Kim Jong-un is the world’s youngest leader and is known for his mystique, diplomatic prowess and youthful energy. His policies have been centered on improving international relations and promoting economic growth. Kim Jong-un has taken a noticeably more active role in economic reform than his predecessors and has engaged in intense negotiations with other nations to improve bilateral relations. Kim has supported the development of state-owned businesses, fostered the growth of manufacturing, and encouraged the use of technology in the North Korean economy.
While the North Korean government avoids discussing its leader on the international stage, Kim Jong-un is commonly portrayed in a positive light within his own country. He is praised for increasing military strength, carrying out public works projects, and investing in the economy. His government has delivered humanitarian aid, improved infrastructure, and invested in modernizing its nuclear weapons programs, which it claims are for peaceful purposes.
However, it is his handling of international relations that receive the most critical attention. Kim Jong-un has taken a confrontational approach to diplomacy, often engaging in threatening language and posturing against other nations. Kim continues to pursue a closed-border policy, making it difficult for outsiders to travel in or out of the country. He has also maintained a tight reign on media, attempting to shape domestic public opinion through censorship and government propaganda.
Critics have raised concerns regarding the human rights violations occurring in North Korea and the overall lack of democratic processes in the country attributable to overarching authoritarianism. Kim Jong-un is accused of ruthlessly eliminating any political rivals and engaging in suppression of civil liberties. This has resulted in extreme poverty and deprivation, as well as increases in human trafficking, forced labor, and other abuses.
The international community remains fearful of North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs and their potential to result in a nuclear weapons attack. While the nation has agreed to disarm, there are lingering doubts about North Korea’s commitment to eliminating its nuclear weaponry. North Korean officials continue to insist that their nuclear weapons are only for deterrent purposes, but the international community remains cautious about these assertions.
Politics of North Korea
North Korea is a Stalinist single-party state which employs a totalitarian political system modeled on the former Soviet Union. There is no meaningful separation of powers and the government is entirely composed of political officials appointed by Kim Jong-un who exercise sole control over government decision-making. Since coming to power, Kim Jong-un has maintained a hardline stance on dissent, overseeing the arrest, imprisonment, and torture of political opponents and perceived enemies of the state. Political opposition is viewed as a threat, and is repressed accordingly.
Kim Jong-un and North Korea’s Workers’ Party pursue an ideology of totalitarian socialism, called Juche. Juche, or self-reliance, is based on the idea of absolute obedience to the leader and state, and is seen as a form of absolute loyalty toward the Kim family. Juche mandates that citizens should renounce capitalism and all foreign influences, and that the state should have total control over economic production.
North Korea’s Foreign Relations
North Korea’s foreign relations are determined by the Personalist ideology of the Kim family leadership. This has resulted in a series of isolationist foreign policies and aggressive posturing towards foreign powers. North Korea maintains official diplomatic relations with a handful of nations, but its relationship with the rest of the world is often strained. Historically, North Korea has adopted an adversarial approach to foreign relations, relying heavily on military power to influence international politics.
In recent years, Kim Jong-un has sought to expand North Korea’s diplomatic reach, entering into negotiations with South Korea, the United States, and other countries. North Korea also remains a member of several international organizations, including the United Nations and the Non-Aligned Movement. Kim’s diplomatic campaigns have resulted in limited successes, including the signing of the 2018 US-North Korea Joint Declaration, and his pursuance of reconciliation with South Korea.
North Korea’s Economy
North Korea is a largely state-controlled economy, with most resources and economic production controlled by the government. Despite efforts to reform and modernize the economy, North Korea continues to lag behind the rest of the world in terms of economic development.
North Korea’s economy relies mainly on agricultural production, mining and exports, with the majority of the population employed in state-run enterprises. Production of goods and services is highly centralized and the government exercises total control over prices and wages. North Korea’s economic output is weakened by outdated technology, inefficient production techniques, and an absence of foreign investment.
Another major challenge facing the North Korean economy is the implementation of international sanctions. Longstanding sanctions, imposed by the UN Security Council, have limited North Korea’s ability to access foreign markets and significantly weakened its economy. In response, Kim Jong-un has sought to develop the economy through improved relations with other countries, increased foreign investment, and the development of new industries.
Despite the challenges facing North Korea’s economy, there are signs of progress. The nation has made efforts to diversify its economy through increased investment in agriculture, infrastructure, and technology. The government has launched initiatives to attract foreign investors, such as the January 2018 Rakwon Economic Development Zone. Additionally, North Korea’s leadership has expressed a commitment to promoting development and sustainability in the economy.
North Korea’s Military
North Korea’s military is one of the largest in the world, with over seven million active personnel. Kim Jong-un is considered the Supreme Leader of the Military, and is seen as integral in maintaining the nation’s defense capabilities.
The North Korean military operates on the basis of a “military first” policy, which dictates that the nation’s resources should be focused on strengthening the nation’s defense. This policy has resulted in increased investment in military technologies, such as nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.
Kim Jong-un has expressed a commitment to maintaining and strengthening North Korea’s defense capabilities, with a focus on modernizing military technology and tactics. The nation is also estimated to maintain one of the largest Special Forces in the world, composed of highly trained and experienced personnel.
Foreign Support for North Korea
North Korea receives limited foreign support for its regime, mainly from China and Russia. China is North Korea’s primary trade partner and is rumored to be providing financial and military aid to the nation.
Experts speculate that China is reluctant to completely cut ties with North Korea due to economic and geopolitical concerns. China also wields significant economic and diplomatic power in the region, and is increasingly struggling to maintain its influence in the face of increased criticism from the US and other nations.
Russia also maintains diplomatic relations with North Korea and has sought to increase its presence in the region. Russia is one of the few nations to actively support North Korea, both politically and economically. Despite Russian support, North Korea’s relationship with Russia has been largely portrayed as one of distrust.
Kim Jong-un’s Impact on North Korea
Since becoming leader, Kim Jong-un has sought to reform and modernize North Korea in order to strengthen its position on the international stage. While his efforts have had some successes, there remains much debate about his actual impact on the nation.
Supporters of Kim Jong-un’s government credit him with transforming the nation’s economy, improving its diplomatic relations, and increasing its military strength. They argue that he has successfully navigated the nation through a period of economic instability and political turmoil.
Critics, however, have raised concerns regarding human rights violations and lack of democratic reforms. They argue that the nation remains entrenched in poverty and deprivation, and its population remains largely oppressed by the state.
Ultimately, the impact of Kim Jong-un’s rule on North Korea remains to be seen. While he has made some improvements to the nation’s economy and foreign relations, much of the population remains mired in poverty and suffering from state-sanctioned oppression.