North Korea Dictatorship and Threat
The democratic People's Republic of Korea is a country in the northern part of the Korean Peninsula. It is commonly known as North Korea. The North Korean threat is enormous, not only to the peace o? the Korean Peninsula, but also to the rest of the world. Judging by recent events, it is clear that the previous North Korean governments have not been the smoothest ones and most of the leaders involved have been dictators (Bechtol, 2010).
The Korean Peninsula was once united and governed by the Korean Empire between the late 19th century and the early 20th century. It was then annexed in 1910 by the Empire of Japan. However, Japanese rule ceased immediately after the World War II. In the year 1945, the peninsula was divided into two. The northern half was occupied by the Soviet Union and the southern was occupied by America. An election in the year 1948 led to the creation of two separate governments - the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the Republic of Korea in the North and the South respectively. The two went to war in 1950 over sovereignty issues. However, they committed to cease fire three years later, but never signed any peace treaty (Timperlake & Triplett, 1999).
The first president of North Korea Kim II Sung was the prime minister of North Korea from the 1948 when they first took power in 1976 when he was promoted to being the president up until his death in 1994. Many describe his leadership skills as autocratic. He also developed an often unaccepted cult of personality. His self-developed socialist organization was called Juche; it replaced Leninism and Marxism as state ideology in 1972. He stayed in power during the office terms of six Southern Korean presidents, 10 U.S. presidents, 14 UK prime ministers, 7 Soviet leaders, and 21 Japanese prime ministers. In the country study of North Korea (2009) of the Library of Congress, he was described as 'one of the most intriguing figures of the 20th century'. He was declared the eternal president of the country (Bechtol, 2010).
The eternal president was superseded by his son Kim Jong-il. Kim Jong-il was the supreme leader of North Korea for a period of 17 years from his father's death in 1994. In 2009 April, the North Korean constitution was amended in order to refer to him as the 'Supreme Leader.' He was ranked as 31st in Forbes magazine's list of the most powerful people on the planet.
Although he was the commander of the armed forces with Choe Yong-rim heading the government and Kim Yong-nam handling international relations, Jong-il practiced absolute leadership of the government and the country.
The supreme leader adopted a songun (military-first) policy as a strategy of strengthening the country and its government. Globally, North Korea is the most militarized country with almost 9.5 million reserve, active, and paramilitary personnel. Its duty army is the fourth largest in the world after China, America, and India. It consists of 1.21 million personnel. It is also a nuclear state, which has an active state program.
In the year 1994, the U.S. government together with the North Korean government signed an agreement that was designed to freeze and ultimately bring down the latter's nuclear weapons program for aid in the production of two power generating nuclear reactors. Although America kept their own part of the deal, the government of Kim Jong-il admitted to producing nuclear after the 1994 agreement. This was in 2002. The leader claimed that the secretive production was necessary for security matters, citing the presence of American-owned nuclear weapons on the South Korean ground. In 2006, a North Korean news agency by the name of Korean Central reported that a successful underground nuclear test was carried out by the government (Bechtol, 2010).
Both father and son have been central in personality cults. North Korean defectors have been quoted saying that the two presidents are worshiped as gods in Korean schools. On his 60th (as per his official date of birth) birthday, the entire country held mass celebrations to celebrate Jong-il's Hwangab. Many North Koreans also believed that he had a kind of magical ability to change the weather to match his moods (Swaine, 2011). His distinctive clothing style has also pioneered worldwide fashion trends according to 2010 reports by North Korean Media. Two theories have been drawn as to why the citizens worshiped Jong-il so much. One theory supported by majority of non-North Korean media claims that it has been so due to the fear that if they do not do so, they will be punished for failure to pay homage. However, the local sources of the North Korean government will hear none of this because, according to them, it is genuine hero worship.
Although formally it is a socialist republic, the reality is quite the opposite. It is described by many as a totalitarian and Stalinist dictatorship, which has a cult personality around the Kim family. It was ranked the lowest in the Democracy index by Economist Intelligence Unit (UK). Also two organizations, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have in the past reported on restrictions on human rights; however, the government vehemently denies this (Timperlake & Triplett, 1999).
It is difficult to know why North Korea has become a dictatorial country and a bully to not only other governments and countries, but also to its citizens. However, there are several theories that might actually address the issue. One of them is absolutism. The violations of human rights in North Korea is justified both morally and mentally by absolutism of the great leader. This is Stalinism optimized for the worse. The basis of Stalinism's dictatorship of the greatest leader is the ideas of Marxism, which are about the dictatorship of the proletariat and class struggle. Although Marx was against dictatorship and personality cults, his concepts on dictatorship of the proletariat ultimately became the underlying ideological basis of any dictatorship of the greatest leader (Bechtol, 2010).
The working class ideology of Marx is of the opinion that in any given society the proletariat is the most supreme. Thus, this class could represent the rest of the population effectively. It is mandatory for the working class to be the leading one so that it establishes a government and dictatorship of the working class. Over the times of Stalin, this dictatorship of the proletariat turned into that of the greatest leader (Timperlake & Triplett, 1999).
