As a keen observer of International Relations, there lie many countries as prominent examples of reforming its diplomatic stature in Geopolitics. Regions of the Western Bloc who’ve been custodian of global hegemony are now witnessing a massive shift over a multi polar world order. Courtesy being that of emerging Asian powers like Japan, China and of course our very own India.
However extending our visuals beyond these located is a tiny nation sandwiched between China and rest of South East Asian boundary named North Korea (DPRK). North Korea is an uncommon country in an uncommon geopolitical situation.
The ideology of the North Korean regime is focused on isolation and self reliance, which is almost impossible considering the agricultural circumstances and the lack of resources in the country. Nevertheless, the regime has been able to survive for almost 75 years already. This has only been possible because the geopolitical situation of North Korea offers the isolationist regime a useful tool for survival.
North Korea directly borders two great powers (China and Russia) and indirectly even one more (the United States, through its close allies South Korea and Japan). The geopolitical importance of the Korean peninsula offers the North Korean regime a rarely seen opportunity to provoke and blackmail rivalling great powers to ensure its security and to extract economic aid. Known as ‘The Hermit Kingdom’, North Korea is regarded as a region with its bizarre yet strict restrictions for the citizens. Some of these involve restricted access to the internet for public, not allowing pet dogs in their residents, non-wearing of blue denims and so on.
The regime that shaped North Korean society since the establishment of the state till present is often seen as a mix of Confucianism, Tyranny and a Monarchial mindset. In fact there is a better word framed by them collectively known as ‘Juche’. The main essence of this can be summarized as ‘Self Reliance’. The ideology prescribes to have as little contact with the rest of the world as possible, because other countries will always try to influence and to make use of the North Korean people. Just the way it happened in the past. The main problem for the regime, however, is adapting the Juche ideology to the economy. Touted as one of the poorest countries in the world, 60% of its population lives in poverty. The country’s GDP stands at $30Bn in 2022 ranked in total 208th of all economies.
Speaking about its food security, DPRK lacks sufficient food production due to lack of product diversification and outdated technology. According to UN World Food Program, around 10 million people are malnourished. Coming to its economic resources, most of it gets invested into strengthening their military in various forms. Notably in Nuclear weapons, Ballistic missile and Modern arms project. There are a host of sources via which North Korea generates such humungous revenue for these activities.
First being their ace cybercrime hackers. These set of people operate from their bases and indulge in stealing of crypto revenue from various funds amounting to $620mn in 2022. Second being its similar thinking ally i.e. China. Being their largest trading partner, they invest in mining activities involving Iron, Steel, Coal and Rare-Earth Minerals. DPRK has a huge arms sale black market where they sell its weapons parties involving Asia and Africa. Adding further, illicit drug markets and overseas slave labour markets are other reasons contributing. Considering such Belligerent activities and such dominant regime, DPRK seems one of the biggest threats to not just its neighbours but to the Rest of the World. The country most suffering under the North Korean provocations is South Korea and Japan.
Actually, all aggressions of the regime in Pyongyang are targeted at these two nations, being considered a vassal state of the United States and as such planning a forced reunification of both Koreas under Western ideology. Every now and then Pyongyang threatens to turn south and turn these regions into a nuclear Armageddon. Numbers suggest there has been total 40 tests across 20 different locations in the last year involving ICBMs.
The US attempts like deterrence, economic and military sanctions have only proved to be two steps forward and one step back. Thus there exists in such case, 3 different possibilities. 1. Countries giving high preference to ‘Regular Engagement’ with North Korea in order to reduce excess influence from its current allies. 2. In the modern era, where nuclear possession and its actual usage involves major difference, countries like US needs to keep control on their beliefs before controlling their arms. 3. Initiating the use of pre-emptive use of military force in cases of missile testing. Although this can result in escalating the conflict,, but if used smartly can prevent such instances. Because of its geopolitical position, it his hard to find any state involved in the region willing to act rigorously towards the North Korean regime.
Kim Jong Un and his comrades are well aware of this, and they know perfectly how to use this reality. As long as the regime respects some limits, it can continue to provoke and use tension-seeking behaviour to force concessions – especially economic aid like food and energy assistance. As long as the regime respects the minimum of stability desired by the states involved, it is more or less allowed to provoke now and then.
Nevertheless, although no states involved desire sudden regime change in Pyongyang, there is a broad support for gradual regime change. The shared hope is that the North Korean rulers in the end will understand that their policies are not viable in the long term, but that they could gain (economically, but also in international status) by initiating some economic reforms like other regimes (e.g. China and Vietnam) managed in the past. Although in the current context, there are no such signs. It is still pragmatic to think and act upon such situations.
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