A Korean Solution?
No one can doubt that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (“North Korea”) has been, for the half-century of its existence, one of the handful of the most horrible regimes in all of human history. Its people have been brainwashed, worked to death on pointless and grandiose projects, intentionally starved, tortured, and murdered, in ways every bit as wicked as were ever contemplated by Hitler or Stalin or Mao. Meanwhile, its rulers, first Kim Il Sung and now his son Kim Jong Il, have enjoyed worship, absolute authority, and lives of indescribable luxury. Today this regime is kept afloat almost entirely by massive foreign aid. To judge by the condition of its people (and its rulers), North Korea is in nearly every respect a failed state.
It would be gratifying if the powerful focus on North Korea over the past decade, not least by the United States, were driven by revulsion at the terrible evil being perpetrated by this murderous tyranny. But that is untrue. In fact, North Korea now stands in the international spotlight not because of its manifold crimes and failures but because of three real and remarkable technical successes.
About the Author
Arthur Waldron is the Lauder professor of international relations at the University of Pennsylvania and vice president of the International Assessment and Strategy Center in Washington, D.C.