
North Korea’s survival strategies have been quite successful. It is acknowledged that the country has gone through several challenges including major economic recessions as a result of the communist policies. The country has also gone through various dictatorial regimes that have led to major violations of human rights in the country. However, the country’s calculated moves have ensured its continued survival. The use of the military to ensure the subduing of the citizens though has been criticized by many; it has enabled the country to control its population. There have not been many resisting groups that would have enabled the easy toppling of the government. The use of diplomacy has also enabled the government to get the aid of other superpowers when it is faced by major challenges. The use and threat of use though a very destructive strategy have enabled the country to survive. This is because this has enabled it to enter into pacts with states such as America that pacts expressly prohibit acts of aggression on North Korea. This has in turn led to the survival of the country.
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Grunau, Steven. "Negotiating Survival: The Problem of Commitment in U.S – North Korean Relations." Journal of Public and International Affairs (2014): 1-15.
Haksoon, Paik. "Changing Dynamics of the North Korean Systems. New Paradigms for Pacific Collaboration." 5 May 2005. http://www.keia.org. 11 April 2014 <http://www.keia.org/sites/default/files/publications/08Paik.pdf>.
Han, Sukhee. "China’s Post-Cheonan and -Yeonpyeong Policy toward North Korea." Jung-gu: Seoul, East Asia Institute (2012).
Hobart, William. "Threat Perception, Succession and Domestic Interests: Conceptualizing Contemporary North Korean Strategy." (2010): 1-51.