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Economic, Social And Political Economy Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 20 April 2017

Economic, Social And Political Economy


In 1920, the independent kingdom of Korea was forcibly annexed to Japan, it lasted until the end of the second World War. After World War II, the United States (US) decided to occupy the southern half of Korea to prevent the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) from taking control of the entire peninsula. USSR was helping North Korea’s fight against the Japanese forces. The US divided Korea at the 38th parallel to keep Seoul within the American-occupied area. USSR did not oppose the division. (Korean War, 2006)

Both the USSR and the United States started to organize the governments in their half of Korea. When they did so, the political factions that used to be united against Japan started to emerge again. These factions represent the left-wing and right-wing views. The left-wing wanted an overhaul of Korea’s land ownership laws, which unduly favored rich landowners. And the right wing vehemently refused the reform. (Korean War, 2006)

From 1945 to1948, the US suppressed the widespread leftist movement and backed Syngman Rhee. Rhee had lived for decades in the United States and has a solid anti-Communist credentials. He was also popular with the right. (Korean War, 2006)

The USSR, on the other hand, supported the left and Kim Il Sung. Kim II Sung received support from North Koreans and China. Kim fought with Chinese Communist forces against the Japanese in Manchuria in the 1930s. Kim forced a radical redistribution of land when he first came into power. By the end of 1946 the regimes of both North and South Korea were in place. The division of Korea was formalized until 1948. The South established the Republic of Korea while the North established the People’s Republic of Korea.  (Korean War, 2006)

The regime was barely in placed South Korea when it had to contend with a rebellion in the south from the left-wing, particularly in its southernmost province. North Korea supported the rebellion. It was South Korea that first provoked North Korea into a war, but and Kim II Sung was willing to fight the war, too, with the help of USSR and China. In 1949, fighting in the 38th parallel broke out between the North and the South. In 1950, the army of North Korea crossed the dividing line. The Korean War reached its height from 1950 to 1953. In 1953, a cease fire agreement was signed. It ended the fighting but the Korean peninsula remained divided. (Korean War, 2006)

The Korean War was considered as one of the most destructive of the 20th century. There was an estimated death of 2.4 to 4 million Korean, mostly civilians. The other countries who supporter either side also experienced casualties. China, who supported the North, lost almost 1 million soldiers. The US, who sided with the South, lost a little more than 36 thousands. The economic and social damage to the Korea Peninsula was incalculable. In the North Korea, the three years of bombing destroyed most of the modern buildings. (Korean War, 2006)

Because of the Korean War, the US and Japanese economy received a much needed boost after World War II.  Japan became the source of materials for the war. Meanwhile, defense spending in the US nearly quadrupled in the last half of 1950. (Korean War, 2006)

The North Korean Economy after the War

            Because North Korea endured 3 years of US bombing, a new capital had to be rebuilt after the war in North Korea. By 1960, the discipline and forced-labor policies of the Kim II Sung’s regime resulted in recovery and development. The general standard of living of the people remained low.  There was an emphasis to heavy industrial growth but not production of economic goods. (North Korea, 2006)

In 1995, there was a nationwide food crisis. In 1996, it became a widespread famine. USSR and China withdrawal of its food subsidies, the government’s agricultural policies, and a series of floods and droughts are factors that contributed to the food crisis. International humanitarian relief agencies provided food aid and other relief efforts. In 1998, an estimated 1 million people had died of starvation and famine-related illnesses. The food crisis continued into the early 2000s. (North Korea, 2006) 

The Juche Idea

Juche is the official state ideology of North Korea. It is also the basis for its political system. Juche literally means “main body” or “subject”. In North Korean sources, it had been translated as “independent stand” and the “spirit of self-reliance”. The core principle of the Juche ideology has been that “man is the master of everything and decides everything”. (Juche, 2006, para. 1)

It was Kim Il-sung which advanced Juche as a slogan in speech titled “On Eliminating Dogmatism and Formalism and Establishing Juche in Ideological Work”. It was made in rejection of the policy of de-Stalinization in the Soviet Union. It became a systematic ideological doctrine in the 1960s. Kim Il-sung outlined the three fundamental principles which are as follows: (1) independence in politics, (2) self-sustenance in the economy, and (3) self-defense in national defense. (Juche, 2006, para. 2)

In 1982, Kim Jong-il authored a document titled “On the Juche Idea”. An article in Wikipedia said:

According to Kim Jong-il’s On the Juche Idea, the application of Juche in state policy entails the following: 1) The people must have independence (chajusong) in thought and politics, economic self-sufficiency, and self-reliance in defense; 2) Policy must reflect the will and aspirations of the masses and employ them fully in revolution and construction; 3) Methods of revolution and construction must be suitable to the situation of the country; and 4) The most important work of revolution and construction is molding people ideologically as communists and mobilizing them to constructive action. (Juche, 2006, para. 3)

One of the first application of the Juche idea in North Korea was the Five-Year Plan known as the Chollima Movement. The Five-Year Plan involved rapid economic development, with a focus on heavy industry. This is to ensure independence from the USSR and China. (Juche, 2006, para. 4)

