North accepts North Korea as a nuclear

North Korea has faced numerous diplomatic and economic sanctions from
global leaders and organizations ever since they started their Nuclear weapons program
in the 1980s but more recently from their withdrawal from the Non-Proliferation
Treaty in 2003. One would think that after almost 40 years of theses sanctions
they no longer be needed, however this is not the case. This raises the
question of why have the economic sanctions implemented by the United Nations,
European Union, United States, Japan, and South Korea against North Korea been ineffective?
While many of the sanctions have achieved its primary goal of preventing
majority of targeted international transactions, many have also created
unintended consequences allowing for North Korea to survive through illicit activities.
In this paper I attempt to show how the economic sanctions since against North
Korea since 2003 have not worked due to the lack of enforcement from individual
countries because of human rights intervention, security concerns, and/or
economic advantage; allowing North Korea to have access to foreign markets
through legal and illicit trade and continue its nuclear program giving it more
power in the global political economy making it more difficult for sanctions to
work. With North Korea continuing to build its nuclear program under the
sanctions, I propose that international community accepts North Korea as a
nuclear power and slowly start to ease sanctions against them. North Korea has
made building their nuclear program priority since they left the Non-Proliferation
Treaty so they have zero incentive to stop now. Accepting this and easing
sanctions against them could help North Korea rebuild their economy while creating
a peaceful and corporative relationship with them before they achieve nuclear

            Sanctions against North
Korea started back in the 1980s when they first started their nuclear
proliferation program but were eased when they signed the Non-Proliferation
Treaty in 1985. Since then additional sanctions have been enforced due to North
Korea’s weapon and missile development but have since been eased because of
talks between the two countries over trade, aid, and promises from North Korea
to stop development (“Chronology of U.S.-North Korean…”). Sanctions
drastically increased when they backed out of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and
restarted their nuclear plants out of fear of North Korea becoming a global nuclear
threat. After this the sanctions against North Korea had a wider source from
the members of the Six-Party Talks and once again in 2006 by United Nations
Security Council in response to their first nuclear test in 2006. While the
number of sanctions increased against North Korea, they still had path ways
into international markets through neighboring countries that don’t share the
same beliefs as the United States over sanctions. They have also attracted
foreign investment in food and medical aid to help those in need from the
supply shortages occurring across North Korea.

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The United Nations Security Council have unanimously
implemented 8 rounds of sanctions against North Korea since their first nuclear
test in 2006. The sanctions implemented include a ban on the trade of weapons,
military equipment, and resources or dual-use technology that can be used for
their weapons programs. They also have sanctions on luxury goods and natural
gas imports; and the export of: coal, mineral, iron, seafood, textile, even
statues. These sanctions also include caps on labor exports and oil imports. They
also created a list of people linked to nuclear programs whose assets have been
frozen and received travel bans (“UN Security Council Resolutions…”). All these
sanctions are attempting to stop funding to their weapons programs. However
they still allow for humanitarian aid into North Korea. The European Union
sanctions have targeted nuclear, weapons of mass destruction and ballistic
missile related programs. Theses sanctions call for prohibitions on the trade
of goods, services and technology to anything that may help any of these
programs. Just like the United Nations they have a list of people whose assets
are frozen due to their involvement in these program.

            The United States have
by far the most sanctions against North Korea as it is the driving global force
in dismantling the North Korean nuclear and weapons programs. They enforce all
sanctions created by the United Nations Security Council and their own
unilateral sanctions that target any individual and company involved in North
Korea’s nuclear and weapons programs. They have also implemented sanctions in
response to North Korean cyber-attacks, missile launches, human rights
violations, money laundering, and other illicit activities (Chang 40). The
United States’ efforts to stop North Korea’s nuclear program is so wide
reaching it has started to sanction individuals and countries outside of North
Korea. They have sanction individuals, banks, and companies in both China and
Russia accusing them of helping North Korea of evading the sanctions against
them. While the United States have implemented a lot of sanctions over the
years, they have also eased some in hopes of North Korea stopping and dismantling
its nuclear program. However, theses eases don’t last long because of North
Korea going back on its word. Since 2017, President Donald Trump and Kim
Jong-un have both escalated tensions between the two countries giving rise to
new and more restrictive sanctions. President Trump has already hinted that all
options, including military, are on the table now while Kim Jong-un has stated
they will not return to any talks about them dismantling their nuclear program.
The actions taken by both countries this year will most likely result in more
sanctions, maybe even military intervention, with in the next couple of years.

