North Korea, officially the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, is a country situated in the southern part of the Korean peninsula. It is a one party state, with the Workers’ Party of Korea as the only legally-recognised political party in the country. In 1945, at the end of World War II, the Korean peninsula was divided into two countries; the socialist Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the north and the capitalist Republic of Korea in the south, following a period of Japanese colonial rule. North Korea has been ruled by the same family since its inception, with the current leader, Kim Jong-un, being the third generation to govern the country. North Korea has vast military and nuclear capabilities, and has been an important geopolitical player in East Asia since the 1940’s.
Since the 1950’s, North Korea has pursued a policy of juche, or self-reliance, which has resulted in a largely isolated and heavily militarised nation. Relations between North Korea and the wider international community have been strained due to the country’s human rights record, its frequent military provocations, and its nuclear weapons program. In recent years, North Korea has moved towards a more open economy and, in April 2018, it held a historic summit between it and the South, designed to reduce tensions on the peninsula. However, there remain a large number of unresolved issues, with North Korea demanding security assurances and the lifting of economic sanctions in exchange for denuclearisation, something that has yet to come to fruition.
What Type Of Government Does North Korea Have?
The government of North Korea is a socialist single-party state, with the Workers’ Party of Korea being the only legally recognised political party in the country. According to the constitution of North Korea, the Supreme People’s Assembly is the highest organ of state power. The legislature is elected through universal suffrage, and was last held in 2019. The Supreme People’s Assembly elects the President of North Korea, who serves as the head of state, and is currently held by Kim Jong-un. The President is also Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces and Chairman of the State Affairs Commission. The government structure of North Korea also includes the Primer Minister and the Cabinet, with the Premier and Vice Premiers elected by the Supreme People’s Assembly. The Supreme People’s Assembly also elects the members of the National Defence Commission.
Censorship and Human Rights
The government of North Korea is known for its strict censorship and oppressive human rights record. North Korean citizens have few rights and very limited freedom of expression, with access to the internet being heavily restricted. The government has a tight grip on information, with all media in North Korea being heavily monitored and controlled by the ruling regime. Any criticism of the regime or espousal of anti-government views is severely punished by the authorities. In recent years, the international community has raised concerns about the plight of North Koreans living in political prison camps, where hundreds of thousands are said to be kept in inhumane conditions.
North Korea has a poor record of international relations, often engaging in military provocations against its neighbours and refusing to abide by UN resolutions. As such, the country has international sanctions placed upon it by the UN Security Council, as well as by various other countries, in an effort to convince it to surrender its nuclear weapons. The government of North Korea relies heavily on friendly relations with China, which supplies it with much of its economic aid. North Korea also has an uneasy relationship with the US, and has engaged in high-level diplomacy with the country in the hope of garnering concessions in the form of economic aid and security guarantees.
North Korea has a highly planned economy, and is heavily dependent on external aid, mostly from China. The government exercises strict control over the country’s economic activities, directing the activities of the private sector and all large businesses. North Korea is not only subject to severe international sanctions, but is also suffering from a severe lack of natural resources, such as oil and gas. This has resulted in a crippled economy and a high rate of poverty and starvation. There have recently been efforts by the government to open the economy up to foreign investment and the development of special economic zones, in an effort to boost its economic prospects.
North Korea has a sizable military force, which is estimated to have over 1 million active personnel. The military acts as a prop for the Kim regime and its policies, and is equipped with nuclear weaponry, conventional artillery, and a large number of ballistic missiles. The military power of North Korea enables it to flex its muscles in its neighbourhood, as seen with its recent provocations against South Korea and Japan. It also serves as a deterrent to potential challengers to its rule, as any invasion of North Korea would likely be met with fierce resistance.
The Korean DMZ
The Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) is a strip of land separating North and South Korea. It is a heavily militarised area, with both sides deploying large numbers of troops to the region, and it serves as a buffer between the two Koreas. The DMZ is also home to the Joint Security Area (JSA), which is where all dialogue between the two Koreas takes place. The JSA is heavily guarded by a United Nations Command, made up of seven countries, which serves as a buffer between the two parties.
Political Position of North Korea
The political position of North Korea is one of non-alignment, with the government refusing to join any international alliances. This has resulted in its isolation from the wider international community, and its actions are often met with condemnation. However, North Korea has been engaging in diplomatic dialogue with a number of countries in recent years, including the US and South Korea, in an effort to reduce tensions and foster positive relationships.
The Nuclear Weapons Program of North Korea
The nuclear weapons program of North Korea has been a major cause for concern in the international community, as it poses a significant threat to peace and security in the region. North Korea has conducted several nuclear tests in recent years, in defiance of UN resolutions, and is believed to possess a credible nuclear arsenal. In 2018, it held a historic summit with South Korea, during which it agreed to work towards denuclearisation, though these efforts have yet to come to fruition.
Surveillance of North Koreans
North Korea employs a pervasive system of surveillance over its citizens, in an effort to maintain control over the population and to limit freedom of expression. The government is known to employ a wide range of tactics, such as phone tapping, monitoring of internet activities, and surveillance of both domestic and international communications. There are also reports of the authorities using informants to gather information, and of measures such as home searches and interrogations being carried out on citizens.
Global Reception of North Korea
The government of North Korea is widely regarded as an oppressive and brutal regime, with the international community largely condemning its actions. There are a large number of criticisms levelled at the country, from its poor human rights record and its history of military provocations, to its nuclear weapons program and its lack of free and fair elections. As such, many countries have imposed economic sanctions on North Korea in an effort to bring about positive change, though so far these efforts have not led to the desired outcome.