But the reality of the Juche Idea is its economic program of “self-reliance” has resulted in economic dependence. North Korea has been an aid-dependent regime. From 1953 to1976 it depended considerably on Soviet industrial aid. The USSR remained North Korea’s greatest economic benefactor until its 1991 collapse. It experienced a food crisis in the early part of its regime which later developed in to a famine. It has accepted aid from China, South Korea and the international community. In 2005, the country was the second largest recipient of international food aid. In 1998, Juche made pragmatic adaptations to capitalism. (Juche, 2006, para. 5)

The state ideology has been an alternative to traditional religion. Juche have incorporated religious ideas into the state ideology. Juche is considered the largest political religion in North Korea. Practice of all other religions is overseen and subject to heavy surveillance by the state. (Juche, 2006, para. 6)

Improving Relationship with the South

After the Korean War, North Korea developed a hard stance against the South. In the 1960’s, an assassination team nearly succeeded in killing Park Chung Hee, the South Korean president at that time. In 1968, North Korean gun boats seized a US intelligence gathering vessel and subjected its crew to extreme circumstances for a year. In 1969, a US reconnaissance plane was shot down. There were guerrilla raids launched against the South. These attacks made the South even more dedicated in renewing their defense measures and influenced the formation of a harder political order in South Korea. (North Korea, 2006)

Through the 1970s and 1980’s, there were efforts to affect the unification of the North and South Korea, but these efforts failed. In June 2000, the leaders of North and South Korea, agreed to promote reconciliation and economic cooperation between the two countries. This was the first face-to-face meeting between the leaders of the two countries since the country was divided. (North Korea, 2006)

The meeting of the leaders of these two countries led to the first cross-border visits of family members separated since the Korean War which was officially authorized by both states. The agreement also led to many favorable consequences for both countries. Trade and investment increase. There was a more relaxed military tension. It also partially reopened road and rail links severed by the Korean War. There was also a start of mail service between the two countries. (North Korea, 2006)

During the opening ceremonies of the 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, the athletes from North Korea and South Korea paraded together under one flag, the neutral flag of the Korea Peninsula. But the athletes still competed separately in the different events. (North Korea, 2006)

In October of 2000, Kim Dae Jung was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to bring about reconciliation between the two countries. (North Korea, 2006)

South Korea, together with China, is instrumental in bringing almost 1 billion dollars in aid and investment to North Korea. South Korea’s help prevent the collapse of the North Korean economy (Fajola & Fan, 2006). However, recent political developments may trigger old hostilities in the region. The insistence of North Korea to develop and test nuclear weapons may bring war in Northeast Asia again (Fajola & Fan, 2006). South Korea, despite its own pressing need, offered to supply North Korea energy if it would cease the production of nuclear weapons (David 2006). There is still no news whether North Korea has accepted its offer.

Politics and International Relations

Before the Korean War, The Workers’ Party of Korea was established. Kim Il Sung emerged as the leader of North Korea. He enjoyed the military support of the USSR until the soviet troops withdrew in 1948. Under the Workers’ Party leadership, political and economic changes had been made.

The egalitarian land reforms were enforced. There was a radical redistribution of land from the land owners to laborer and tenant farmers. The landless labor and tenant farmers supported these reforms. Because of these reforms, there was massive confiscation of land and wealth from the Japanese or to enemies of the regime. Aside from the reforms, there was also party-directed economic planning and development. (North Korea 2006)

Kim II Sung fought against the Japanese and, in 1949, welcome the war against South Korea. When North Korean forces crossed the dividing line to the South, the US joined the fighting with the approval of the UN. There was also a small contingent from Great Britain, Canada, Australia, and Turkey to help with the Americans. USSR, an ally of North Korea refused to vote during the deliberations in the UN. In October 1950, China supported North Korea in the War. When cease fire was finally agreed upon, thousands of lives where lost on both sides. Millions worth of infrastructure were also destroyed, particularly in the North which experienced massive bombing operations from the US. (North Korea 2006).

In the political front, North Korean leadership began to veer away from USSR influenced. The intensifying conflict between China and the USSR, allowed North Korea even more independent action. (North Korea, 2006)

North Korea actions after the Korean War seemed to be geared towards building of nuclear might. When both North and South Korea joined the UN in 1991, they signed agreements regarding nuclear and conventional arms control and reconciliation. In 1992, North Korea signed an agreement allowing the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to inspect the country’s nuclear facilities. In 1993 the North Korean government refused the inspection of nuclear waste sites which is believed to contain undeclared nuclear material for nuclear weapons. This resistance continued until the first half of 1994. (North Korea, 2006)

South Korea suspended its formal acceptance of the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) which it signed in 1985. In 1993, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) suspected North Korea of building at least one atomic weapon from plutonium extracted from fuel rods at a nuclear power plant. (North Korea, 2006)

