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The North Korean nuclear problem and the future of the Korean Peninsula has become one of the most significant issues deciding the security and stability of the Korean people and the East Asian region. Differences of strategies and debates have contributed to the dynamic search for a solution to the North Korean nuclear problem and the right course for North Korea’s future. Both incentives and disincentives will help the North Korean leadership choose the right path for the North Korean people and the whole Peninsula.
The proper combination of essential alternatives such as sanctions, deterrence, engagement and assisting North Korea in undergoing internal transformation will be important. International society shares the wish for North Korea to become a normal state with a proper global status. This website aims to provide articles and video on North Korea produced by governments, policy institutes, media, and think tanks to track the evolution of these strategies and their impact. This website was created and is maintained by the East Asia Institute and is funded by the UniKorea Foundation.
North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons was undertaken for both military purposes and to ensure the survival of North Korea after the end of the Cold War. If we provide a blueprint for the survival and development of a denuclearized, normalized North Korea, the North Korean leadership will choose a different path. The combination of sanctions and deterrence with continuing diplomatic efforts and negotiations will be instrumental in denuclearizing North Korea and the stability of the Korean Peninsula. Declaring a formal end to the Korean War and building a durable peace regime on the Peninsula with international support will be critical to engaging with North Korea. Establishing strong ties with North Korea both at the governmental and societal level will pave the way for a strong foundation for North Korea’s change. Economic assistance to North Korea will also be a key part of this strategy, as the process of North Korea’s denuclearization will be accompanied by policy changes in surrounding countries. An important task for international society will be to suggest an effective and agreeable path for North Korea’s economic development.
What kind of country North Korea will become is ultimately up to the North Korean people. Throughout its history, North Korea has never experienced democracy, freedom of citizens, a true market economy, or open relations with international society. Once it moves beyond complete denuclearization, North Korea will be in a position to develop its economy, normalize dynamic relations with international society, and foster socio-cultural exchanges with other countries. During this process, it will be important to learn how to promote North Korea’s internally driven change and reform. Changes in the international order and internal shifts will leave North Korea with a wide open future. It will be in the interest of neighboring countries to suggest various alternative models for North Korea’s reform and opening. In other words, the common objective of international society is for North Korea to succeed, achieve a normal status, and establish strong ties with South Korea and other neighboring countries.
North Korea developed its nuclear program in violation of the international norm of nuclear non-proliferation. It has posed direct military threats to South Korea, Japan, and the United States and worsened concerns over the potential for illegal transfer of nuclear and missile technologies. International society has implemented economic and diplomatic sanctions, mainly within the framework of United Nations resolutions, to dissuade North Korea from continuing its nuclear program. Until the complete denuclearization of North Korea is achieved, sanctions including commercial, financial, and travel restrictions applied as penalties in response to harmful North Korean policies will be crucial in changing North Korea’s behavior. Sanction policies have also been implemented targeting the North Korean leadership in response to the deplorable human rights situation. International agreement on the methods, duration, and intensity of sanctions and pressure will influence North Korea’s decision making effectively, making possible the complete and permanent denuclearization of North Korea.
Since the end of the Korean War in 1953, inter-Korean relations have been defined by the fact that the war ended in a truce and continuing military provocations from the North. South Korea has been strengthening various methods of military deterrence to cope with the North Korean threat. Since the first nuclear test in 2006, nuclear deterrence has become an urgent issue for South Korea, and strong deterrence will be a foundation upon which negotiations for North Korean denuclearization can be held. For the time being, military measures intended to dissuade North Korea from taking military action will be critical to protecting the security of South Korea and the Northeast Asian region. Since North Korea embarked on its nuclear program,South Korea has been developing its missile defense systems, the kill chain to prevent North Korean attacks, and means for mass retaliation. The ROK-US alliance has been key to the defense preparation against a potential North Korean nuclear attack, and the United States has provided extended deterrence without fail.
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