How would you describe North Korea

Asia's future

Patrick Koellner

To person

Dr. rer. soc., born 1968; Scientific advisor at the Institute for Asian Studies, Hamburg. Homepage:
Address: Institute for Asian Studies, Rothenbaumchaussee 32, 20148 Hamburg.
Email: [email protected]

Publications on the politics of Japan and the Korean peninsula; Editor of the yearbook Korea - Politics, Economy, Society, Hamburg.

Against the background of conceivable scenarios of the use or non-use of nuclear weapons by Pyongyang, it is argued that North Korea should be given incentives to maintain the status quo as part of an involvement policy.


The Korean People's Democratic Republic (KDVR or North Korea for short) seems to confirm the well-known dictum that the dead live longer. Since the collapse of the Eastern Bloc, the East Asian country has been predicted to be doomed several times. So far, the leadership in Pyongyang has belied all such prophecies. Confronted with the loss of former allies and the country's central figure, Kim Il-sung, as well as a gradually collapsing economy, Kim Jong-il and his followers understood North Korea through a militant begging diplomacy, international appeals for aid, calculated provocations and negotiations on the sidelines of the abyss to guarantee international attention and support and thus to ensure their own survival. [1]

Pyongyang cleverly has its geographical position at the interface of the interests of the great and regional powers in East Asia, its associated destabilization potential and the fear of the neighboring states of the consequences of the country's collapse (refugee flows, horrific costs of reunification, shifts in the balance of power in the region etc.) used. At the same time, North Korea has tried to compensate for its increasing isolation and economic weakness by increasing its deterrent potential - also and especially in the nuclear sector. One of the trump cards in this context is the fear of the West and neighboring countries of a short-circuit military reaction from the leadership in Pyongyang. Through repeated saber rattling, North Korea has deliberately fed such fears in recent years.

For a better understanding of North Korea's foreign and security policy, this article will first explain some key framework conditions and the changed environment in the country since the early 1990s. In a second step, the background to the North Korean nuclear weapons programs and possible options for action are discussed.