The approach from South Korea differs from the ones from
the United Nations, European Union, and United States in that they are
attempting to create a dialogue that leads to more dependency and eventually
peace between the two hostile nations. From 1991-2015 South Korea has given
more than 7 billion dollars to their neighbor in the form of food and medical
aid. This dialogue changed when South Korea banned North Korean ships in their
waters in response to North Korea sinking a South Korean ship in May of 2010.
South Korea started to support the sanctions by the United States and United
Nations and improve its defenses since the attack. Most recently President Moon
Jae-in has announced an 8 million dollar aid package to North Korea with the
caveat that it be used on women and children (Albert).  Unlike its close neighbor South Korea, Japan
has followed the United States and United Nations by cutting all economic and
diplomatic ties with the country. They has imposed sanctions since 2006
including all that were created by the United Nations Security council.
However, in 2014 they started to ease these sanctions to convince North Korea
to investigate the disappearance of Japanese citizens in North Korea during the
70s and 80s Since then they implemented more sanctions that includes the ban on
North Koreans into the country, remittances into North Korea over 880 dollars,
and the freezing of assets for certain North Korean and Chinese individuals

            After North Korea
withdrew from the LPT the United States started the Six-Party Talks an
international discussion between China, Japan, United States, North Korea,
South Korea, and Russia over the denuclearization of North Korea (Bajoria and
Xu). These talks started as new platform to discuss previous sanctions, new
aid, and denuclearization for North Korea. However, once the United States made
its report about the financial institution Banco Delta Asia as one of North
Korea money launders the talks got off point and created tension between the
United States, China, and North Korea. The tension arose from the accusation
that China was helping North Korea evade the sanctions put against them in
order receive more on interest because of the high risk put on doing business
with North Korea by the United States. The United states made formal warning to
the international community about doing business with North Korea saying, “the
line between North Korea’s licit and illicit money is nearly invisible, and the
U.S. Government is urging ?nancial institutions around the world to think
carefully about the risks of doing any North Korea–related business” (Wertz
74). This announcement led the freezing of almost 25 million dollars in Banco
Delta Asia’s accounts linked to North Korea and may other banks around the
world shutting down its accounts in North Korea out of fear of doing business.
In response of this North Korea left the talks and dove deeper into illicit
markets to make up for all the lost trade and investment from the Banco Delta

With more sanctions being put on North Korea, they have
increasingly become more isolated from the global economy with the sanctions
effecting 90% of their exports according to the United Nations (Albert). This
effect on most other countries would usually result in cooperation but North
Korea ideology of self-reliance has helped it stay on its feet with little help
from the outside world. Since they are unable to be fully self-reliant they
have used China as a bridge to enter international markets (Whitty, 58). Along
with legal markets, the sanctions and isolation has resulted in North Korea
turning to black markets to fund their nuclear and weapons programs while
relying on aid from the international community to provide for their citizens. China
has little incentive or threat from the United States to enforce any sanctions
on North Korea since they facilitate 90% of North Korea’s trades and are one
the largest economies in the world (Albert). North Korea is able to support
these illicit activities is due to the lack of resources and man power in border
control in export countries to monitor all of the North Korea exports. The lack
of a multilateral work on sanctions has given the countries the option to
bypass any inspection or enforcement of sanctions on North Korea’s exports to
increase their economic activity. Just like the quote in the last paragraph
from a senior Treasury Department official about the blurred lines between
illicit and legal money, there is difficulty in seeing the difference between
legal and illicit trades coming out of North Korea. These illicit activities
rose from North Korea becoming more isolated and desperate, raising the
question of whether the impact on North Korea’s economy from the sanctions is
worth the increase in illegal activities in the region and with their trading

While we may be able to see the shift from legal to
illicit markets, it’s almost impossible to get any reliable data out of North
Korea on their economy, let alone their illicit activities. The only accurate
information we have on their illicit activities is the individuals, companies,
and banks that have ties to their money laundering, smuggling, weapons trade,
and nuclear program making it hard to get ahead of this increasing problem (Noland
and Bajoria). Besides from the rise in illicit markets another backlash to
these sanctions is the impact on the lower and middle classes in North Korea.
With majority of North Korea’s economy being isolated from the rest of the
world it’s hard for country to keep prices low and provided enough food and
medical resources to its citizens. Since North Korea is essential a
dictatorship or monarchy, the elites will take advantage of their power and
horde food and medical supplies leaving little for the middle and lower class
(Whitty, 60). The shortage of food and medical supplies have resulted in
countries around the world sending aid to North Korea to help fight these
humanitarian issues but with the government being corrupt it’s hard to see all
of the aid going to those in need. The most recent aid sent to North Korea came
from their neighbor South Korea intending it to reach the hands of the women
and kids in need in the country. The conflicting polices in sanctions on North
Korea is leading to them being able to evade the sanctions and focus on nuclear
proliferation. If we have any hopes of getting anywhere with the sanctions
nations have to go all in on sanctions to really force the government to
cooperate in exchange for aid.