In 1994, the US and North Korea reached an agreement called Agreed Framework. In this agreement, North Korea will suspend the operation of designated nuclear facilities capable of producing and reprocessing weapons-grade plutonium and allow IAEA inspectors to verify the suspension. The agreement called for annual deliveries of heavy fuel oil to North Korea. The U.S. agreed to take steps to end economic sanctions against North Korea, sanctions in placed since the Korean War. (North Korea, 2006)

The 1994 Agreed Framework is also a step towards normal diplomatic relations between the US and North Korea. North Korea agreed to suspend operation of the nuclear facilities in return for two new reactors that will be built by US, South Korea and Japan. In 1995, the construction of the two reactors started. In 2002, US abrogated the agreement. It charged North Korea of violating the agreement by initiating a secret weapons-grade uranium-enrichment program. North Korea denied that it had such a program. Because the US abrogated in 2002, North Korea resumed plutonium production. In February 2005, it issued a statement that it was now a “nuclear weapons state.” (North Korea, 2006)

While relations between the two Koreas are improving, the relations between the US and North Korea became even more strained because of the issue of nuclear weapons. The US had placed North Korea on a list of countries supporting terrorism and had characterized North Korea as being part of an “axis of evil”. China attempted to act as a mediator between North Korea and the US, but the US refused to meet in one-on-one negotiations. To compromise, China fashioned a series of negotiations which would take place among China, Japan, Russia, North Korea, South Korea, and the US. The talks were held in Beijing, China. (North Korea, 2006)

Without reaching an agreement, the six-party talks recessed in early August 2005. When the talks resumed in September 2005, North Korea pledged to abandon all nuclear weapons and programs in exchange for economic aid and security guarantees. The talks stalled. Early of July 2006 North Korea launched seven test missiles, including a long-range Taepodong-2 missile, which fell into the Sea of Japan. Even if the test were considered successful, these raised tensions in the area. Concerned international community, through the UN Security Council, called for economic sanctions against North Korea. (North Korea, 2006)

The 2006 Nuclear Testing

Analysts are saying that North Korea’s gaining bragging rights as a nuclear power may have political and economic fallout. Many fears that the nuclear tests being done by North Korea can trigger instability in Northeast Asia. China, which had been a supporter of North Korea, is reconsidering its support for the Kim Jong II. China, with the help of South Korea, had given billions of dollars in aid and investment to North Korea.

Both countries helped prevent the collapse of the economy for fear that such will send refugees pouring into their own borders. An Asia Times Online writer said that South Korea offered to supply North Korea’s energy needs if the latter will abandon its nuclear arms. China’s foreign minister, Li Zhaoxing expressed the Chinese government opposition to the nuclear test. (Fajola and Fan, 2006)

Because of the tests, South Korea stopped the delivery of emergency assistance to help the North deal with recent floods. President Roh Moo Hyun said, “The South Korean government at this point cannot continue to say that this engagement policy [sunshine policy] is effective. Ultimately, it is not something we should give up on, but objectively speaking, the situation has changed. Being patient and accepting whatever North Korea does is no longer acceptable,” (qtd. in Fajola and Fan, 2006, para. 7).

Analysts say that the shift in position of China or South Korea is partly based on the possible reaction of Japan, the nation most threatened by North Korea’s ballistic missiles. A nuclear-armed North Korea could lead Japan arm itself more aggressively. A U.S. congressional report may lead Japan, South Korea and Taiwan to develop their own nuclear weapons. It would start an arms race in the region and feed regional disputes. (Fajola and Fan, 2006)

Japan has already said that it would impose harder measures against North Korea. The measures can include a ban on the remittances sent home by North Koreans working in Japan. (Fajola and Fan, 2006)

Another motivation for China’s position is its failed attempt to mediate between US and North Korea in the series of negotiations in Beijing. To save face and to meet international pressure, China may impose tougher economic sanctions and reduce aid to North Korea to force the latter to stop production and testing of its missiles. (Fajola and Fan, 2006)

Seung Joo Baek, an analyst from the Seoul-based Korea Institute for Defense Analyses also said:

North Korea’s message is that no matter how hard South Korea, Japan, the United States gang up on them, they won’t budge. They want to be recognized as a nuclear power. They are assuming that it is the only thing that will keep them safe. We will have to wait and see if they are right. “(qtd. in Fajola & Fan, 2006, conclusion)





Korean War. (2006). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved November 30, 2006, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online: http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9046072.

Korean War (2006). In Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2006. Retrieved November 30, 2006 from http://encarta.msn.com.

North Korea (2006). In Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2006. Retrieved November 30, 2006 from http://encarta.msn.com.

Nguyen, D. “South Korea Enters the Great Game.” May 13, 2006.  Retrieved November 30, 2006 from http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Korea/HJ10Dg02.html.

Juche (2006). In Wikipedia 2006. Retrieved November 30, 2006 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juche

Fajola, A. & Fan M. “North Korea’s Political and Economic Gamble.” October 10, 2006. Retrieved November 30, 2006 from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/10/08/AR2006100801169_2.html


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