Background Information and Relevant Data
North Korea, officially called the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), is a country located in East Asia between China and South Korea. It is widely known for its strict government-controlled media, harsh rules and regulations, nuclear weapons, and strained international relations. North Korea is currently run by Chairman Kim Jong-un, who took office in 2011. North Korean citizens have few freedoms and even fewer opportunities. The economy is largely state-run and heavily reliant on support from other nations. According to estimates, the population of North Korea was almost 25 million people in 2019. Poverty, while decreasing slightly, remains rampant and is estimated to affect more than 24% of the population.
Effects on the People
North Korea has a strict set of laws and regulations, including strict censorship of media and speech. Many North Korean citizens aren’t even allowed access to the internet and lack basic knowledge of the world outside their borders. The lack of freedom has been extremely detrimental to citizens’ mental health, with reports of high levels of depression among North Koreans. The government does little to provide for its citizens, leading to a lack of education, health care, and basic necessities like food and clean water.
The effects of poverty have been devastating. It is estimated that around 40% to 50% of the population suffers from severe food insecurity, and the UN has reported that a significant portion of the population is malnourished. Chronic illnesses are widespread, with poor medical care and poor living conditions contributing to the lack of health among citizens.
North Korea’s international relations have been strained over the years, but relations between North Korea and the United States have improved in recent years. After a flurry of diplomacy in 2018, Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump held a historic summit in Singapore. The two leaders committed to denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and signed a peace agreement. In the following months, relations between the two countries have improved, with both nations coming to the negotiating table multiple times. However, not all countries are optimistic. China, Japan and South Korea are concerned by the lack of commitment to the peace process by North Korea. They fear that the regime could backpedal and continue its nuclear weapons program.
The US has continued to impose sanctions against North Korea, which has had a major effect on the nation’s economy. The sanctions have targeted military-related activities, including coal, petroleum, and other luxury goods. US Ambassador Robert Wood stated that the sanctions have done “significant damage” to North Korea’s economy, which is estimated to have shrunk by 3-4% in 2019. Despite the high levels of poverty and deprivation in North Korea, the government has refused to give in to US demands.
North Korea is one of the few nations that maintains a nuclear weapons program. The country conducted its first nuclear test in 2006 and has continued to expand its nuclear arsenal ever since. In 2013, North Korea successfully tested an intermediate-range missile, and in 2017, the regime tested an intercontinental ballistic missile that could reach the United States. Despite international pressure, North Korea has demonstrated its commitment to maintaining a nuclear weapons program by continuing to test missiles and threatening the use of nuclear weapons.
China and the US
The tension between China and the US over North Korea has caused the two countries to nearly come to blows over the past few years. Both nations have been trying to assert control over North Korea and its nuclear program, with China hoping to gain more influence over the country and the US hoping to use sanctions and diplomatic pressure to force North Korea to denuclearize. In the end, both nations have been at an impasse, unable to come to an agreement on how to bring peace to the region and convince North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.
Impact Of Recent Events
Recent events have changed the geopolitical landscape of East Asia, with North Korea at the center. US and Chinese relations have become increasingly strained, and the region’s stability has been at risk. North Korea has continued to test missiles, despite sanctions and international pressure. The country’s leaders appear determined to keep the nuclear weapons program running, ignoring pleas from the international community.
North Korea is known for its abysmal human rights record. Its government continues to use forced labor, punish dissidents, and deny basic rights. Reports of government-sanctioned torture and killings are rampant, with many prisoners staying in internment camps for years. The state’s lack of freedom of expression, speech and press has contributed to the lack of knowledge of international rights and standards. Furthermore, the state restricts freedom of religion, denying its citizens the right to practice any religion other than the state-sponsored religion.
North Korea remains a serious problem in an already divided world. Its nuclear program and strained international relations pose serious threats to global security. The US and China are still at odds over how to handle the situation, with both nations vying for more control. Furthermore, its citizens continue to suffer from severe poverty, deprivation, and lack of basic rights. Despite the international community’s best efforts, the situation in North Korea has yet to be resolved.