Being self-reliant is often a goal for most of us in our daily lives, but in North Korea it comes in the form of an entire political ideology – Juche, or “self reliance.”
The “Hermit Kingdom” as it’s called, is theoretically, a complete communist state with very little activity in terms of foreign trade and diplomatic relations. Everyday, the North Korean economy slowly moves on its own weight and force, with nearly nothing in terms of foreign support or investment. Over the last 7 decades of the Hermit Kingdom’s existence, Juche as an ideology for the masses, mixed with a dangerous personality cult of the founding Kim family, has been a recipe for a viable threat to global peace and stability.
Juche has propelled North Korea to live off its own socialist national capability, and against the intervention of any Western capitalistic ideals. One of the few exceptions to North Korea’s tough trade policy is their export relation with China. This once tight-knit relation has since dwindled due to recent political changes in the People’s Republic, and growing pressure on China to act decisively on North Korea from the USA’s Trump Administration.
The Democratic Republic of Korea has been felt the full brunt of international alienation due to their constant violations of human rights, and UN Nuclear proliferation policy. This alienation has come in forms of crushing trade embargoes, which have devastated the North’s economy. Through systems of collective farms and state-run firms, corruption is rampant through the nation’s upper class. This has resulted in often poor response to national crisis such as famine and drought. A clear example of this being the “First Arduous March” from 1994-1998, where anywhere from 240,000-3,500,000 North Koreans died in a 4 year famine. Everything from flooding, to poor government management and over-allocation of resources to military expansion in the nation’s “military first” initiative can be blamed for this humanitarian disaster.
North Korea sees many of their neighbors (and the USA) as ‘ideological enemies’, and thus threats to their nation. With their perceived enemies being more well funded and strategically capable than this starving nation, the North Koreans believe that nuclear capability is their only shield against pre-emptive “Western aggression.”
Through this point of view, North Korea’s strategy is clear- To become fully capable of engaging in nuclear warfare, to raise the factor of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) against the already nuclear capable west. As shown between the USSR and USA during the Cold War, mutually assured destruction has proven to be the main halting factor in bilateral aggression between nuclear powers, as it is the ultimate consequence of such action.
So have the North Koreans reached their strategic goal as of yet? Not quite.
As of yet, North Korea’s missile arsenal does not consists of a working unit of their ICBM type which is capable of reaching the continental USA; the “Taepodong-2”. developed yet. However as North Korean missile technology increases in sophistication, one major prospect of ICBM launching has been achieved by the DPRK- which is the ability to launch a missile into the atmosphere. Although North Korean ICBMs have yet to have a successful atmospheric descent onto a target, the prospect of them having this technology isn’t too far off. Experts say such technology could be developed and implemented within the next decade
Why should we care?
All in all, North Korea’s political situation has become the world’s business, and for good reason. This infamous nation has lived as a violator of human rights, international law on nuclear weapons, and has threatened ‘relentless war’ on its perceived enemies. Left unchecked, this rogue state will be given the chance to expand its influence, and further threaten not only its neighbors, but also the world.