When North Korea Was Founded

North Korea, officially known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), was founded in the year 1948 by Kim Il-Sung, the first president of the country. The country has experienced great turbulence since then and it still continues to remain a major source of geopolitical tension in the world today. The creation and long-standing survival of North Korea as one of the most isolated nations on the planet despite all the challenges and threats has been an intriguing process.

Introducing a singularly unique form of state socialist rule, Kim Il-Sung initiated an uncompromising form of Marxist-Leninism, praised and cherished by the North Korean population. The official Juche ideology was born which propagated self-reliance and anti-imperialism. For them, self-reliance was paramount in order to establish an independent socialist nation-state with the government focusing on attaining full control over its resources and building a uniquely distinct North Korean society.

The second president of North Korea, Kim Jong-Il practiced his version of “Songun” politics, or “Military-First”. This policy has been the cause of North Korea being labeled as a pariah state by the international community and has been identified as a main source of belligerent behavior, international sanctions and human rights violations in the nation.

To this day, North Korea continues to be heavily reliant on its vast military, with estimates available suggesting that the country contains one of the largest armed forces in the world in terms of personnel, with more than eight million active soldiers. This strong dependence, of course, is the primary reason for the nation’s high military expenditure, believed to be around 22% of its entire Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Along with the heavy dependency upon their military and the use of revolutionary ideology as a tool for mobilizing people, North Korea has focused on developing its nuclear arsenal.

Nuclear weapons and missiles have come to dominate the North Korean strategy of deterrence and self-defense, posing significant challenges for other countries like South Korea, Japan, USA and even China. In 2019, North Korea successfully tested a Russian-made ICBM rocket named “Hwasong-15”, further propelling the country towards superpower status. The United Nations and other international organizations have heavily criticized these steps and have imposed several sanctions against North Korea.

Despite these sanctions and criticism, the North Korean government remains defiant and has brushed aside several proposals for reform. It still operates under the same Juche ideology and rules with an iron fist, while stabilizing its position in the Korean peninsula with the hope of becoming a superpower one day.

International Diplomacy

In 2009, North Korea adopted a series of disabling measures, aimed at increasing its presence in the international community. This included the establishment of embassies in multiple countries, the expansion of trade and diplomatic relations and the involvement in many international forums and conferences. This was an attempt to emerge as a powerful nation with a voice in international affairs. North Korea is also a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Despite this attempt at “internationalization”, North Korea continues to remain isolated from most of the world and in 2016, the United Nations Human rights council held a one-day debate on the human rights violations in the nation. This was followed by its sixth nuclear test, which further isolated the country. Ever since then, the international community has continued to be critical of North Korea’s policy of nuclear development and human rights record.

Human Rights Issues

North Korea has a dismal human rights record and millions of its citizens are deprived of their basic rights. It is widely recognized as one of the most oppressive regimes in the world and the media is strictly censored and government-controlled. People’s movements are also tightly controlled, with only certain zones and areas being accessible to foreigners. The government controls the lives of its citizens in an attempt to regulate any sort of dissent. Internet access is heavily regulated and only accessible to a few.

The humanitarian crisis in the nation is well documented, with reports of starvation, torture, executions and arbitrary imprisonment existing. UNSC monitors suggest that these grave human rights violations are committed systematically, with full knowledge of the government. People lack access to health care, education and the right to a fair trial, leading to immense suffering. Migrants seeking to establish new lives in other countries are often subject to inhumane treatment, due to their allegiance to North Korea.

Economic Situation

North Korea’s economy largely revolves around its military, which provides a steady stream of funds for the country. It faces isolation from global investment and relies heavily on its trade partners, which are mostly China and Russia. It does not have strong relations with its southern neighbor, South Korea. Another issue is North Korea’s drought-prone land and over-farmed fields, which are a perennial cause of low crop yields and food insecurity.

The United Nations and international humanitarian organizations have recently stepped up their efforts to improve North Korea’s economic situation and help its people. However, progress is slow, due to the government’s unwillingness and suspicions towards foreign organizations and foreign countries. This has made it difficult for them to provide any meaningful assistance, leading to the country’s continued economic stagnation.

Recent Developments

In June 2018, a historic meeting was held between the leaders of North Korea, USA and South Korea, where they agreed to work towards peace and denuclearization on the Korean peninsula. North Korea also promised to take steps towards dismantling its nuclear weapons program, although no tangible progress has been made in that regard. In October 2018, the United Nations removed sanctions against the country, citing improved relations between the nations.

Since then, North Korea has taken halting steps towards progress. The country has been slowly opening up its society, allowing visits by foreigners, including journalists. Internet access is still restricted, but some popular mediums of social networking, such as Twitter and YouTube, have become visible in the country. The country has also started to take steps towards greater economic cooperation with its neighbors, including some tentative proposals towards dealing with development issues.

The Future of North Korea

It remains to be seen how North Korea’s future will play out. On the one side, the country has made some progress in terms of its interactions with the international community and its willingness to denuclearize. On the other side, it continues to be isolated from the world and faces numerous problems, both in terms of its economy and its human rights record. It is still uncertain how the world will respond to these developments, as the country emerges from decades of Cold War-era politics.

Whether North Korea is finally able to achieve international cooperation with the rest of the world or not, the world will continue to watch this emerging superpower in anticipation. It is certain that whatever happens, it has the potential to have far-reaching global implications and will be one of the most important stories of the coming years.

Cassie Grissom is an American journalist and author living in Seoul, South Korea. She has been studying the Korean peninsula since 2011, and her work focuses on understanding human rights issues in North Korea. In addition to her work as an author, Cassie is an active advocate for human rights in North Korea. She regularly shares stories about life in North Korea with international audiences to raise awareness of the plight of its citizens.

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