The short answer to that is no, I don’t think so. The long answer is that it might. It’s not an easy question to answer because North Korea has the benefit of residing in a pretty important neighborhood. However, I am certainly of the opinion that the global community’s strategy to deal with the DPRK is failing and that a different strategy is required.


There has been a lot of talk recently of China not doing enough to pressure North Korea into abandoning its nuclear weapons program. I agree, but criticism is always focused on China refusing to drawdown economic cooperation and support. Regardless of how tight China closes the tap, sanctions and economic punishment won’t work. Sanctions only exacerbate a problem and do little to solve one. Solving the North Korea issue won’t happen overnight, but if the international community continues with its current strategy the ONLY solution is war.


A new strategy is needed, and while the prospects of this strategy ever seeing the light of day are meager, I’d like you to think about it because it is a lot more humane than what’s happening now.


It is important that the global community relaxes sanctions on North Korea and removes barriers erected to prevent the nation from joining important regional and international organizations.


More importantly, China must reverse its policy of forced repatriation. In my opinion, no policy of sanctions will work. The single most important thing China could do to put pressure on North Korea would be to allow Koreans safe passage to the embassies of nations willing to take them; South Korea for example.


Today’s diaspora are tomorrow’s dissidents and change makers. They’re the people who can spread news of the outside world to the North. They’re the ones who attempt to get money and goods back to family and friends. And they’re the ones who will return with new ideas and investment once they are safe to do so.


I really don’t think the North Korean elite would care so much about people fleeing if they could reap the benefits of economic activity, and that’s why it is important that North Korea be treated like any other nation with less than stellar track records of human rights and freedom. There are vast economic potentials and benefits to be had by ramping up communication and cooperation with the DPRK.


North Korea has nuclear weapons. There is no going back. At the government level, we simply must stop talking about the nuclear issue. We lost that leg of the race. We must accept their membership in the club of nuclear-armed nations, move on, reverse course, and work to raise economic development and cooperation. Likewise, North Korea is a dynastic dictatorship. There is no changing that right now, either. Please understand that I am not advocating we restrict the actions of NGOs and other groups trying to raise awareness of human rights abuses in the DPRK. With or without normalized relations, a DPRK-centric NGO would deal with many of the same dangers a Saudi-centric or Tibet-centric NGO would. What I am saying is that governments must extend the same courtesies they extend to equally abusive nations such as Saudi Arabia and China.


Only the North Koreans can change North Korea and until they receive their “Mandate from Heaven”, the rest of the world should accept that the country is a nuclear capable dynastic dictatorship and that not everyone will be treated fairly. Sanctions only add to the difficulties encountered by an oppressed people.


The long-term dangers to the current regime of such economic development would be lost on the North Korean elite. They’d be in a constant state of instant gratification, indulgence, and braggadociousness. The best way to spread new ideas is through economic activity. By limiting the amount of economic activity North Korea can have with the world, and vice versa, the more dangerous the situation becomes.

I could go on but I’ve got to get some chores done before the ol bread winner arrives.

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