For decades, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has been one of the most secretive countries in the world. Widespread restrictions on fundamental human rights, forced labor camps, and an elusive nuclear program have driven global concern. The DPRK is seen by some countries as the “crossroads of radicalism and technology.”
The DPRK has exercised communist rule over its 24 million citizens, tightly controlling daily life. Travel is severely restricted, for foreigners into the country but more so for its citizens leaving the country. Media is severely censored, as is speech. Amnesty International has released reports that hundreds of thousands of people have been put into prisons and labor camps for violating its strict controls on daily life or disagreeing with the government. Aside from lacking basic freedoms, citizens of the DPRK face difficulties in obtaining basic utilities such as refrigerators, washing machines, and even bicycles, and they often rely on aid agencies, like the United Nations, to provide food. China, long the DPRK’s closest – and arguably only – ally, also provides a great deal of food and other essential supplies. However, given how tightly-controlled access to the country is, international agencies find it difficult to ensure that aid reaches those people most in need of receiving it.
In addition to the ongoing humanitarian crisis, the DPRK has spent decades developing nuclear weapons, which has long been of great concern to the international community. Multilateral efforts to forestall a North Korean nuclear program came to naught when the DPRK tested its first nuclear weapon in October 2006. This was followed by another test in May 2009, and several more since. While this alone is a serious threat to international stability, the development of missile technology would constitute a quantum leap in the country’s ability to threaten its enemies. The DPRK has been trying to manufacture long-range nuclear missiles for years, in an effort, some fear, to target Western countries in Europe, but moreover the United States. In 2017, the country made several announcements of nuclear success, firing missiles that were believed to be able to pass Japan and even reach the United States. All three missiles crashed into the ocean. In April 2018, the DPRK announced it was ceasing nuclear weapon tests, and pledged to denuclearize a testing site in the northern region of the country. However, there are ongoing signs that the DPRK is continuing to improve and expand infrastructure at strategic nuclear sites.
Though human rights abuses are rampant, the global community is more concerned about a worldwide nuclear crisis. In conjunction with flight tests of short and long-range, as well as anti-ship missiles, DPRK is feared to have enough plutonium for eight nuclear weapons. Previous accords, treaties, and resolutions have not been kept the DPRK accountable in de-escalating its nuclear program. A multilateral solution is necessary to prevent a global nuclear crisis.