There is a rationale behind dictatorship of the proletariat to that of the highest leader. The working class supposedly represents the whole society's interests since it is the most advanced class. The communist party is the most advanced proletariat army, which represents the working class's interests. The highest leader - the highest communist - represents the communist party's interests. It is for this reason then that the proletariat dictatorship is the communist party dictatorship, which is in its turn the dictatorship of the greatest leader. Therefore, under the socialism of Soviet style a personality cult was prepared on a huge scale so as to establish the highest leader's authority and assume the seat of a lifelong dictator (Swaine, 2011).
The second thing that has led to the growth of dictatorship in North Korea is the ideology behind absolutism of the great leader. The government of North Korea survives on two tactics for justifying absolutism of the greatest leader. The first is the spreading of exaggerated and fabricated stories of the revolutionary activities of the two former leaders of the country. The second strategy is to spread a version of Juche ideology that is twisted by feudalism.
One of the exaggerated fabrications is that of revolutionary achievements of the two former leaders. Kim il Sung took part in the rebellion against Japanese rule, this is a fact. However, it is rumored that he was actually not the partisan hero like the masses were meant to believe. There are also suspicious aspects of his career, for instance, the claims that he created the Juche ideology (Becker, 2005). According to the records, at the time he supposedly came up with the ideology, he was only 18 years old. In order to come up with any kind of ideology that is supposed to light up people's road to destiny, one is required to have had a great deal of experience in life, at that age il Sung did not qualify for such as he neither hand secondary school education nor experience in any kind of struggle. Another account of fabrications is the story of Kim Jong II's birth. Apparently he was born in a secret camp in Mt. Baekdu on the 16th of February, 1942.
At one time Kim Il Sung, was enjoying himself on a holiday in a resort in Samjyeon. He summoned a couple of participants of the partisan struggle and told them to find the birth site of the new born child. Of course, they were not able to do so and so he had to do so himself. He picked a random scenic spot and claimed it was where Jong il was born. He gave peak of the mountain behind the spot a name 'Jongilbong' (Jong il Peak). He got a giant granite rock from the scene and then carved the word on it. He hoisted the rock and attached it to the mountain peak. He built a hut below the rock and called it the 'home of the secret Mt. Baekdu secret encampment'. From that moment henceforth, he claimed that was where Jong il was born and had lived with his wife (Timperlake & Triplett, 1999).
The foreign relations of Northern Korea are oftentimes unpredictable and tense. Although the constitution has clauses about relations with other countries, it is the current leader Kim Jong Un who decides on the guidelines to their dealings with other countries, which the principal operating agency enacts (Becker, 2005). Other decisions are often arrived to on a 'back tell basis.' The Workers' Party of North Korea's elite makes policy decisions, obtains ratification from the office of the prime minster and that of the minister of foreign affairs, and then forwards it to the leader.
They have however exhibited isolationist behavior since they made peace with South Korea in the 1953 and have consequently become one of the world's largest totalitarian and oppressive societies. The country has maintained relations with countries like China, Russia, Pakistan, and others the relations with which have often been minimal. It has also severed its relationships with other countries including Japan, South Korea, and the US (Schultz, 2005).
The major cause of misunderstandings with other countries has been nuclear related. Claims of non-civilian ambitions being harbored by the country were first highlighted in the eighties. However, the US and several other countries agreed to help the country with two light water reactors in exchange for dismantling its nuclear program. However, on claims of distrust and slow development of the LWRs, North Korea pulled out of the agreement and continued with nuclear developments. A series of meetings were arranged thereafter to address the nuclear issues that would escalate (Swaine, 2011).
On the 3rd of March, 2008, North Korea threatened to strengthen its nuclear deterrent in response to the US - South Korean war games. On the 11th of February, 2013, North Korea carried out another nuclear underground test, which, according to Japanese and US officials, recorded a magnitude of between 4.9 and 5.2. This came just after North Korea was punished by the UN for what the latter called 'banned missile launch.'
Despite the fact that they restrict their citizens' human rights, they still believe that the worship accorded to them by their citizens is neither forced nor presented out of fear, but out of genuine admiration of the gods that they are. Being accustomed to such power has made them hungry for more and it is what makes them a bully to other countries (Timperlake & Triplett, 1999).
The book Nothing to envy: Ordinary lives in North Korea by Spiegel & Grau (2009) gives an account of refugees from North Korea on the lives they had living in the country. None of them is particularly happy or even thinking of going back ever. It is not fictional, and although the government claims otherwise, it is clear that the human rights there are not good.
Evidently the leaders of North Korea are accustomed to being worshipped and held in high esteem. They enjoy the unquestionable loyalty and worship from the citizens and are hungry for more. They want the whole world to bow down and acknowledge them amid threats such as nuclear warfare (Bechtol, 2010).
It is the belief that they need to be worshipped even if it means fabricating stories for glory that have led to the rot in their internal society. It is what will make them loose in the external society. The best military power is nothing at all if the leadership is egotistic and lacking.