With sanctions against North Korea have lasted since the
1980’s international policy makers may have to start looking at the North
Korean from another lens. Instead of looking at North Korea as a terrorist
country and nuclear, we should see them as a developing country struggling to
grow because of sanctions on them forcing them to find alternatives/illicit
ways to grow as a nation. North Korea has showed signs of wanting to reenter
the global economy in past talks under a condition we have not yet accepted, no
preconditions. The Six-Party Talks asked North Korea to stop all nuclear
proliferation before coming back to the talks but if we were to just get them
to the table again we would have a much higher chance of making progress to a
resolution. Since I don’t believe continuing the sanctions is the best move
today we need to change the subject to North Korea working together with the
international community, especially with the United Nations Security Council,
on working together to monitor the nuclear proliferation and stockpile of
weapons in North Korea in exchange of the easing of sanctions. With the promise
that they can continue their programs as a defensive measure they will be more
willing to open up to the international community in exchange for access to the
global economy. Since it will take years for North Korea to finish their nuclear
program, it gives the international community time to tighten relations and
make amends with North Korea. Once diplomatic relations start to improve, the
nations should start to open their economies to make North Korea more dependent
on other nations, moving away from their ideology of self-reliance. With
sanctions eased, North Korea opening up both diplomatically and economically,
and allowing North Korea nuclear proliferation under international supervision,
the need for any sanctions should disappear over time. This is because once
North Korea opens up and allows foreign power into their country they will have
a better ability to influence their economy and policy decisions if North Korea
ever tries to be aggressive towards other nations. I understand that under the
current relationships, especially with the missile launch that happened today,
November 28, that this seems like a long shot but if we continue with harsher
sanctions we will see the same results from every other sanction, more
aggression. The international community has to decide if they should keep on using
sticks or switch routes and start giving carrots.

My solution is not the only one being discussed in the
global political economy today. While I strive for peace and
interconnectedness/dependency, others have supported more aggressive/violent
solutions. These can be either starving the nation of all money with harsher
sanctions and military force (Kim, 108). These sanctions act as if North Korea
is a big proponent on Gilpin’s benign mercantilism where they consider the
safeguarding of their national economic interests as the minimum essential to
the security and survival of the state but this is not the case. As we have
seen with sanctions implemented already and the negative effects they have had
on their economy and society that they only care about nuclear proliferation as
path towards survival. I don’t support these because if we don’t learn from the
past we won’t be able to move forward. This is because like Watson’s assumption
of foregone stability where we only focused on getting back to the stability
during the Bretton woods system, we are looking at how to get back to the
stability between North Korea and the rest of the world during the
Non-Proliferation Treaty. Instead we should be looking at new ways that can
actually lead to a discussion between North Korea and the international
community because just like when they withdrew from Non-Proliferation Treaty
they will leave any talks over more sanctions. Many see North Korea as a
hostile nation but they would be mistaken. The nation is not hostile, it’s only
Kim Jong-un and his elite friends. The country is need of help from the
international community and if we don’t act soon we may witness another ugly
civil war, like the one in Syria, when North Korea is unable to provide for
their people anymore. These aggressive tactics may work in the long run but
will have heavy costs in innocent Korean lives, that’s why we need to focus our
efforts on making peace instead of preparing for war where everyone loses.  

Looking back on the history of economic sanctions
against North Korea I wonder how more sanction alternatives have not been used
based on their poor performance. When I first started my research I believed
the sanctions imposed were keeping the international community safe while
slowly breaking down North Korea. I soon came to realize that these sanctions
have only forced North Korea to find alternative ways of interacting with the
global economy and while they passed the negative impact of the sanctions on
the lower and middle classes. The question of why have the economic sanctions
implemented by the United Nations, European Union, United States, Japan, and
South Korea against North Korea been ineffective slowly turned into why haven’t
they not changed policy to something more effective. In this paper I showed how
the economic sanctions against North Korea have failed due to the lack of
enforcement, little to no coordination, and conflicting policies from
individual countries on sanction because of human rights intervention, security
concerns, and/or economic advantage. North Korea’s history of isolation and
ideology of being self-reliant should have shown that external sanctions would
not be enough to influence the country into abandoning their nuclear
proliferation program but with the current hostile climate it’s been difficult
to see this issue in any different lens. This is why I proposed a new way to
look at this issue and how to fix it. Instead of seeing North Korea as terrorist
threat that we need to stop but that of a developing country that has been
forced into nuclear proliferation and illicit activities to survive and compete
on a global scale because of sanctions against them. This is why I push for the
international community to accept North Korea as a nuclear power and slowly
start to ease sanctions against them. Since North Korea has put their nuclear
and weapons programs as priority since they left the Non-Proliferation Treaty,
we should also accept them as future nuclear power because they have zero
incentive of stopping now. Accepting this and easing sanctions against them now
could help North Korea rebuild their economy and create new peaceful and
dependent relationships between North Korea and the international community.
With this new dynamic the threat from North Korea will slowly die down as the
build and perfect their nuclear programs under our supervision so we can
monitor their weapons and missiles arsenal with no disasters happening like
Chernobyl. I understand that this is not an easy or clear path to take when
addressing North Korea and their nuclear proliferation programs but if we
continue to only use sanctions as sticks against North Korea we will have the
same results of more aggression that might eventually lead to conflict maybe
even war.