A New Look at North Korea

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has been in the news a lot lately, with the DPRK testing new missiles and the United States moving a naval strike group off the Korean peninsula.

The commentary almost always revolves around strategic issues, especially North Korea’s nuclear program. But in focusing so narrowly on the country’s military and its leader, Kim Jong-un, however, the debate largely overlooks the North Korean people.

This has two major implications. First, it perpetuates an image of the country that is not in line with reality.

In fact, the younger Kim does not enjoy the kind of monolithic influence held by his grandfather, Kim Il-sung, or his father, Kim Jong-il. Power structures in North Korea began to disintegrate under Kim Jong-il and are now widely ramified. Security apparatuses are no longer under one single point of command. Neither are military corps. This is something that the administration of US President Donald Trump seems to be oblivious to, but which it should take into account when formulating policy.

Second, and most important, the world’s attention to Kim Jong-un precludes recognition of the nearly 26 million people that live in the country. They represent the true issue at stake, once the current regime – which is living on borrowed time – is gone.

The rest of this story can be found on IRIN's website at http://www.irinnews.org/opinion/2017/05/18/real-crisis-north-korea-not-one-you%E2%80%99ve-been-hearing-about