North Korea’s motivations

by Jin-Hyuk-her - South Korean

It is quite surprising for me that, whenever I talk with other students about North Korea, they think the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-il, is a mad or crazy person. Thinking on the background of the U.S. democratic concept, it is quite understandable. However, I want to share my perspective about the two Koreas, which will give better understanding of the current situation.
I want to see North Korea as a âÄúKingdom,âÄù which is not well rooted to the ground. Looking back to modern history, after liberation of Korea from Japan in 1945, North KoreaâÄôs throne has been passing down through one Kim family. The late Kim il-Sung passed it to his son Kim Jong-il, and he is trying to pass it down to his son Kim Jong-Un. (Koreans put their family name first.) Kim il-Sung started the North Korean dictatorship on the theory of communism-socialism.
During his rule, he put more importance on the head leader. On this basis, Kim il-Sung intensified his dictatorship, cutting all the opponents away. Nepotism dominated critical posts.
Korea has been traditionally ruled by a king. People had no experience of democracy; therefore it was rather easy to build the country as a kingdom. They do not proclaim that the country is a âÄúKingdom,âÄù but the Kim clan surely is pursuing it. The clan brainwashes its people to call the top leader âÄúfather.âÄù For North Koreans, there is a Confucianism concept that the king, the teacher, and father is on the same authority, so calling a leader their father was not difficult to accept.
Yes, the Kim clan is rather crazy from the human rights perspective, but they are doing their best to exploit the people, to keep their throne sturdy and to fortify it. They are not dumb. In contrast, they are highly educated people with overseas educations. They have knowledge about the global politics and skill to manipulate them according to their interests. With this perspective, many abnormalities incurred by North Korea are understandable.
South Korea hates the North Korean Kim clan. They want them to perish. South Koreans deeply feel sorry for the agonies of North Korean citizens and their human rights.
However, South Koreans do not want quick collapse of the North Korean dictatorship, because it will cause instability in the peninsula and a large economic burden for South Korea.
The possibility of war is low. As long as the Kim clan has resources to dole out to the North Koreans, and as long as their throne is not challenged, they will not take the risk of war because they know South Korean military power is superior. As long as the U.S. stands with South Korea as an ally, North Korea knows South Korea has equal nuclear capability and deterrence.
Why did North Korea start the current confrontation? They want more money and aid. During peace time, from 1989 to 2007, North Korea received trillions of dollars in support from South Korea and the world. However, after the start of the current hawkish government in South Korea, since 2008, the North has not received aid. They surely want this money back to dole out food and fertilizer to their people, making them quiet and keeping the throne unchallenged. However, they do not want the money with condition of opening the society to influx of outside information.
If the North Koreans know about the global trend, and the food and money is not from their government but from South KoreaâÄôs U.S. support, the North Korean regime will face a serious challenge. So, it wants to reinitiate talks. The six-party talk is a good signal of peace and a starting point for North Korea to negotiate getting aid.
The world tried for nearly 20 years to persuade North Korea to change into a democratic nation. We poured money into that rogue country in vain. Now North Korea is threatening South Korea and its U.S. allies. This time we should lead the negotiation at our pace and taste, because we have what they want, and we are stronger than them.